IT Integration: Types, Benefits and Key Steps in Systems Integration

A study by Deloitte and Mulesoft stated that companies use an average of 976 applications yearly. What was surprising was the statistic that only 28% of these apps were integrated.

With the world going increasingly digital, IT integration is turning out to be a necessity. This ensures that the IT systems work in sync across multiple functions and support the business operations.

IT integration or systems integration is the key to the success of businesses, enabling them to stay competitive and responsive to the market.

If you have not yet thought about IT integration, this article explains why the topic deserves more attention than you assume.

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What is IT Integration?

IT Integration is connecting the various IT systems and applications of an enterprise. The purpose is to let them work cohesively in a unified and coordinated manner.

System Integration, in simple words, is like putting a puzzle together and is an integral part of a company’s IT strategy.

The scattered pieces here are the information subsystems of an organization. They need to fit together into a single cohesive or well-coordinated architecture. This is also called an integrated application mesh.

It is a complex building process connecting an organization’s functions from the various systems. It involves streamlining the disparate communications and procedures, including the present hardware and software.

The ultimate objective of IT integration is an organization’s improvement of working relationships with customers and partners. System integration also helps in increasing workflow efficiency and reducing operational costs for the business.

A system integrator makes all these easy by managing business processes, computer networking, manual programming, and enterprise application integration.

What are the Benefits of IT Systems Integration?

The benefits of IT systems integration are wide-ranging, and some of these are:

Simplicity

When there is an integrated infrastructure, business processes and applications have lesser complexities. What is in place is an easy-to-use, unified environment. The integrated architecture is always more intuitive, allowing changes to be made from one screen rather than multiple computer systems.

Cost Reduction

IT integration enables managing all your applications and data from one platform. This reduces the costs to a considerable extent. The prices of managing and maintaining numerous applications and systems are no longer hurdles for the company.

Security

A single system implies that an enterprise does not need to secure the various systems individually. Organizations, with IT integration, can seamlessly build the required security tools to prevent unauthorized access. At the same time, it is also easier to meet the compliance mandates.

Efficiency

With an integrated and modernized environment, employees become more efficient. There is no need for the time-consuming task of entering data manually. With structured data accessible through the enterprise ecosystem via automation, employees can spend their time on more productive tasks. An integrated system also paves the way for better employee quality.

Real-Time Visibility

The integrated system architecture allows enterprises to make better, informed decisions because of the access to real-time data. Companies do not need to wait for days for finance and accounting reports. Enterprises can now track their data throughout their lifecycle.

What are the Most Common Types of IT Integration?

The most common types of IT integration are:

Legacy System Integration

The purpose of legacy system integration is to integrate modern applications into the existing outdated systems. Many companies use outdated software, which cannot be replaced entirely because it is critical to the organization’s daily operations.

Legacy system integration, in such situations, establishes a communication channel between those and the newer technology solutions and information systems.

Enterprise Application Integration

This goal is to unify the different subsystems under one business environment.

At the different stages of growing, companies incorporate an increasing number of enterprise applications to streamline the back and front office processes. These applications often generate vast volumes of separate data.

Enterprise application integration or EAI brings all the functions into a single business chain while automating real-time data exchange between the different applications.

Third-Party System Integration

The purpose of this type of integration is to expand the functionality of the existing system.

When your business has new functionality, but customer software development is a matter of great expense, integration of third-party tools is an excellent option.

Business-to-Business Integration

Business to Business integration connects the systems of two or more organizations. An example of this type of integration is connecting a supplier’s ERP system to the retailer’s purchasing system.

This type of integration leads to more efficient cooperation and trade with partners, suppliers, and customers.

Ways of Approaching System Integration

There are specific ways of approaching system integration and the advantages and disadvantages of each of the models, as explained in detail here:

Point-to-Point Model

The point-to-point model or P2P integration is the architectural pattern in which each system is directly connected to all the other systems and apps. The purpose is to share information within and work in tandem. Based on the types of IT services a company offers, this model can be realized via custom code, webhooks, or APIs.

In this system, the data is extracted from one point and formatted and modified. It is then sent to another system. Each application implements all the logic for data transformation, transfusion and routing. The model considers the supported data models and protocols of the integrated components.

The primary advantage of this integration is the ability of the IT team to build a small-scale integrated system rather quickly. On the other hand, the downside is that the model is hard to scale, and the management of all the applications becomes very demanding at times.

The P2P integration approach is suitable for companies that do not have complex business logic. It is also an ideal option for businesses connecting to SaaS applications.

Hub-and-Spoke Model

In this model, a central hub or message broker handles the connections between all the subsystems. This eliminates the need for direct communication with each other when different types of information technology are used. This more advanced type of integration architecture addresses the issues of the earlier P2P integration and helps avoid the star mess.

The hub functions as a message-oriented middleware with a centralized integration engine. This engine translates operations into a single canonical language and enables routing messages to the correct destinations. The adapters connecting the hub to the subsystems are individually managed.

The model is quite beneficial for businesses. One of the main advantages is scalability. As every system has only one connection to the central hub, the security and architectural simplicity are also heightened.

The disadvantage is that centralization of the hub can be a weakness. The entire infrastructure is based on a single integration engine, which can become a bottleneck significantly as the workload increases.

The hub-and-spoke model is used in e-commerce, payment processing and financial operations. Plus, it’s a preferred architecture for highly regulated industries encountering significant security risks.

Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) Model

The Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) architecture creates a separate specialized subsystem. This is commonly referred to as an enterprise service bus and serves as a standard user interface layer connecting other subsystems.

The ESB can ideally be described as a set of middleware services that attach multiple systems, acting as a messaging backbone. Compared with hub-and-spoke with a single centralized integration engine, in ESB, each design is supplied with a separate integration engine and an adapter. This adapter translates a message into the canonical format and back into the destination-supported form.

One of the best parts about ESBs is that each subsystem is decoupled by a “messaging bus,” so it can be changed or entirely replaced without affecting the functionality of other subsystems. This essentially leads to very high scalability.

Regarding the cons, troubleshooting and maintenance get more complex with spreading integration tasks across the systems.

An ESB model is an optimal way to implement large projects such as enterprise application integration (EAI), allowing them to scale when needed. It’s a good fit if a company needs to bring it together on-premises.

IT Integration Takeaway

Data flow maintenance becomes problematic as more organizations modernize their IT infrastructures and bring in new technologies. However, IT system integration enables visibility, control and automation through integrating disparate applications and technologies. The result is the strengthening of partner relationships and higher business agility.

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