Experts are NOT expecting the Enterprise Application Integration market to grow at a CAGR of 16.32% between 2020 and 2024 just based on mere intuition - well, the proof is in the pudding err.. potential itself !
If you find yourself hanging somewhere around the midpoint of the household question of every other contemporary business - “Why to buy..” or even, “Should I make room for EAI solutions for my business ?”, then this blog is your go-to guide with all the nitty-gritties that you need to know !
Enterprise Application Integration, in a nutshell, can be viewed as an integration framework built using a combination of technologies and services forming a middleware to allow the systems and applications interact with each other across an enterprise.
As a result, among an array of other benefits, the information used within the enterprise -
Knowing flowery features of EAI is of no good unless you know how your business can benefit from them !
I’ll tell you why.
Suppose, you are hungry and find a dragon fruit lying in front, would you not want someone to tell you how to break it open and eat it at that instant, instead of hour long lectures on what vitamins-minerals-blah blah blah it has ?
Same thing, different context.
Well, we value your time and so, instead of combining paragraphs from thick hardcovers, bombarding you with pages long information carefully bypassing the answer you seek, here’s what you are looking for - a list of ways in which your business can reap benefits galore, with a comprehensive enterprise data integration solution:
How much time do your employees spend switching from one system to another to get hold of essential data?
If that sums up to some considerable hours, ‘sigh of relief’ alert ahead!
EAI enables ‘single access point’ , that means it helps you consolidate all the data scattered across individual systems, converging to a single cloud-based access point. As a result , your accounts guy doesn’t need to rush to your HR department every other month for the updated list of employees covering those who have joined or put their papers down - Just a very basic benefit example, the real life examples we have seen are much more sophisticated depending on your business type. Basically, implementation of a single access point ensures different departments can access centrally updated data as and when they need it.
Hands up if you are struggling over collaboration, too?
EAI takes the famous saying, “Every problem has a solution” on a whole new level, being the solution for so many enterprise issues at once!
In essence, you can use EAI to make collaboration between associates, managers and all other individuals across multiple departments a breeze, too. Wonder how the data integration solutions do so?
Simply by bringing in seamless interoperability !
In case you are not sure if interoperability can add any significant value to the bottomline of your enterprise , here’s what you probably didn’t know!
A report says that for the US automotive industry, interoperability faults may lead up to USD 1 Billion losses. Let that sink in !
Think of a solution that does even the most critical yet monotonous task with utmost attention?
That's enterprise application integration for you.
It goes so well with workflow, that a study quite appropriately calls workflow and EAI a perfect marriage !
The question is, how does EAI automate the workflow?
Technically, a custom developed EAI platform integrates all the applications in action and the information within your enterprise. On the other hand, workflow automation refers to managing the passage of data in the correct sequence, under the system’s surveillance. Together, data integration solutions and workflow automation contribute to centralised workflows which in turn saves manual effort, while drastically speeding up the business processes and improving transparency.
Synonymous to simplification, right?
Are all your applications being used to their full potential?
When it comes to communication amidst enterprise application, challenges are many - be it ‘lack of in-house tech skills leading to mismanagement of IT infrastructure’ or, ‘information silos causing severe harm to crucial decisions’ , be it ‘difficulty to revert back to customers with latest updated data’ or, ‘manual effort restricting you from attending flooding-in customer enquiries’. But, as you opt for integration of your enterprise softwares(read EAI), your enterprise is empowered to make the most of existing IT facilities. So most obviously, meeting the ever increasing customer expectations in today's competitive market becomes easier than ever.
Let’s look at a quick example here. What if the executives designated to take care of the IT infrastructure are not on top of innovation ? That will only hold your enterprise back from utilizing cutting-edge technologies optimally. Whereas, EAI helps your enterprise put the best tech foot forward, applying a more informed integration approach to connect the dots among almost all applications into a single and easy-to-use interface. The result?
There’s hardly any potential of any of your applications that remains unexplored!
How about addressing every opportunity at one place?
No, we are not slipping into any unicorn story here, EAI literally unveils all the opportunities you would be interested to address, making them available at your fingertips over a single interface. Starting from ‘emerging market trends which can transform your enterprise activities’, ‘issues in reputation management demanding your attention’ to ‘disruption in supply chain management’ - the list of opportunities are many!
