Continuing on from our last blog post which answered the foundational question “What Is Integration?“, this blog post sticks to the theme of our “Ask The Expert” by answering two further questions important to your understanding of integration: how does integration work, and ultimately why it matters to your business.
And just because we here at VL are generous with our knowledge, we’ve also included a small dictionary of types of integration solutions! Stay tuned to VL’s blog by subscribing to the right or by clicking the button at the bottom of this post, as we will be adding more valuable terms, definitions, and concepts to our bank of knowledge as we go!
Our last blog post tackled the complex definition that is integration, and not the awful math kind, the kind that brings together and homogenizes your data, helping your business be more efficient, effective, and smart-busy.
To refresh, here’s VL’s simplified definition of integration:Data integration is the process of connecting applications together through either on-premise or cloud hosted solutions, allowing data to flow in a free and automated manner. Data becomes standardized (or integrated) between the platforms, reducing errors and increasing savings in both time and money.
So with this definition in mind, let’s move into part two of our foundational knowledge blog posts:
How Does Integration Work?
So how does VL make it work?
This is a tricky question to navigate. The true integration service experts, like the ones we have in-house at VL, can quickly go from 0 to 100 in terms of communicating their vast wealth of knowledge around this subject. Don’t be surprised if you quickly get overwhelmed! The ‘how’ of integration is technically complex and full of industry jargon and terminology. But if you’ve done your homework and found a proper integration service provider instead of an integration plugin, don’t be afraid to stop your expert and ask for clarification!
That being said, here is our simple breakdown of how integration typically works – but be aware! Proper integration services are designed to fit particular needs: each integration solution is unique to the business it’s being implemented in.
How Integration Works – In Broad Terms:
Design: The solution is designed with the integration solution provider and the customer reviewing key elements like:
- Mapping the customer’s buying journey and their touch points in the system
- Analyzing of the requirements the integration needs to meet, both internally and externally
- Analyzing the source systems, including what are the options for extracting the data, how frequently the data needs to be extracted, how much data is produced, what the quality of the data is, and more
- Taking into account other non-functional requirements, like data security policies
- Reviewing any additional requirements
Why Does Integration Matter To My Business?
There are many reasons why integration should matter to your business, but perhaps before continuing reading this section, you should check out this infographic we posted to see if now is the right time for your business to consider integration solution providers.
How integration helps your business:
- Integration helps your business understand your information better while encouraging a standardized approach to your data and how your business manages said data.
- Integration helps you cleanse, monitor, and manage your data quality, enabling your to make better business decisions while improving productivity and execution. Integration forces this.
- Integration transforms data into any style and allows your data to be delivered to any system.
Overall, integration saves your business time, money, and helps prevent costly errors. This all leads to freeing time that would have otherwise been occupied managing these systems manually, allowing you to be more efficient with your time (what we call ‘smart-busy’).
What Are Some Key Terms I Should Know?
As we mentioned above, there is a veritable plethora of terms and industry jargon our there for integration – but it’s not your job to be the integration expert! Leave all the minute details to your integration solution providers.
That being said, there is immense value in having some of the more accessible and commonly-used terminology under your belt. Here are a few terms from DataIntegration.info and HowStuffWorks.com that we think you’ll find useful in your integration journey regarding the types of integration options there are out there:
Types of Integration:
- Manual Integration: Users work with all the relevant information as it exists in the source system(s). There is no way to view all the data as a unified entity. Users must manually transfer data if required, leaving all the ‘integration’ work up to your keyboard and fingers. We call it manual data entry.
- Application Based Integration: Certain applications are the entirety of the integration – they locate, retrieve, and integrate the information for you. This is not a common integration method as the number of applications that do this is limited, and application based integration generally does not scale well.
- Middleware Data Integration: An intermediate solution: integration logic from particular application is transferred to a new ‘middleware’ layer. The original applications still partially participate in the integration in this way.
- Virtual Integration: (Also known as Uniform Data Access) The data stays in the source systems, and can be accessed through a set of ‘views’ across the whole enterprise (hence the ‘virtual’).
- Physical Data Integration: (Also known as Common Data Storage) Usually means creating a new system which keeps a copy of the data from the source systems to store and manage it independently of the original system. The physical integration, however, requires a separate system to handle the vast volumes of data. You may see the abbreviation DW in Physical Data Integration – DW stands for Data Warehouses.
Make sure you’re being recommended the right solution for your company, your goals, your data, your programs, and more. Don’t just go for what’s cheapest! It’ll likely bite you in the butt later.
Ultimately, integration is a complex process that should be left to the experts, but as a potential consumer of integration solutions, you should strive to be as informed as you possibly can. We hope that this review of foundational terms and knowledge related to integration has helped broaden your depth of knowledge – stay tuned for a handy infographic that summaries this information visually for you!