System integration is the process of linking together different systems (components) to functionally cooperate as a whole. System integration can be mono-directional (one-way) or bi-directional (both ways). In short, data and functionality should flow seamlessly between integrated systems, communicating optimally with each other, and thus reducing complexity.
In the past, system integration was often a complex task. Systems and applications from different providers required a custom-coded, point-to-point integration solution. This proved to be inflexible and fragile, and required constant maintenance. After all, every software update and every change in the process could break the entire integrated system.
Fast forward to today, robust integration solutions are a reality. This makes it possible for new technologies such as cloud, big-data, and IoT to communicate quickly with each other and current IT systems, so organizations can retrieve value from investments rapidly. With a good integration platform, the time span of even the most complex integration project can now be reduced from several years to a few months.
Why should systems be integrated?
New processes may be added, or become more complex, when a company grows. The IT landscape may struggle to scale with the organization and it’s growing number of employees. Eventually, different business functions may find themselves working in multiple separate systems which do not communicate or share data. Processes become inefficient and costly as a result.
Instead, with integration of the business process on one platform, all functions along the business process chain can be united. This will improve productivity and operational quality, due to an improved flow of information.
System integration can be challenging, though. Failing integration projects may have far-reaching consequences, even resulting in mergers sometimes stumbling over the integration of IT systems. The most common integration challenge revolves around two or more parties working together. This may result in hesitant data sharing and operations outsourcing, lack of clear communication, unclear responsibilities, discussions on where functionalities reside, and lack of accountability. Other challenges include:
- Changes in the integration landscape
- Integration may be costly, especially in complex projects
- Finding employees who can handle the integration project
- Integration complexities revolving around API’s
The benefits of system integration
System integration is a cornerstone of digital transformation within organizations. The benefits include:
- Boosted productivity: without proper integration, workers are stuck manually entering data into various applications instead of adding value to the process. With system integration, data is transferred automatically between systems, resulting in smoother workflows, better process efficiency and reduced error margins.
- Ability to monitor business performance: with data stored in different systems and applications, resulting in data siloes, organizations are incapable of proper analysis. Gathering all data in a central system improves data analysis, guarantees consistency, and increases the value of the data.
- Improved decision making: another advantage of centralized data in one platform or system is the ability to utilize real-time, accurate data across traditional organizational boundaries, providing a 360° view of an organization. Better, more accurate decisions allow organizations to grow and lower costs.
- Alternative to legacy system replacement: some organizations may depend on systems which are long past their end-of-life but may be irreplaceable. Integrating data from these legacy systems into other, newer systems allows organizations to continue working with legacy systems when moving forward in digital transformation.
Types of system integration
Besides the size and scope of integration projects ranging from clear and simple to massive and complex, there are also different types of system integration. Some examples include:
- Legacy system integration: as discussed in the previous section, legacy system integration allows organization to connect legacy systems with other, newer systems.
- Third party system integration: building custom software is not feasible in many cases. Instead, third-party software products may be used, which may need to be integrated with other systems and applications already in use in the organization.
- Business-to-business integration: this type of integration allows businesses, for example across a supply chain, to easily exchange data and knowledge, reducing redundancy.
- Big data integration: essential in any big-data project is the integration of data origination from disparate business systems, various sources, and different formats. It allows all data to be combined in a single view to be used for reporting and analysis.
- Cloud services integration: connecting various applications, systems, and databases to be integrated in cloud services, enabling access by multiple devices over a network or the internet.
System Integration with Be Informed
It is important to choose the right business software and systems in the first place in order to make integration as easy as possible. However, choosing the right integration platform or tool for your integration project can also determine how likely you will be to succeed, beyond other factors.
The Be Informed Application Modeling Studio (AMS) offers a collection of tools which can be used to integrate a Be Informed application in an IT– and business landscape. Subsequently, Be Informed integration supports several popular integration channels as well as data manipulation components. Because it does not require custom programming, Be Informed integration provides a cost-effective and efficient way to integrate with legacy and third-party components.
Be Informed uses Apache Camel as an important component of its integration offering. It can be used as a flexible basis for integration capabilities for both the service provider and consumer side. By using Apache camel, Be Informed can realize successful integrations with REST, SOAP, CMIS and JMS interfaces. It is also possible to receive and send messages via the protocols SMTP, IMAP and POP3. In addition, Apache Camel offers the possibility to transfer files through the FILE and FTP channel. Altogether, through Apache Camel, Be Informed can cover a wide variety of system integrations. To give some practical examples, Be Informed can integrate with:
- E-mail (Microsoft Exchange)
- Document Management Systems (such as Alfresco en Sharepoint)
- Message brokers (such as RabbitMQ and ActiveMQ)
Other integration options include Case Management as a Service (CMaas) and Knowledge as a Service (KaaS). Be Informed also offers Modular UI services. This is a REST API for accessing resources of a Be Informed AMS application.
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We provided an introduction to system integration, and explained how Be Informed can be used as an integration platform. Sign up for a free demo of the Be Informed platform or get in touch with us. Stay tuned by signing up below or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to stay in the loop at all times.