Application Integration – What Your Organization Needs
Written by: Mike Groves
Director, Digital Solutions – Application Development
Know your options
It’s a mixed bag out there filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of application options your business could be using. These take many forms and offer different solutions.
There’s custom built, off-the-shelf purchases, legacy software and combinations of these offerings, each which can also operate on different technical platforms. While applications are necessary to support your business, it can be a confusing and complex world to navigate. Every business is different, every need unique. So how do you know what’s right for your business?
You can start by asking common questions all businesses should ask to determine if an application integration strategy can benefit them:
- How many applications does your company use?
In some cases, companies consider writing one large custom application. However, this may not be the most feasible choice as it’s highly complex and difficult to maintain. One large application can’t realistically meet all of the business requirements of an organization. A better solution may be spreading business functionality across multiple applications to give your business the flexibility to select “best of breed” applications: the best in accounting, customer relationship management, order management, scheduling packages and more.
- Does data sharing occur across multiple applications?
Many business applications require access to the same data to accomplish their respective tasks. (I.E. customer information and employee information.) When information needs to be updated, all of these applications must update their version of the data. Enter synchronized updating! Data replication techniques can accomplish this with custom programming or middleware software.Many business users need to access more than one application to answer a specific question or to perform a single function. Let’s take order status, for example. A customer service representative may need to access an internal and external order management system separately. You might create an information portal to collect information from multiple application sources and incorporate it into a single display. This avoids the user having to access multiple systems.
- Are there redundant functions in your business process?
Many business applications have redundant functionality. Make a practice of identifying these shared business functions, implement them only once, and make them available as a service to other applications. Creating a business process management component is important to managing the coordination and the execution of a business process across multiple applications.
- Are you able to keep your integrations secure?
Supporting corporate-wide business processes and information sharing across applications requires you think about integrating applications. You want to make sure the application integration is efficient and reliable and provides for secure information exchange between multiple enterprise applications. With multi-integration and information sharing, security should be a top priority. The information must be able to travel through and around security check points to prevent data breaches and to prevent access to all other applications should a breach occur.
- Is your application flow seamless from the end user perspective?
View the interaction between applications and business functions from the 30,000-foot level and from a perspective outside the organization. It’s all about seeing the forest through the trees. Consider business functions that may be available from external suppliers and business partners — those such as computing shipping costs or tracking shipments. Having the ability and resources to integrate the information from these external processes into the business functions of the enterprise is essential in carrying out the overall business functions.
Users don’t typically think about application boundaries when they’re interacting with your organization. Think of it this way: they’re asking what time it is… not how to build a clock. As they carry on with business transactions, they’re not thinking about the number of internal applications being used to support the business transactions, but it’s critical you have them in place.
If you’re perplexed about whether you have the answers to any of these 5 questions — or if you’re not confident you have the right answers — then it’s time to further evaluate your application landscape and integrations. Weidenhammer can work with you, evaluating your applications, needs and requirements and then creating an application integration roadmap to fit your current and future business needs and process flows.