Here’s a quick overview of the lucrative results:
Most of the enterprises operate with a number of applications which can be categorized as -
In order to enable effective as well as efficient interaction & data exchange between such distinct enterprise applications while supporting existing workflow, enterprise application integration came into the picture.
Like fingerprints, the way each enterprise practises their individual workflow is unique, even though their core goal might be pretty much similar. So clearly, the comprehensive data integration solutions can not be built around the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
Let’s get familiar with the popular approaches embraced for EAI :
In the Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), the application components provide services to other components via a communication protocol over a network or a cloud-hosted API. Its principles are not dependent on vendors or any other technologies. In SOA, there are broadly two ways in which the services communicate with each other. Firstly, by passing on data and secondly via two or more services coordinating to perform a common activity.
In business what matters more than the ‘how’s while considering a new software or digital arrangement is ‘why’ do you need it? Jumping straight to that, while ‘many men, many minds’ truly fits when it comes to defining SOA, what makes all those definitions boil down to the same bottom-line is five major traits:
The benefits of SOA match with your expectations out of an EAI, just like a jigsaw puzzle! Here’s how :
[i] Build An Independent Reliable Service - SOA enables you to build independent reliable services providing you :
[a] Better flow of information among interacting applications
[b] Improved ability to expose internal functionality
[c] Maximized security & higher availability across applications universe
[ii] Make Convenient Reusable Service : SOA is a concept which is easy to understand and easier to implement across not one, but multiple components, making it easier to curb overhead costs.
[iii] Easily Configurable : SOA does not restrict you to a set rule for configuration and so, you can configure it the way you envision to reap its benefits (thanks to its flexibility & agility!)
[iv] Equivalent Directory Structure For Easy Access : Think of an equivalent directory structure that allows your customers to access service information centrally, even when the service location has been modified? Yes, that’s what SOA ensures.
A point-to-point integration architecture helps two applications communicate with each other. A connection is set up between them using a connector enabling application A to speak to application B by exchanging messages or executing a complete procedure. The connector here acts as a bridge permitting access to data or application functionalities in a structured way. Connectors take over the task of handling complexities of translating messages, integrating and operations alike, to access the application features. In case of any change either in application A or B, the interface requires updation in both. Also, after adding one more application C, six connectors need to be deployed, updated & maintained to fully integrate the applications ecosystem.
Scenarios when the use cases are small, i.e. the universe of applications contains very less number of applications, since the point-to-point architecture generates instant connectivity and also makes for the fastest alternative !
Growing businesses, as the complexity goes up once the business starts to expand, requiring increased number of applications. For each new application, more and more connectors need to be incorporated to sustain overall integrity & that’s exactly what leads to ‘spaghetti’ integration. As a result, the cost skyrockets and the entire application ecosystem is slowed down.
Basically, an enterprise service bus (ESB) is a middleware tool which distributes tasks among the components connected with an application, to establish communication between the applications requiring mutual interaction. In a simpler way, ESB can also be viewed as a specialized version of traditional hub-and-spoke (also known as client-server) architecture, where a predefined set of standards are applied to govern data flow among the participating applications.
“To get ESB or not to get ESB” - If that’s the question in your head now, here’s your answer-
In Spite of the benefits that ESB has in store, implementing it in a wrong place can do more harm by unnecessarily complicating the process, leave alone serving the purpose! So, the trick is NOT to even think about enterprise service bus if you have two applications altogether or, just two protocols (e.g. - HTTP, Web Services) in place.
Robotic Process Automation is the technology which enables the users to configure a computer software (referred to as a “robot” in its name) and NOT a robot software, to emulate and integrate human interactions within digital systems to run business processes. Technically, RPA robots capture data and manipulate applications the same as humans, using the user interface. They :
Unlike us, human beings, an RPA software bot never sleeps and makes absolutely zero mistakes (Oh, and did I mention it takes way less time?), all under a low-investment.
