Enterprise-level businesses face the challenge of data, hardware, and software integration across a wide range of operations. Adopting integration across various technology, data, and software platforms can be a very daunting task. However, enterprise leaders and IT professionals can make well-informed decisions about choosing the right integration tool by understanding the principles behind the integration of software, hardware, and data. Making an informed decision about appropriate integration tools can ease the data, hardware, and/or software processes for any enterprise.
Types of Integration
Many enterprise-level organizations are often challenged with activities focused on system integration. Aggregating various subsystems and processes to provide greater efficiency and functionality is not a simple task and requires multiple stakeholders with an overarching goal. Understanding software, data, and hardware integration processes can facilitate efforts and provide the necessary focus for incorporating various technologies, procedures, and information effectively.
Although “systems integration” is a great catch-all summary, procedures to aggregate various procedures and subsystems can occur within any level of an enterprise organization. There are three main areas, however, where IT professionals and other consultants focus their efforts. Covering various business functions, these modes provide greater agility and flexibility in enterprise-level decision making and activities:
- Hardware and software integration occurs when legacy technology systems and software packages are modified to provide more efficient data access collection, streamline business processes, and provide greater flexibility. Most integration efforts involve finding an appropriate integration platform that facilitates data interaction and operational ease for an enterprise using desktop, cloud, or mobile devices.
- API Integration refers to the interaction of data, applications, and devices through an application programming interface, increasing connectivity between devices and programs as well as data sharing and delivery, ensuring that enterprise systems function seamlessly and efficiently.
- Although often used interchangeably with API integration, application (or app) integration involves sharing resources from core applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), or other critical business functions through “middleware” which connects multiple applications either within legacy systems or multiple cloud apps (often referred to as Cloud Data Integration).
Finding the right platform for integrated software solutions is dependent on various internal and external factors. Enterprise-level organizations should consider working with a consultant who specializes in working on hardware and software integration issues, including API and app integration. One of the key decisions, however, is selecting the right integrated software platform that encompasses your business needs and provides the greatest flexibility, adaptability, and ease of use.
Choosing the Right Software Integration Platform
Choosing an enterprise-level integration platform should happen after two critical steps are performed. A formal assessment of hardware and software platforms (including desktops, laptops, mobile devices, and cloud-based software) can determine the ideal integration medium. If an enterprise depends on service-oriented architecture (SOA), Software as a Service (SaaS), and/or software APIs, a cloud-based integration system would be an ideal choice to ensure greater efficiency and data sharing across multiple software packages.
Crafting a thorough software integration strategy is also critical for identifying the ideal integration platform. Identifying the key needs for integration as well as determining the appropriate stakeholders, any enterprise-level integration strategy would identify key gaps and requirements before selecting and implementing an appropriate platform. Having a formal strategy allows any enterprise-level organization to move in a progressive, deliberate manner that allows for smoother transitions and more thorough adoption.
Best Practices: Qualities For The “Right” Integration Tool
Once ready to implement an integrated software package, enterprise leaders need to consider five key qualities. Understanding these aspects of integration software platforms can better inform the implementation, coordination, and execution of integration efforts. One of the key qualities for any software integration platform is security around data, networks, and applications. Assessing data sharing requirements and appropriate access is critical for implementing an integrated software solution. Choosing an appropriate integration platform should integrate thinking about appropriate data access and network security across a wide range of hardware devices.
Understanding the capabilities of a particular platform can ease leadership concerns around software integration. Knowing the upper limits and breadth of functions of a particular platform can make integrating software across various devices and platforms easier. Knowing how a particular integration platform handles data sharing or its effectiveness in engaging with desktop or mobile applications can make the transitional process smoother and more efficient. An ideal integration platform can work with the widest range of software applications across a broad scope of business functions and integrate well with day-to-day operations.
Stability is also critical when selecting the right integration platform for your enterprise-level organization. Given the amount of data sharing, processes, and integration patterns needed to streamline business functions, leadership needs to be confident that the software they use will be reliable and efficient. IT disruptions and downtime can adversely impact enterprise businesses in terms of time and cost; stable software integration platforms can reduce that impact through consistent, reliable performance.
Although it may seem obvious, usability is another factor to consider when selecting an integration platform. Although software integration patterns may be complex and require extensive strategic planning, working with those patterns should be relatively simple. Finding an integration platform that provides simplicity and efficiency for end-users allows for greater efficiency. Integrated software platforms need to function equally across a wide range of legacy systems and hardware devices, providing ease of use for individuals regardless of technical skill.
Finally, pricing is a key factor when selecting the right integration tool. Although hardware and software integration can help a business streamline its efforts, it also requires an initial investment in time, talent, and effort. Every aspect of the integration process requires a thorough match to available resources with an enterprise. Although it is tempting to think of software integration as a “one size fits all” process, knowing the potential financial cost allows an enterprise-level business to best determine how to allocate internal and logistical resources.
Moving Forward With Software Integration
Once your business has gone through the process and selected a software integration platform, you should consider hiring a consultant who specializes in software installation and implementation. Integrating various enterprise-level software packages can be challenging, and bringing in a consultant early in the planning process can provide guidance and insight. A consultant can not only assist in installing and configuring your platform, but also assist in training, implementation, and refining your integrated software platform.