Types of integration

Browsing over the internet you come across many different types of integration. We would like to mention the following three: system integration, application integration and data integration. They are often used interchangeably or in combination with each other.
Workflow automation can be confused with application integration, or application integration is mistaken for workflow automation. We see a distinct difference and that’s why it is mentioned here as well.

System integration

Let start with the definition Gartner uses:
“The process of creating a complex information system that may include designing or building a customised architecture or application, integrating it with new or existing hardware, packaged and custom software, and communications. Most enterprises rely on an external contractor for program management of most or all phases of system development.”

System integration usually entails more than simply connecting applications. Sometimes hardware is involved, sometimes a whole new architecture is required. All components required to make a cohesive infrastructure to support an organisation in their business processes. Generally an external contractor or partner like Capgemini or Deloitte (and many others) specialise in these large scale projects.

Application integration

Again let’s start with Gartner’s definition:
“Application integration is the process of enabling independently designed applications to work together. Commonly required capabilities include:

In short we can say that application integration is connecting two or more applications so they can work together. Most mentioned benefits of application integration are: saving time, increasing functionality and enabling the exchange of information.
Application integration can be used to connect cloud based applications with on premise systems. It can also be used to make a connection between the internal software applications and some outside the firewall of the business.

Besides improving the processes and cooperation within an organisation, there are also specific types of application integrations that have a different purpose or angle.

B2B integration

Business to business application integration is the automation of business communication between multiple organisations. This enables these companies to trade and work together more efficiently. Examples of this can be found in wholesalers and their suppliers. They often integrate to ensure they can respond quickly to their customers’ demands.

An example of how business-to-business integration can be executed is the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) standard. This was developed to set a standard for receiving and sending business information between companies. EDI is still used, however newer technologies such as XML, JSON and today often APIs have become the integration standards.

Legacy applications

Many organisations use outdated legacy software applications to perform their core business activities. They continue to use it because it can’t be replaced or because they want to avoid disrupting their day-to-day processes. An integration tool can be used to ‘connect’ this legacy application to the other applications within the organisation without having to make any changes to the legacy application itself.

Data integration

The definition Gartner uses: “The discipline of data integration comprises the practices, architectural techniques and tools for achieving the consistent access and delivery of data across the spectrum of data subject areas and data structure types in the enterprise to meet the data consumption requirements of all applications and business processes.”

Data integration is taking data from different sources and turning it into a data set. However, it is more than just moving data. It starts with ingestion of data and includes steps like cleansing, ETL mapping and transformation. With data integration you can take structured and unstructured data from disparate sources and create a new single data set.

Modern data integration tools have pushed beyond ETL in conducting batch integration, real-time integration and they are using automation to address errors in the data.

With data integration data can be made more accessible, by combining data sets you can obtain greater insights and the lastly the data integrity is increased.
Data is an important asset nowadays. Therefore it is important to look after your company’s data and ensure it is in good health.

Workflow automation

Workflow automation is a bit of an odd one out. However, integration and workflow automation are often mistaken for one another. In integration there is a lot of talk about flow as well, but that type of flow is not necessarily workflow.

Gartner doesn’t provide us with a definition for Workflow automation. Summarising what a couple of others are saying brings us to the following definitions:

The difference between workflow automation and integration data flow

The major difference between workflow automation and integration data flow is what you are automating.

With a workflow you automate processes. These are work processes that are normally carried out by people. You try to (partially) automate those processes with the help of workflows bringing human intervention to a minimum.
With a data flow you automate and integrate systems with each other without human intervention. It ensures that applications can continuously exchange data.

For which type of integration can you use Dovetail?

Dovetail is an iPaaS; integration Platform as a Service. That means you can use Dovetail for application integration. You can connect two or more applications with each other but with Dovetail you can also take it a lot further and integrate multiple applications, integrate with legacy systems, create B2B integrations, use EDI in all its forms through a broker, and more.

The great thing about Dovetail is the graphic interface that will get you started on building your flows very quickly. Want to know more about Dovetail? Continue reading here.

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