RPA is a pretty broad field and there are a good number of RPA tools making rounds in the market. With so many tools available, most obviously their functionalities considerably vary from one another. However, in spite of their diverse offerings across their pros and cons, they have the following characteristics that make them belong to the parent category - RPA:
Who has not heard those stories about the power of robotic process automation (RPA), yet?
To be honest, unlike a lot of trends that pop up one morning only to vanish by the other, RPA is a clear exception as it walks the talk by augmenting repetitive, error prone, mundane tasks to perfection.
Thus, RPA is worth all the hype and you are about to know how harnessing the power of RPA can change your current business scenario for good!
[i] Save Time (and remember, Time is Money!)
RPA resolves real-world problems and so, concentrates on real life business struggle areas - time & cost. Thus, RPA reduces operational costs and executes the tasks in unbelievably lesser time.
[ii] Modify Processes Just When You Need To
In today’s fast moving business scenario, exception is the only regular! Amidst the ever-changing factors, what keeps a business on the frontiers is how efficiently it adapts to the changes. On that note, RPA makes adding/ removing an ongoing business process just in time to ensure your business doesn’t have to come to a standstill at any point, in the name of adaptability.
[iii] Redeploy Resources Priority-wise
Engaging the deciding brains to onerous jobs is the last way you would ever want to deprive your core business tasks off the resources they deserve! RPA comes to your rescue with a better option, as it allows your workmen to offload tasks from the latter part of the priority list to the software robots, so the human resources can be deployed to the higher priority tasks at hand which require higher cognitive skills.
[iv] Pull up productivity
Expanding virtual workforce with RPA is far easier than recruiting more manual workers onboard to perform the same tasks for two reasons -
[v] Make way for better compliances
RPA being an industry-agnostic, non-invasive alternative to traditional IT integration, can be used across any industry, be it real estate, financial services, retail, energy, transportation, telecoms, media and what not.
In every industry, there is some compliance to abide by and that happens to be a sensitive factor which, in a lot of cases, goes unnoticed.
Since machine’s memory >> Human Beings’ , with RPA it becomes a cakewalk to be compliant to the rules, regardless what the numbers are!
Microservice architecture for enterprise software integration is a comparatively newer approach, where there are a number of independently deployable, small sized, modular services running a unique process each, and interacting through a standard or cloud-based mechanism to contribute to a business goal.
Microservices have started to become a household name in the leading businesses (take a cue from Netflix, Uber & Spotify!) across almost all the industries and it’s clearly because of the striking benefits it offers! Here are the top ones :
[i] If One service stops, the rest doesn’t!
This is the benefit Spotify didn’t want to be late to embrace ! The loosely coupled parts are independent in nature, so even when some services fail or need to go off for some modifications, the 75m + users don’t even get to know, as the other services still continue absolutely uninterrupted!
[ii] Scalability is a breeze with Microservices
Microservices architecture is characterized by its modular components which make it easier to upsize or downsize particular services. Thus, making microservices a perfect choice for businesses operating across several platforms & devices.
[iii] Enhance productivity
Microservice architecture has the ability of easily understanding a task and that’s what reflects in its productivity. So, you get more work, in less time!
[iv] Take flexibility as the middle-name of Microservices
From responsiveness to scalability to maintainability, microservices provide high flexibility in every aspect.
[v] Speed Up Time to Market!
Change a function without rewriting the whole codebase - that’s microservices for you. So, you can test and deploy individual services and market your applications and services faster.
It’s one of the rarest cases where a single integration architecture integrates the entire application universe across a complex enterprise scenario. So, to execute integration among all the enterprise applications and services most efficiently, a combination of different integration techniques work best.
Coming to a real-time example here : For real estate businesses, efficiently managing brokerage deals has been a constant concern and that obviously increases as a business starts to grow with expansion in categories like economic, deluxe, premium & quantitative increase of properties.
However, with digitization setting its feet in almost every industry, the real estate industry has explored ways to ease the brokerage agents’ lives among a plethora of other aspects, too. Thus, integrating the discrete application modules of the business in a centralized system has become a breeze - let’s look at an example to see how!
