What Enterprise Application Integration has to do with SMEs
Whether through organic growth, mergers or acquisitions: Isolated solutions are not uncommon in the IT landscape of companies. Different tasks require specialised applications. Different initiatives may have spawned other software solutions. Thus, over time, a mosaic of applications can emerge in which each part has its raison d'être. Nevertheless, there are significant advantages to linking all these applications together. One discipline that addresses this is Enterprise Application Integration, or EAI for short. Its goal is to connect databases as well as workflows.
Enterprise Application Integration aims to use applications, information or much more data that is already available more efficiently and minimise errors by linking them. For this purpose, it provides the corresponding IT infrastructure: Through third-party software, the applications already in use today, such as an ERP, CRM or e-commerce software, are to be integrated and thus synchronised.
But EAI wants and can do even more.
What is Enterprise Application Integration?
In addition to the necessary software, EAI also includes the planning and methods to integrate stand-alone applications. Enterprise Application Integration is characterised by the fact that it is strongly process-oriented. This means that data can be exchanged across the entire company, from front to back office and from location A to location Z. For this purpose, the established and familiar software solutions are connected with the help of external third-party software.
So that the existing applications of the individual business functions are not (have to be) changed, EAI works with adapters. These adapters are the glue between the applications and make it possible to transfer data across applications.
These adapters then form a so-called business bus. This is also called an integration bus or simply an integration platform. Instead of simply linking data, however, the integration platform can use rules, process descriptions or filters to ensure that the data follow a defined logic and system. This means that all relevant data is in the right place at the right time.
From a technical point of view, Enterprise Application Integration provides a middleware that enables the linking of other software and systems.
The result is plausible:
By automating data flows through enterprise application integration, different departments at any location can access important data and be sure that it is always up-to-date. In addition, data analytics can be used to support informed management decisions.
Instead of manually entering information in different software, EAI minimises this time, potential sources of error and costs. EAI also enables high flexibility and easy extensions so that adapters can be used. Adaptations of the workflow or business processes are also possible thanks to Enterprise Application Integration.
Importance and advantages of Enterprise Application Integration
The motivation to use Enterprise Application Integration for the company can be different. On the one hand, the team is supported in their daily tasks because they can be sure that they are working with correct real-time data and that long searches for the right information are a thing of the past. But the optimisation and acceleration of business processes can also be a reason to use EAI.
Furthermore, enterprise application integration goes hand in hand with cloud computing. Since the adapters of an EAI depend on interfaces of the software applications used, cloud solutions are particularly well suited. The desire to get more out of these cloud applications can therefore also be a motivator for EAI.
In addition, there are various advantages for users and the IT infrastructure:
Easy exchange of individual applications
If the changeover to a new application, for example another CRM, is planned, EAI simplifies this process. Since the connections to other applications in the company run via the central EAI middleware, only the adapters need to be adapted. It's like buying a socket adapter for your new TV with an American connection instead of replacing the entire socket.
Of course, when errors are minimised through reduced data entry, automation takes over tasks in seconds and your team's processing times are reduced, this also reduces costs.
The same data in different places, completely detached from each other, is the main cause of inconsistencies. Data integration thanks to EAI creates up-to-date and synchronous information, for example about contacts, companies or stakeholders.
Flexible workflows and workflows
Since EAI works in a modular way, i.e. it links the individual modules instead of replacing them, the individual pieces of the puzzle can also be changed flexibly. In this way, the individual business processes can be optimised or changed without far-reaching consequences in other areas.
Individualised IT landscape
Nowadays, there is specialised software for every task. Instead of limiting yourself to the applications that work best together, enterprise application integration allows you to use a wide variety of (cloud) software, depending on your needs.
Making Enterprise Application Integration work for you
Although the word enterprise is in the name, numerous SMEs can also use the technology and especially the process behind EAI for themselves. For more and more, there are also affordable EAI solutions for companies of all types and sizes that integrate software by means of middleware. Before implementation, however, the following phases and considerations make sense, regardless of the company:
Analysis of the processes
The business processes concerned need documentation of the current status. Flow charts or BPMN can help here to visualise the current processes, with all their weak points. In addition, important triggers and actions should be identified.
