August 16, 2022 | By Lee Bourke
With continued globalisation, the IT industry is growing at a tremendous rate. Organisations continue to add software solutions to help keep up with the changed market conditions; some of these solutions work hand in hand with others, while others act as a single system to perform a certain task. This makes systems integration quite important for smooth business-to-business and internal communication within a company.
System integration is the process of linking or connecting different systems into a single system that functions as one. In very broad terms, it means linking the critical data and documents within various IT systems and software together to enable them to function as a single source of the truth. This improves productivity and the quality of the operation improving the information quality, speeding up the information access times and reducing the associated operational costs to the organization.
System integration is not just used for an organization's internal systems, it goes beyond that. Such systems also function externally between an organization and its associates.
Without system integration, a company's information flow would be disorganized. Manual methods of data management in a business have proven to be highly ineffective and inefficient. Overall productivity is often affected by data integration challenges like key person dependency, technical failures, delayed work procedures, and the hindrance to the organic flow of information. To solve these issues, system integration functions as a centralised network that connects the entire business’ data structure both internally and externally.
Organizations require a large number of disparate systems to operate, and these systems are programmed with different code bases in different programming languages. So, with a system integration tool, data flows seamlessly and uninterrupted between software, hardware, and operating environments.
This process interconnects a company's IT solutions, application programming interfaces, operating systems, and attached technologies so they function as a single system. In practice, system integration is a data integration procedure, as it enables the convergence of information automatically.
Integrated systems can be divided into the following four categories:
This system integration method merges subsystems of a network together according to how related they are in function. This results in a silo like structure of systems with the basic functions at the bottom, and the functions becoming increasing more complex as you go up. Vertical integration is relatively simple as it involves a limited number of systems. However, it is more difficult to manage long term because any new subsystem will require its own "silos" to function.
This is the connection of subsystems through point-to-point connections. The star integration method (also sometimes referred to as Hub and Spoke) allows more functionality. However, as the number of integrated systems increases, the management of the integrations becomes more demanding. So, anytime there is a change in one system, other connections in the integration may need to be redone.
In this method, a specialized subsystem is used as a common user interface for other subsystems. The specialized subsystem used in this method is called the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). The benefit of this method is that the number of connections are reduced, and it is easy to change a sub-system without having to re-do the whole existing system.
This method involves integrating different IT systems by transforming the data coming from a system into a different data format that can be read by the receiving system. The common data format is an application-independent format that requires system-by-system transformation.
In this modern age, varying tools and applications are designed for business use, and most businesses have to rely on several tools to succeed. As a result, businesses are tasked with working to keep up with increasing IT demand. Below are some reasons why system integration is important.
System integration ensures that data is consolidated into a single system, resulting in easy data access. This means that employees can access data when the need arises without seeking assistance. As a result, time is saved.
Errors are minimized with system integration. Collecting data manually often results in scattered data, especially when complex projects are involved. However, in an integrated system, databases are synchronized and the movement of data is automatic, so errors are minimized.
Customers do not like to be kept waiting. They prefer a fast service, and for a business or corporation, system integration can speed up the process. With all the data together in one place, clients are served faster.
In the IT industry, data security is a source of concern. Fortunately, an integration platform improves data security. Data breaches are minimized with system integration as employees get to access data from a single access point, and usually with one access detail.
Due to the automation of tasks, costs are reduced compared to manually handling certain tasks. This is one of the biggest advantages of system integration. The central storage eliminates the need for multiple data storage.
A system integrator is also capable of storing data that is unique to each subsystem, and this reduces the cost of unused data storage space. Additionally, system integration eradicates the need to create a new complex system from scratch. Accessing data from different locations is costly, in addition to being erroneous.
Efficiency is increased by an integrated system by doing away with tedious human data entry. Having all the data needed in a central location reduces the time that would have been spent on manual data entry and looking for different tools. Therefore, employee productivity is increased.
With data being moved automatically, data overlapping is avoided. For each piece of data a ‘Master’ record is identified and all other copies then become ‘Slaves’. When the master changes all of the Slaves are updated accordingly, ensuring that key data is never out of date in any of the locations it may exist. System integration enables real-time data and synchronization, so better data flow is achieved.
Even though it appears complex, the integration solution for data management has greatly improved the operations of many businesses. Despite the system integration challenges, this approach has made it easier to incorporate new technologies, and this has helped address many data-related difficulties and increase business performance.
Integration systems eliminate the need for multiple, complicated data storage and management. It provides a centralized system based on different business needs and disparate sources. System integration enables businesses to achieve maximum efficiency, which leads to better business outcomes overall.
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