A brokerage firm primarily runs on modules like - property search, listing, buying/ selling request process & management, accounts, customer service module etc. & they require to be integrated in a way, that only the necessary modules talk to each other and that implies, wrong integration can further complicate the entire system introducing significant delay and inefficiency in operations.
Here’s a quick look at a smart way to integrate the above modules, serving the prime objective of speeding up the system, eliminating silos and minimizing manual error, all while improving efficiency & effectiveness.
Understanding your business model is important to decide which middleware solution will partake in your enterprise journey. Depending on the complexity and scope of your business, you can choose between enterprise application integration(EAI) and enterprise service bus(ESB) solutions:
When compared head-to-head, EAI solutions are relatively more complex than ESB solutions. This is because an EAI model is used to monitor and maintain a network of multiple applications of different scales. This means the solution has to supervise complex data maps, transformation protocols, and workflow configurations quite frequently.
On the other hand, an ESB model is used to focus on standardized solution methods. For example, a message routing model to ensure the messages reach the appropriate recipient application. Or a protocol translation model to allow communication between different protocols within your heterogeneous environment.
Both enterprise application integration(EAI) and enterprise service bus(ESB) have their specific use cases even with largely varied scopes.
If your company is looking for a centralized enterprise solution with a hub-and-spoke architecture that can control multiple small-scale applications at once, then EAI should be your choice. With EAI solutions your company can synchronize data and manage business processes from a single API.
But if your company prefers a solution that is scalable and can process data in real-time, then you should take the ESB street! As it works on an event-driven architecture, making it easier for an ESB solution to integrate systems containing multiple programming languages and protocols.
Based on the above-mentioned factors you can decide which model suits your business objectives. Once you decide which of the two middleware solutions fits your business goals, the next step would be to leverage the scalability and flexibility of your enterprise model by migrating it to a cloud-based environment.
Your enterprise has unique needs and so, opting for integration the same way that some other enterprise does, may do zero justice to yours ! However, settling for the right level of EAI for your enterprise can be tricky, but not when you ask yourself the right questions. We have saved your time curating a list of the potential questions that will help you determine the level of integration without getting lost in an ocean of EAI models aiming to attain integration at different levels. Here’s the list :
If YES, models like point-to-point integration will only end up complicating your process furthermore, instead of simplifying it (you already know how! )! So, the bottomline is you need to deploy EAI in a higher level (e.g. - having ESB in place), that helps your applications use consistent data instead of depending on individual app stores which doesn’t reflect data modifications performed by other business applications in action.
The answer is YES for almost every smart enterprise, even though the extent might vary and that’s exactly what makes the difference. In case of a shared business function, a number of elementary functions (e.g. - hiring, payment confirmation, etc.) can be reused across multiple enterprise applications to skip functionality duplication, simplify data updates and reduce development cost for new applications. With the increase in the number of such functions, the enterprise application integration needs to support functioning of reusable components with higher efficiency - microservices can get you covered this way.
Once you execute a distributed business process, there is ample scope to leverage the existing code of your applications in newer ways. A dedicated component for integration can synchronize the entire execution of a composite workflow.
For example, establishing links between data related to listed properties, developers, buyers, sellers, landlords, tenants, property facilities etc., a real estate business can get advanced reports on property purchase & leasing trends, and present property purchase / rental status to its customers. This type of integration ensures you reap the highest benefits out of your previous investments and cuts the cost for developing and maintaining another app.
If you have chosen several OTS applications from different vendors to get things done within your enterprise, chances are they will be too stubborn to interact among themselves. To make them interact without curbing their individual efficiency, you need a process in place that acts like a wrapper to your enterprise applications mostly without involving the API complexity. RPA (Robotic Process Automation can be your friend in such need, and surprisingly with minimal development effort.
Read more : Common Mistakes of ERP Implementation
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So the bottom line is, integration comes handy for handling the inconvenience in-terms of communication among standalone applications of various natures. Integration implies eliminating the data silos of those independent applications and services, and leveraging information to maintain consistency in business processes.
The points to remember while considering enterprise application integration (EAI) for your business are:
Get in touch with an experienced software development team who have known the EAI nitty-gritties like the back of their hands & have a portfolio supporting the same, and outsource your integration requirements to those experts!
Choice is yours!
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