Application integration, API guide

Guide to Application Integration for Beginners

Businesses need to constantly produce fresh ideas and find new ways of development. In the big maze of different platforms, tools, and software for companies, the work we do can easily turn into a huge mess. When using various digital tools whether, for sales, marketing, or business growth purposes, app integration can come in really handy, bringing the workload and the complexity of tasks to a minimum.

Keep reading to understand better how you can implement such a strategy, where to begin, and how to complete the process successfully. In this guide, we’ll talk about how app integration can facilitate the life of business people, and how they can use it to their advantage.

What Is An Integrated Application?

In short, application integration represents the process of combining different applications to meet the specific needs of your business. This means that there won’t be any problems while multitasking since you will have everything at your fingertips, all at once. This strategy is very popular when in need of startup accelerators, for example, as it makes different processes more simplified and quick. 

In most cases, we need to multitask and work in teams. If you’re working on a project management task, you will need to use different apps, including one for timesheets, communication, task management software,  social media marketing planner, etc. With application integration, you’re able to start a new project, then integrate meeting dates from Google Calendar.

In the complex business cycle: starting from the startup funding process, naming your business, creating business cards, making difficult business decisions, and operating the company, most business owners use time management tools to organize their working day. Luckily, people are now more motivated to work on something that will simplify their lives. And to be honest, this was the main reason why the integrated application was created. 

Many people find themselves highly relieved after deciding to start application integration. After one successful attempt, they feel that they should build an online community that works more efficiently than ever! Besides, this is a surefire way to motivate your employees and help them work for results and not just because of the deadline! 

It’s like having the fastest communication channel in one place! Data smoothly flows from one software application to another, making it easy for the entire team to work and derive the maximum benefits! So, it’s not surprising why most companies are already using software development agencies for integrated application services.

So, by summarizing the advantages that integrated application offers, we can say that starting this process is a must for the following reasons:

  • Smooth Data Flow: without the integrated application, it would be tough to transfer necessary information and data to the team that needs it for specific purposes. So, if you start using application integration, you will feel how smooth and problem-free your business operations become, as it’s directed also in management improvement by sharing data between departments of the company.
  • Centralized System: this is one of the reasons the integrated application is so popular nowadays. It allows you to have a significant hub that you can use to exchange data, communicate, and perform your tasks more efficiently! Imagine having a sound business phone system that allows you to have all the information and features at hand! Everything is centralized in one place. What can be more convenient?  
  • Saved IT Infrastructure: yes, it is tough to maintain all the elements needed to manage the IT part of the business. Luckily, everything becomes more accessible with the integrated application process. Now, it’s pretty apparent why the top eCommerce platforms prefer using this tool!  
  • No Data-Related Problems: many problems can occur if a company doesn’t use application integration. For example, you can face data duplication, which in turn leads to another common and dangerous problem - redundancy. Because of this, data may get damaged, become unreliable, and, what is scarier, your data storage costs will go up and up.
  • Increased productivity: since the data flawlessly goes from one application to another, everything is done just by the book, the way it should be done. Apart from this, people get motivated by a tool that simplifies their lives and accelerates their working process. So, considering everything that we just said, you can already understand that using the integrated application is one of the best ways to boost your productivity! Just search for the experience eCommerce platforms have had with the integrated application, and you will see how easy everything is.
  • At Monterail, we’ve discovered that another huge upside of application integration is the opportunity to “gain a consolidated view of data from various sources.”

Examples of Application Integration

Application integration is widely used in the healthcare industry, where all data matters. This is why Medtech software and other med-related tools are now highly sought after. And what’s more, it’s not an exception for AI. More specifically, the integrated application is already adopted by most hospitals that use a centralized system for storing and using their patients’ information. This way, anyone who treats a patient can have access to their information because if you don’t know who the person is, how can you support them? 

 Another brilliant example of integrated application - during its business operations, a company collects an email database stored in a specific place. Later, they use this data for sending SaaS email templates, eCommerce newsletters, etc. Meanwhile, the rest of the data is located somewhere else. However, suppose this company decides to analyze the data as part of behavioral segmentation for marketing purposes. In that case, it will be an uphill battle to combine all the information and use it. 

