When evaluating any new technology, the thought eventually occurs — how will this interact with other technology in my world to make things easier? When there are many enterprise systems running complex processes and money is on the line, the need for these systems to integrate with one another is incredibly important to efficiency and the bottom line.
Working in my role as a Solutions Consultant, I hear from prospective customers all the time about their integrations needs. My advice is to look for a system that is a) flexible enough to address integrations for different types of data and b) functional enough to stand on its own and provide value to the organization without serving solely as a “middle man” between two systems. Here are my top 5 integration techniques to consider for your unique data needs:
1. Automated Flat Files: Can the system export/import data through excel or a CSV file? And, even better, do we have the ability to automate that process further with the use of an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site or similar? Automation of flat files tends to be the most simple form of integration, and can be a great way to get started, especially if you are not looking to move data between systems very frequently.
2. Single Point Integrations through an Integration Ecosystem: Does the system have a way to take advantage of an integration ecosystem? For many softwares, an integration ecosystem is becoming a more common practice to allow end users a “drag-and-drop” experience when creating common integrations within this ecosystem.
3. Open API: Does the system have an open API that follows RESTful API conventions to allow developers to make requests to the Open API to connect with systems that may not be supported in the Integration Ecosystem? An Open API can prove vital if you are integrating with systems outside of an Integration Ecosystem, and can allow the system to be “integration agnostic,” meaning it can integrate with just about any other system that also features an Open API.
4. Developer SDKs: In addition to a standalone, Open API, does the system offer SDKs (Software Development Kits) to allow developers to simplify these requests? While most enterprise software’s will have an Open API, the extended ability to allow developers to easily call this API with the SDK of their choosing can have a big impact on the ease of interacting with other systems.
5. Microservices: Perhaps the system has an open API for developers to take advantage of, but what about the infrastructure to support it? Does the system you are considering offer microservices to allow you to host the code so that you don’t have to build your own infrastructure around it? The cost of supporting your own integration infrastructure can be large, so understanding what the system offers for microservices can be a real “make or break” moment in your decision.
TrackVia has taken the multi-prong approach to how we enable integrations, including all five techniques into our platform. As the world continues to automate and digitize processes, the need for integrating one, or many systems, becomes more and more necessary to ensure data integrity and limit the number of places that data must be entered. As you embark on your next journey for new technology, keep these techniques in mind to ensure you’re selecting a tool that is both practical on its own, but can also play nice with others.
In addition to these techniques, I’d love to hear some of the things you have looked for when evaluating enterprise software integrations and the unique challenges you may have faced along the way!