Have you ever been caught in a conversation where, somehow, you get caught up in nodding your head along with the conversational leader, zoning out, without really understanding what’s being said — and then they ask you your thoughts and feelings on the matter? We’ve all seen the movie trope of this situation, where ultimately the awkward protagonist turns beet red, mumbles some generic excuse, and quickly excuses them selves from the conversation. They’ve been discovered as conversational imposters!
Well, we at VL want to arm you with the best knowledge possible so that you can not only follow along with an expert integration service provider’s conversation, but you can contribute effectively to any discussion as well as be able to ask the right questions with the right amount of understanding behind you to understand the answers. Our ultimate goal is to make it so that no one can pull the wool over your eyes!
So, in honour of kicking off VL’s theme for the next two months, “Ask The Expert”, our next two blog articles are centered around filling any gaps in your knowledge base about what integration is, how it works, and ultimately why it matters to your business.
In this blog, we’ll be dedicating our focus on the ultimate core to your integration knowledge base that all of your additional knowledge will be centered on: What is integration?
What is Integration?
Part of filling in knowledge gaps is starting from our foundation of understanding and working our way up. If you think of your knowledge of integration as a building, this blog post is going to tackle the basics that would make up your building’s foundation.
Let’s get started!
So, what is integration anyways?
If you’ve tried to find out from the all-powerful, all-knowing Google, you already know that simply typing in ‘integration’ and hitting enter brings back a confusing array of results – most of which are about calculus, a horrifying time in most people’s lives that should be left where it belongs: in the past.
To save you time and keystrokes, here’s a summary of the definitions the usual go-to web sources provide for ‘integration’ (and not the math kind):
|Source||Definition for ‘Integration’|
|Google.ca||“Data integration is the combination of technical and business processes used to combine data from disparate sources into meaningful and valuable information. A complete data integration solution encompasses discovery, cleansing, monitoring, transforming and delivery of data from a variety of sources.” (via IBM)|
|Wikipedia.org||“Data integration involves combining data residing in different sources and providing users with a unified view of these data […] Data integration appears with increasing frequency as the volume and the need to share existing data explodes.”|
|Techopedia.com||“Data integration is a process in which heterogeneous data is retrieved and combined as an incorporated form and structure. Data integration allows different data types (such as data sets, documents and tables) to be merged by users, organizations and applications, for use as personal or business processes and/or functions.”|
Did you catch that last definition from Techopedia? If you have a weak understanding of what integration is, this definition is certainly not going to help you much. These three entries probably served to confuse you.
So where do you go from here? If Google can’t help you become more informed, then where can you turn? While Google, Wikipedia, and other vetted, trusted source websites are a good place to start, coming to a trusted expert source like VL’s Blog is an even better second,or we would prefer your first step.
Here’s our 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.
This definition purposely leaves out the unnecessary jargon and other industry-specific terminology; it is a boiled-down, easily understandable concept.
Need more clarification?
Think of integration versus no integration in these terms: automatic data transfer versus manual data entry.
With manual data entry, you receive or send a document (either electronic or otherwise) that contains data. This data can be an order from your e-commerce store, an email order to a supplier, or any other type of business document. You need to transfer the data from the document into or out of your systems to continue to work with it. With manual data entry, you manually type in or copy & paste the data from the original document to where it needs to be.
With integrated systems, the very same document as described above comes in your front door or out your back door – but the difference with integration is that the systems are connected. The data automatically goes where it needs to be. The end!
Integration is the answer to the continually evolving technical space all businesses operate in – if you’re still doing manual data entry, you’re living in what’s the modern-day equivalent of the stone age!
Overall, the question of “what is integration?” is a loaded one, and you’ll likely get a variation on the core definition, we’ve provided you above, everywhere you look or ask. Our best advice to you would be to take our definition and use it as your core definition to add knowledge or depth to as you find it useful to you and your business. Make this definition your own!
We hope that this review of foundational terms and knowledge related to the ‘what’ of integration has helped broaden your depth of knowledge. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post, where we will tackle how does integration work, and why it matters to your business, as well as a small dictionary with some key related terms. Then stay tuned for a handy infographic that summaries this information visually for you!