 As you can see, application integration enables independently created applications to work together. Even the news section uses this tool, and sometimes some of the online media reveal their APIs to give a chance to others to include their own stories into their applications. You can look at Google News API, which will help you include Google News search results in your website or your application. In this case, you will also need to ensure website protection, implement bots if needed, and provide a great user experience. An additional strategy for proper website security is integrating web hosting for Wordpress if you’re using it as the CMS. As AI works with different functions, mainly providing the feature of keeping separate copies of data and managing all the update processes of applications, many companies integrate the AI strategy in their work.

The Most Common Types of Application Integrations 

Having the integrated application all set up offers many benefits, making it pretty easy to convince a business person to start the integration process and make all those advantages available for their company. However, it’s important to decide the integration method as well.

Uniform Data Access 


Another technique of application integration is Uniform Data Access. Its primary mission is to take the actions mentioned above while keeping the data in the exact location. This is probably why it is called "uniform," since the area and the data generally remain unchanged in form or character. 

Uniform Data Access allows you to access data from various sources and present it consistently. In addition, there is a minimal delay from the source system to the consolidated view since it leaves the data in the source system and defines a set that may give a single picture to multiple customers across a platform. As a result, if you decide to make this technique a part of the entire application integration process, you will not face any delay from the source system (the original location) to the consolidated, already-presented view.

However, it would be best if you considered that, unfortunately, this method is used only when the database is of one type. Whether it’s an app for short-term rentals in NYC or an educational app for learning languages, the database needs to be well aligned. This means that using Uniform Data Access has certain restrictions, but if you don't mind them, it's a perfect option.

Common Data Storage 


So, the next one on the list is Common Data Storage, or in short CDS. It's already a rule of thumb and a part of practical knowledge that different programs and applications use the data. The thing is, we all want to have the superpower of taking control over this data, managing it, and ensuring that data privacy is on another level. The good news is that Common Data Storage provides you with this opportunity. By integrating applications with the help of Common Data Storage, you will have a specific type of storage that gives you the freedom to finally manage and protect the data leveraged by several different programs and applications. 

There are many differences between the application integration methods, which is quite normal given the diverse needs of different businesses and enterprises. Long story short, the most frequent form of data storage entails transferring data from the source systems to a freshly created new one. This is a brilliant way to work with data. People also call this approach Data Warehouse because all the data from various sources is stored in one place - easy, comfortable, and organized. As you can already understand, the first step is gathering data from multiple sources. Then, the data is integrated into a single location to be easily managed when everything is done. So, whether you’re working on an email campaign or need the data for other purposes, this way it’s easier to collect it. When it comes to emails, it’s also essential to check SPF records properly and ensure high email deliverability. 

Most people prefer this application integration method because of the warehouse-related advantages. Why? Because it's incredibly convenient to work with and manage the data in one place, and more importantly, it's possible to merge the data coming from different sources. 

Middleware Data Integration


To put it shortly, with the help of Middleware integration, two and more applications are connected. This means that all kinds of interactions are processed under one common platform. And honestly, it doesn't even matter what type of interaction it is: starting from human-to-system and ending with system-to-system interactions, everything is covered.

You may probably know that Middleware integration is quite popular among businesses and the reason is quite simple: it connects all the important systems without making much effort, and what is more, it gets rid of outdated and old-fashioned IT systems and trunks them into something new, practical and reusable. This, in turn, has an impact on the way changes are made within your business operations. 

Middleware is an excellent method to connect two or more applications. In addition to this, the Middleware integration technique is vested with many advantages:

  • With the help of the Middleware integration method, you will easily avoid all those time-consuming and costly software development processes. This is a dream come true for every business.
  • While your company is getting bigger, you will not have any problems with the use of the product since it allows you to scale everything more quickly and efficiently.
  • What is more, you won’t have to deal with old and out-of-date software, since everything will be correctly updated.

Common User Interface


This time, we will speak about the Common User Interface technique, which has unique characteristics. This application integration method is also referred to as manual integration since most of the work is handled manually. We get it. Everyone associates application integration with automated processes: however, things are not that simple! To put it shortly, you will need to manually do all the work that includes locating information in every source, comparing it with other data sources, and so forth. If, for example, you have a promissory note tool on your website and need to use an application integration process, you will need to gather data on the agreements, the sides taking part, etc. All these actions need to help you find the insights or information you've been looking for. 