Modelling the process
Often, bottlenecks or weaknesses in a workflow only become apparent during intensive analysis. In these cases, it is worthwhile to re-model the process or individual actions. Above all, information silos or bottlenecks should be avoided.
Specification of the required software
Are all the required applications already available? If not, which ones are still needed? If yes, do they provide suitable interfaces and are they cloud-based? These characteristics are crucial for successful integration with other applications via enterprise application integration.
Selection of EAI software
Different EAI software offers different added value. The selection of the appropriate Enterprise Application Integration can therefore take some time.
Architecture and implementation
Only now does the implementation of the EAI follow. Especially the configuration and testing takes the most time in this phase (thanks to good preparatory work in the process analysis).
How do I recognise a suitable EAI system?
This should not be about the technical intricacies, but rather about the basic requirements of an EAI system. The following questions can help with identification:
Is there a variety of adapters available?
Can new adapters be offered quickly?
Is the operation simple and easy to learn?
What prior knowledge and programming skills are required for operation?
What about data security and data protection?
Can processes be modelled with the help of EAI software?
The list of questions can be extended. Especially here there are huge differences from SMEs to enterprises. Nevertheless, at this point we can give a recommendation for an EAI software that fits a wide range of companies: Make.
Make does not call itself Enterprise Integration Application, but describes itself as Integration Platform as a Service. But there is a lot of overlap: a middleware connects different applications and the interface allows process modelling thanks to filters, conditions and branching. Make relies entirely on cloud applications: These provide suitable interfaces and can thus be connected quickly thanks to the available adapters.
Cloud Integration, iPaaS, SaaS, BPA… Ough, hard to keep track of all these terms. They are currently used frequently (and increasingly) in the context of automation, and it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction and distinction. We have already written blog posts on the terms iPaaS, SaaS and BPA, but we’ll take them up again here to make the difference.
But let’s start with cloud integration, because that’s the central umbrella term in which we embed all the other technologies in this blog post.
To illustrate these advantages, an example is suitable that we know well from our everyday work as an automation agency:
The central data to be used here is the data of a major customer. This can be the simplest information, such as the address. This address is required in numerous but completely different processes in the company: on the one hand, for correct invoicing in accounting. On the other hand, in the CRM system, where all the data of the large customer is also stored. But the address is also important in sales, for example, when employees go to the sales meeting on site.
Now the customer announces that the address of the company has changed after a move. This information will reach you by e-mail. There are now two options:
01. The e-mail is forwarded to all affected departments, accounting, sales, customer service, marketing… All persons open their corresponding program, CRM, accounting software, marketing tools (such as newsletter marketing) and change the data already stored there of the customer. This means that in multiple applications, different people do exactly the same thing: change one address. 02. But there is also an alternative: By connecting your applications, thus by integrizing them, the customer’s e-mail, or rather the information it contains about the address change, is automatically passed on to all affected applications: CRM, accounting, marketing, ERP. This does not require any clicks, because the cloud integration detects a trigger, i.e. address change, and thus automatically starts the process.
What sounds unimpressive in a single process becomes more effective when such a process occurs several times a day or weekly. Because there is a lot of data that is available in different applications and should always be correct. If these applications are cloud applications they are suitable for cloud integration.
But cloud integration doesn’t just happen. There are now a variety of applications that enable and implement this. Such tools usually allow us to link the relevant cloud applications on a central platform and define clear rules on when, how, where, how much data should be passed on and what happens to them.
IPaaS, SaaS, BPA, ABC – who can still see through it?
To realize cloud integration, there are various applications and technologies that are sometimes used interchangeably.
Cloud integration cannot be done without SaaS, iPaaS and BPA
Cloud integration is rather an umbrella term that includes numerous technologies, such as SaaS, iPaaS and BPA, and this is also absolutely necessary. Cloud integration is a concept that is made possible by appropriate technologies.
However, all terms share the commonality that they are cloud-based and thus offer enormous potential for growth and scaling. In addition, they are often cheaper to implement and maintain because changed requirements are easy to implement.
As an independent automation agency, we implement cloud integration according to your requirements. We use a variety of SaaS tools and iPaas (strictly speaking BPA) software. Together we find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable.