You are excited to embark upon an integration project, but where do you start? Have you figured out what kind of integration project you will be implementing? How do you know how to choose the right data integration tools, let alone which ones you will need?
Choosing the right integration tools is crucial because you don’t want to waste time or money. This article explains not only which tools you might need, but what you should consider when choosing those tools so that your integration project is successful.
Types of Integration
Before we delve into how to choose the right integration tools, let’s discuss the different types of integration that exist. There are three kinds of integration, and you most certainly need the right tools for each variety to achieve success. This article will look at two in particular in depth.
The first type of integration we’ll talk about is business integration. We define business integration (also known as B2B integration) as “collaboration by an organization across a business network of external partners where the parties exchange and integrate electronic transactions, messages, and files through inter-company business processes.”
Why might you need business integration over (or in addition to) another type of integration? This type of integration connects more than one company. Businesses frequently have the need to exchange information with one another in a way that’s quick and efficient. B2B integration tools enable you to gain greater visibility into the information you have shared and received with your trading partners; there is no more guessing whether someone received something like a purchase order, because you’ve got an electronic record that it was sent.
The second type of integration we’ll discuss is system integration. We define system integration as “the exchange and integration of organizational electronic transactions, messages, and files through intra-company business processes that connect internal systems and data collection devices.” Why might you need system integration? If you want to integrate your CRM, your supply chain management tools, and your HR applications, you will need system integration.
Choosing the Best B2B Integration Tools
If you need B2B integration tools, you want to invest in the right ones to ensure that your integration project is successful. But, what features or components do B2B integration tools have to have?
For a start, they have to digitize information. You do not want to deal with paper-based processes anymore; they are both inefficient and costly. Making information digital allows you to integrate it into workflows as well as any business applications you are using.
Another important feature is order management. You need visibility into two vital supply chain processes: order-to-cash and procure-to-pay. There are a number of moving parts in these processes, and you cannot afford mistakes; the right B2B integration tools give you that crucial clarity.
Invoice managementis a third must-have feature. If you are not using digital invoices, you are wasting time and money. Studies show that fully automated invoices only cost $3.50 to process. Automated invoicing is not only more efficient, but it can also bring you into compliance with regulations cropping up across the globe.
Community managementis yet another essential component of B2B integration tools. Tracking relationships with trading partners no longer needs to be time-consuming or laborious; the right B2B integration tools provide a single platform for communication and collaboration within your supplier and customer communities. This function also gives you greater visibility into what is going on at your company (and allows you to remain compliant).
Additionally, your B2B integration tools should allow you to submit and process payments electronically. Much like paper-based invoicing, paper-based payment processing is expensive and time-consuming. This capability is also critical to saving time and money.
A sixth crucial feature is process and workflow management. Supply chain information should flow from databases into applications and workflows so you no longer need to rely upon manual data entry. With automated process and workflows, your organization can keep up with the speed of business.
Managed file transfers (MFT) are imperative in today’s business environment, too. MFT enables you to securely and quickly send files of all sizes across the world, ensuring that the people who need the information most get it in a timely fashion.
What B2B Integration Tools Exist?
There are a number of B2B integration tools available. Remediuses three tools in particular.
The IBM B2B Integrator integrates complex B2B/EDI processes across their partner communities in a single gateway. It offers a very flexible platform, available on-premise or via hybrid cloud, which supports data transformation and most communication protocols, secures your B2B network and data, provides Docker container support, and achieves high-availability for operations with IBM Global Mailbox.
Cleo’s B2B Gateway links internal systems, SaaS applications, and external trading partners, offering a variety of protocols and connectors. It also assures regulatory, industry, and partner requirements through real-time visibility, alert notifications, and audit trails. Moreover, the Cleo B2B Gateway provides database independence, high availability, and load balancing.
Seeburger B2B/EDI solutions automate business processes, secure data exchange between trading partners, connect and monitor B2B community relationships, and allow you to connect smaller trading partners through web EDI.
How to Choose the Right System Integration Tools?
There are a number of system integration tools vendors out there, so how do you choose the best one? The answer is that the best system integration tools are the ones that take into account your business’ individual (and sometimes highly specific) needs.
For example, many companies work with legacy infrastructure. They are not in a position to rip and replace at this point in time, so they need system integration tools that can work with older technologies to ensure business continuity.
Furthermore, system integration tools should be able to work with not only a wide variety of source systems, but with unstructured, structured, and semi-structured data, too. It should be able to easily connect to internal and external information sources and should be able to handle high volumes of data and frequent data updates.
Another important question to ask is, “What resources do we have? Can we afford to carry this project out on our own, or do we need to bring in an outside party with more experience and expertise?” Bringing in a third party is not necessarily a bad thing. If you do not have the staff (and/or the personnel on hand do not have the requisite experience), finding a third-party consultant who can perform system integration might be the best option.
System integration tools should give you visibility into IT infrastructure. If you’re embarking on a system integration project, your information is most likely in silos. You need to understand where that data is, what format it is in, and what effect integration will have on that information.
Additionally, your integration tools must also be future-proof. System integration can sometimes be an ongoing process; your organization might invest in a new system, and that system may well need to be integrated into your other systems. Your integration tools should be scalable and designed to work with a variety of systems (and data) to ensure ease of use and efficiency.
What System Integration Tools Exist?
Three system integration tools that are familiar to most:
Informatica offers a multi-point hub for integration. Its platform automates the delivery of consistent, curated data to every system in the correct format. In addition, Informatica offers a self-service portal to access information, so you can find the information you need, exactly when you need it.
Axway provides a versatile, service-oriented solution that reduces time to market for internal and external applications. It seamlessly connects all data sources and systems that provide information to any information to any user, anywhere. Axway’s solution is also scalable, so it grows with your business. You do not need to invest in another set of integration tools in a few years from now because your company has expanded.
Tibco’s application integration tools can be deployed independently and allow you to address your integration needs as they evolve. You can also add other capabilities. Tibco has made connectivity simpler, too; you can implement technology plug-ins, application plug-ins, and a wizard-based developer kit that streamlines integration with outside programs, technology, applications, and devices.
The integration tools marketplace does not have to be confusing. Once you understand your business’ needs, picking the right set of integration tools (or choosing the right partner to implement those tools) becomes simpler. Are you ready for data integration? Get the assessment. Absolutely free.