In manual integration, the users control all of the essential information to obtain from the source system or a real estate landing page interface. In addition, users must cope with various user onboarding interfaces and query languages, necessitating an in-depth understanding of location, logical data representation, and data semantics. 

Moreover, users of this method need to be ready to control all the relevant and required information. This means they should also be equipped with knowledge related to different user interfaces, data semantics, and languages that make queries in various databases and systems.

However, there are limitations that will suddenly pop up while using this integration method. The Common User Interface technique is meant for enterprises that work with a limited number of sources and don't have much data to use. As you can see, data volume plays a huge role for the CUI: this should be considered right away. Otherwise, you will face many additional problems.

How to Integrate Applications?

Operating a business is not just about building a website, or working on your startup email marketing. Every business gradually becomes an IT business that uses tons of technologies, even the traditional industries. Could you ever think of, for example, a hospitality or logistics business that would ever need it? Yes, they all go through a digital transformation and have to create new business models around IT and will end up owning a significant number of systems, either built internally or obtained from third parties. On average, a large enterprise has more than 900 different applications in use! 

When you have to launch a new system, the first and apparent criteria is how it can serve a particular purpose, department, or person. It’s possible to fit the system into the existing digital landscape. When the necessity for it emerges, IT teams across departments will have to share in making this happen. And there are some things in common, universal requirements for integration which can be found everywhere, whether you provide a logo maker tool or a SaaS platform.

The most common criteria to integrate applications are the following:

  • Data gates mean that the company should ensure that more than one system "responds to" a query or performs a business function to aggregate information from multiple sources and methods into one view.
  • Data Back-up of Duplication means that two different systems have to remain synchronized to their data.
  • Apportioned Operations Procedures is when a single business function may involve steps affecting different systems, and that function has to be led and supervised by some other "agent".
  • B2B is when a business needs to reveal a specific functionality to 3rd parties and consume data from partners.

The Basics of API and Web Apps

Application integration is typically done with the use of APIs. API stands for an Application programming interface. It is a set of rules that allows the user to connect all the parts of the "puzzle", that is, the application, and use it for their purposes. Companies of any size use it to improve and simplify their entire business process since it allows them to integrate everything, be it online registration software applications or hardware systems. It means that any of us can be as flexible as we wish, still not interfering with the original creators' functions and not hindering them from maintaining their app.

Nowadays, due to the web and development of cloud apps, application integration is no longer an internal process, as it used to be once. So today, there is no need to have a particular app installed on your computer to access the API of the application.

In the race of modern technologies and the vertiginous speed with which those technologies are developing, the API for web apps has become handy and trendy, which is quite logical when we look at the increase of mobile apps and cloud-based software. This is used by big eCommerce companies as well such as in the case of Shopify apps since it allows them to integrate and manage all the necessary data.

Integrated Application Design


Application integration is a significant trend in information technology today. Many different types of architectures can support the integration of applications. One of the first ones was the point-to-point solution for integrating applications where every application was directly connected to every other application. This solution could work for a limited number of applications, but as the number of applications had to be increased, the number of connections quickly became suppressive. This is a very popular method if a business is selling high-profit items online and need to use multiple applications all at once for their processes. To manage duly, the integration of applications, technologies, tools, and methodologies is required.

One of the leading technologies is the so-called Process Brokers or Process Management Systems, which aim to connect an organization's applications to its business processes. A Process Broker provides an integrated environment where all processing logic for connecting applications can be embodied. The Process Broker enables users to visualize, build, analyze, simulate and implement processes for application integration. It is a complex design activity, and adequate methodological support is required to produce well-structured and easily understandable models.

Using Middleware


Firstly, what is middleware, and what is it used for?  Let's first imagine software as a bridge that connects the gaps between other applications and databases to provide unified services. Therefore, the utilization of middleware is one of the most common ways to build an application integration architecture.

Without middleware, application integration would be based on exhausting and tiresome amounts of programming and manual intervention. There are precisely two applications of middleware. The first one-the enterprise middleware is used to connect software components or enterprise applications. It is the software layer between the operating system and the applications on both sides of a network. And the second one is the Platform middleware which connects different application architectures. It has relation to the cases when for example, technology firms are to operate using multiple application structures and they have integrated website archiving strategies. And middleware is there to support these structures, transferring data from application to application and between databases and files. 

