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What is enterprise application integration?Technology impacts businesses in many ways. Crucial in-office processes like resource planning and business intelligence are now managed through special programs. Automation is on the rise; by 2018, the demand for enterprise applications will exceed companies' internal development capacity by 500%. However, there’s usually a lack of cooperation mechanisms between departments; the data generated by CRM, SCM and other systems is kept on remote servers and has to be retrieved on demand (which is inconvenient). The acronym “EAI” refers to the methods that enable data to flow from one program to another. As a result, multiple IT solutions function as one elaborate system. Apps subject to integration include marketing communication, e-commerce optimization and resource planning software.
Top 3 ultimate benefits of EAI:
- Improved data availability and management. Manual data processing requires frequent checks and corrections. EAI, in its turn, improves data consistency and enhances file transfer;
- Effective system maintenance. Integrated systems automatically handle user requests and free IT teams from routine support tasks;
- Time and cost optimization. Enterprise application integration allows companies to focus on core business activities – for example, you can automatically launch an email marketing campaign using CRM data and receive comprehensive analytics.
Enterprise application integration toolsThe EAI process is associated with certain challenges:
- Interoperability. Business applications often use different programming languages and operating systems and, therefore, can’t be connected via standard interface;
- Scalability. EAI solutions should be stable and scalable enough to maintain an IT infrastructure;
- Smooth data integration. Standard data management protocols are required throughout the system.
- Point-to-point method. IT systems are connected to each other with one link. This type of EAI architecture is simple, yet difficult to maintain and expand. The model is perfect for small infrastructures which consist of 2-3 homogeneous subsystems;
- Hub (or middleware). Vendors design a separate engine (aka hub) to connect several databases and apps. Thus, the engine receives and synchronizes messages from multiple destinations. The interoperability between a hub system’s components is restricted. Also, one major flaw in a hub’s architecture may bring the whole system down;
- Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) solutions. Bus platforms eliminate technical problems typical for hubs and single links by distributing data processing tasks between other components of the system. These components can be arranged in groups, duplicated and placed across the network to achieve better scalability. Bus enterprise application integration solutions are implemented by companies with complex IT architecture.
Enterprise application integration exampleWhat is a good example of successful enterprise application integration? Probably the one that leads the associated business to prosperity! Back in 2006, Brightree was a promising IT company that developed management solutions for medical equipment market. It was doing quite well, annually processing over $ 1 billion in claims and acquiring a new customer every other day. Brightree was using manual dial-up technology, which consumed much time and often led to dropped connections. The growth of their customer database brought major changes to Brightree application infrastructure.
What companies will benefit from EAI?
- E-commerce. Some retail companies make use of up to 200 business applications, including payroll services, ERP and CRM programs. According to Nucleus Research, e-commerce businesses that use EAI software increase sales by 12.5%;
- Logistics and transportation. Transportation companies implement numerous programs for route planning, order placement and product distribution. App integration allows them to effectively manage supply chains and enhance productivity;
- Mobile operators. EAI solutions allow mobile network operators to easily track payments, determine user location and improve services. Megafon addressed R-Style Lab to develop a comprehensive system for SIM card logistics management. We integrated several applications which create and approve SIM card delivery forecasts, control payment deadlines and generate reports on a regular basis into one scalable solution;
- Finance. Integration simplifies such processes as invoice generation, transaction management and audit. R-Style lab developed an integrated web application for LOGS Network, a large US legal company that provides assistance to financial organizations. The app’s notable features include invoice automation, report generation and financial flow management tools.
4 things to keep in mind when considering integration:
- Build what you need. The choice of an EAI model solely depends on your company’s size and business goals. Complex systems are expensive to build and may in fact decrease a small company’s performance;
- Mind scalability. If your business shows remarkable signs of growth, it is safer to develop an ESB system which can be easily expanded;
- EAI is not a universal solution. Enterprise application usage and subsequent integration won’t make your company thrive. EAI simply helps entrepreneurs handle in-office tasks better (a strong business strategy is still required);
- Use what you’ve got. Do not extend the number of enterprise apps; instead, address a reliable developer to improve the already-existing programs. Remember: complexity leads to additional mistakes!