If you have worked with data at all in the past, then you have probably heard about Systems Integration. To clarify;
Wikipedia defines System Integration as:
“… the process of linking together different computing systems and software applications physically or functionally, to act as a coordinated whole.”
The Software Engineering Institute defines Software Systems Integration as:
“Software system integration refers to the practice of combining individually tested software components into an integrated whole.”
Systems integration is a way of getting separate or disparate computing systems to “talk” to each other. Organizations that have problems due to multiple computing systems utilizing common data can benefit from systems integration. In this case, each of the computing systems plays the role of a sub-system from the point of view of the whole integrated system. Integrated systems utilize two-way communication to make this work in different ways.
One manner of conducting two-way communication is integrating both systems to share or synchronize data equally. Another way this could be done is by creating a producer-consumer architecture. In this architecture, one system would transmit the business data, without consuming it itself, while receiving and processing an acknowledgement that the consumer successfully received the transmitted data.
Consider that companies today enjoy the capability to purchase commercial software packages to handle their financial, HR, email, and networking needs. Often these systems use the same data, like employee information that is used in both the financial/payroll system and the HR system. In the past, when an employer would onboard a new employee, there would be duplicate effort in entering new employee data into the HR system, then into the payroll system, and so on. The integration of the payroll and the HR systems provides for greater efficiencies (and fewer payroll errors!) in the new employee onboarding process:
- The employee information can be entered in one system and the data automatically loaded into the other system.
- The onboarding time is reduced as the data is transferred electronically between both systems.
- Data integrity (hence quality) is maintained as integration removes the possibility of entering errors when re-entering the same employee information into multiple systems.
Organizations that benefit the most from systems integration are those whose computing systems must share data with another system, sometimes located within another organization, but must keep the systems separate. One example of this is an organization that utilizes an inventory management software package, but needs to order products from a vendor’s ordering system. Another example is the company that has established a business partnership with another company and must synchronize their business data with their partner’s internal system.
In today’s business environment where acquisitions, partnerships, and the continued existence of legacy computing systems are the norm, systems integration can mean the difference between smooth and efficient data exchange and a chaotic low-quality process of managing data.