What is Enterprise Application Integration (EAI)?
In general, integration is about facilitating the interactions between two or multiple machines or systems over a network. Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) thus deals with bridging gaps between applications or software solutions for enterprise-level companies. EAI enables data to be exchanged seamlessly between software programs and provides an interface to manage how that information flows.
Examples of Application Integration
Enterprise Application Integration or application integration comes in various forms. We’ll identify the three most common ones here.
On-premise application integration
On-premise application integration is the approach where on-premise technology such as your ERP and a purchased tool (deployed in your private cloud) are pieced together. This can be done by your own developer teams but that requires a large amount of custom-coding. Or you can take a more common approach for enterprise-level companies and use an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). An ESB is a middleware platform that transforms and routes messages to enable communication between your software applications.
SaaS application integration
Most large organizations use a combination of various SaaS solutions to help them deliver the best possible customer experience. This could be in the form of a CRM platform (Salesforce) or business intelligence tool (Tableau) or supply chain management software (E2open). To avoid data silos and optimize these tools for your business results, you need to be able to integrate them into your enterprise architecture. This can be done by opting for an integration-Platform-as-a-Service solution (iPaaS). An iPaaS is a platform specifically designed to develop, execute, and govern integration flows across on-premise and cloud-based systems, applications, and data sources.
Application-to-application integration is the integration approach to automate and optimize your workflows and build in speed. A common example is when you want orders coming in through your e-commerce store to be directly connected to your warehouse management system and your CRM solution. Thus shortening the process for customers from the moment of purchase to receiving their product. On the organization side you increase efficiency and eliminate manual data entry.
Application Integration vs Data Integration
Data integration and application integration are often used in the same context. But make no mistake, they’re not the same thing. Data integration is the locating and extracting information from various sources, to ultimately combine the information into a unified structure. Application integration is different from data integration because it directly links multiple applications at a functional level. Allowing you to create new and dynamic services.
Advantages of Enterprise Application Integration
Enterprise Application Integration helps to streamline your data processes across multiple software solutions. As we’ve seen in the application-to-application integration approach, from the moment an order hits your ecommerce store it sends a notification to your email marketing platform to send out an email with purchase and delivery details. Meanwhile your analytics tools automatically connect to your CRM so your new customer data is stored for you to measure results and refine business operations for later campaigns.
Eliminate Data Silos
Applications and SaaS solutions designed by different vendors are not built to communicate with each other. In other words having those solutions active as stand-alone programs means you will have to deal with data silos. That is unless you integrate them. Integration middleware and iPaaS solutions connect these various enterprise applications, no matter if they are situated on-premise or in the cloud. Meaning, no more data silos, and increased productivity by being able to combine and thus better interpret your data sources.
Humans are visually-oriented beings. And enterprise application integration increases your data visibility because it allows you to view, track, and combine reports of various workflows. The benefit is that your teams can respond faster to customer requests, market trends, collaborate with third-party-providers, and in general analyze your data better.
Agility. It might just be the holy grail for enterprise-level organizations. The larger the company, the higher the chance for slow decision-making and missed market opportunities. With enterprise application integration approaches, you not only recognize (interpreting multiple data points) but also respond quicker (combining functionalities of services) to opportunities. All from a single interface that helps you keep a complete scope on your business processes.