Creating Connections


To start describing the connection creation component, it is vital to explain what FME - the Feature Manipulation Engine - is. It was first designed to overcome many of the problems associated with traditional translation methods. Traditionally software was used to transcript geographic data to a different format which had limited capabilities. Most data pushed through a limited data model brought to the loss of much of the meaning in translation. FME was the first tool designed to be a Spatial ETL(Extract, Transform and Load) application. It can be described as a data warehousing tool that derives data from a source, converts it to fit the needs of the end-users, and then loads it into a specific destination or data repository. FME is considered to be a significant engine amongst an entire spectrum of supported formats. Data can be reached and read from any structure and written to any other. Its use allows it not to lose meaning as it is read. 

FME allows you to connect to the applications by using the Connectors. These are created by using the API from the application you need to connect to. Every company has its own unique set of applications they'd like to join and with FME, you can create workflows that integrate your applications. This, for example, refers to online meeting apps that have become widely popular with the rising need for remote work. Once a workflow that integrates your applications is created, it becomes possible to use FME Server to schedule and automatically run your workflows to your needs and requirements. 

And, of course, you will get the expected result, that is to find the data and information where and when you need it.

Implementation and Testing


What is API Testing?


Application Programming Interface testing is essential, and it is also known as grey-box testing. It is a set of functional tests on the back-end that identify if the  API implementation proves to be helpful, reliable, and secure. It is necessary to include security tests in your company's package, purchase tools to automate the API your company uses and the data it sends. API testing supports the company in finding inconsistencies or bugs, and it should be a priority for the company. This is why you should focus on creating a high-speed website at the beginning which will eventually help avoid issues with bugs. 

It is also essential to understand that once you start implementing a web API, you shouldn't forget about the physical needs and expectations of the environment responsible for hosting the web API.

Primary Skills for Application Integration


If you want the application integration to work, you, first of all, need to have specific skills. Having those will help you be more accessible, take care of the application integration process, and have problem and risk-free business operations. However, if you are too far from this industry or don't have time to learn something new, you need to hire an application integration specialist to help you reach your primary goals. After you hire them, make sure to take them through the employee training process and show around what your company has achieved so far. This is the most recommended option since specialists know what to do and handle the situation if the worst comes to the worst.  In any case, we also recommend working with professionals. Once you start working with a service that knows how the machine works from the inside, you will finally have time to take care of things like user acquisition strategy and other essential nuances for your business, such as social media automation

But what skills do you or the specialist need to work in the integrated application industry? Well, these are the skills you need to pay attention to:

  • A good specialist or a specialized business owner should document, verify and record all the technical and, obviously, integration requirements. 
  • Another vital skill that everyone in this industry should have is learning and striving for more. To be more precise, standing in the same place is not recommended as this industry is constantly improving and growing. So, if you don't keep yourself up to date with the recent changes, you won't be able to use all the upsides application integration offers. 
  • Moreover, one should learn all the basics of data structuring, how it is stored, passed around, and so forth. 
  • You need to have specific experience in this field, efficient, hands-on experience. Integration techniques and platforms and the entire industry and tech products are based on knowledge. It's like driving a bicycle: once you know how to use it, you can never forget it because it gets stored within your procedural memory!
  • Another thing you need to pay attention to is the knowledge of integration technologies. This includes methods like message queuing, knowledge of web services, and so forth. 
  • Being familiar with the JavaScript programming language is also a huge plus: so, try to find a good specialist who will perfectly handle all the required actions!

In any case, you can always choose how you want to work: on your own, by hiring an individual, or working with a reliable service. But, whichever option you choose, don't forget to double-check everything. So, for example, if you decide to do everything by yourself, make sure you're doing everything right. But, on the other hand, if you hire a service, do your research, watch their feedback and customer testimonials, and only then, trust them with your business! The good news is, if you do everything by the book, the entire product management process will be a significant success.

Conclusion


Application integration processes will simplify and give efficiency to the system that will expedite your working process. Application integration is an essential step towards having something good, something genius, and something beneficial. 

And one more tip for you to start the application integration process: always keep yourself updated on recent changes and modifications in this industry. This way, the chances of making a mistake are relatively low because you will be ideally prepared!  

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