The Beginner’s Guide to Integrations

Attempting to analyze data from different applications and systems scattered throughout your organization can be difficult at best; at worst, it can lead to inaccurate data insights, lost time, and decreased productivity. But if you’re trying to use data to create a unified view of your customers and to improve their experiences, this can feel like an impossible task. 

The solution? Integration. We’re here to help you understand why.

What Is Integration? 

Integration is all about making independent systems and applications work together seamlessly. For example, integration can enable a person working in one system to access related information about a customer stored in another system in a way that makes it appear that the data is all coming from the same place. It is the “behind the scenes” actor responsible for moving and shaping data and automating business functions so that you don’t have to resort to manual efforts that can be time consuming and prone to error. 

Why is Integration Important?

Leveraging integration can help your business:

  • Know Your Customers Better: Whether you’re in manufacturing, financial services or retail, every business is chasing the elusive 360-degree view of the customer. Integration is the engine that drives the Customer 360 view, allowing you to create great customer experiences, personalize your digital touchpoints, and achieve greater customer insights.
  • Access Data More Easily: With increased data accessibility, businesses can make data-driven decisions to drive towards their goals. 
  • Unite Siloed Teams: Integration allows teams within, and even between, organizations to share information more easily, leading to better communications and increased productivity.
  • Avoid Duplication: Maintaining and analyzing duplicate data leads to longer timelines and decreased insight quality. Uniting this data can increase your team’s productivity.

When might I need Integration?

  • Offload Processing-Intensive Activities: If you have large amounts of data that you need to analyze or report on, you can use integration to move that data from your source system(s) to a data warehouse or other storage repository. This is particularly useful for processing-intensive activities such as data transformation, cleansing, enrichment, or machine learning: processing-intensive activities can be offloaded so as not to bog down the performance of your source system(s).
  • Create 360 Degree Customer View: Your customer service representatives need all customer data at their fingertips to be effective. If they need to access customer information that lives in one or more other systems, you can use integration to move or expose the requisite data, providing representatives with a 360-customer view so they can provide the best experience to your customers.
  • Communicate with Business Partners: If you need to share information with your partners or suppliers, e.g. purchase orders or invoices, you can use integration to automate sending or receiving that information securely and in a standard way.
  • Increase Process Efficiencies: If you have a business process that spans multiple systems, you can use integration to automate this process. For example, if a user of one system creates an order which is fulfilled by another system, you can use integration to automate the transmission of new orders to the fulfillment system. Integration in this case improves the speed of order processing and reduces the potential for human error.
  • Enable Seamless Modernization: If you have a monolithic legacy application that you want to replace with a more modern version, you can use integration to move the data out of the old application and into the new one, allowing you to modernize without disrupting your end users.

How MuleSoft Can Help With Your Integration Needs 

While there are a variety of different tools and technologies that could be used to support your integration use cases, not all of them are created equal.

If you have in-house development resources, you could create  your own integrations as your needs arise using standard programming languages and tools. While this may still be a viable approach when you have only a small number of integrations, as your integration roadmap grows, it can quickly become unmanageable. This is because your developers will need to handle all of the nuts and bolts of writing integrations, from mapping source to target system data formats, to developing adapters to systems that use different protocols to communicate, to handling routing and orchestration logic. You will also need to ensure that you have mechanisms and people in place to support and monitor your integrations. Not to mention that custom development is very time intensive, and your IT staff may be too busy doing other things to have time to prioritize  your integrations .

This is where an integration platform comes in. Integration platforms are all-in-one integration solutions. They are typically “low code”, empowering “citizen integrators” to create their own integrations with little to no technical knowledge.  They also provide features geared toward making integration development and management easier, including: 

  • pre-built connectors that can be used to communicate with popular systems and applications using their native communication protocols 
  • orchestration and routing capabilities that can be used to support complex business logic
  • data transformation features to support mapping formats from one system to another,  
  • monitoring and other operational support capabilities

Integration platforms allow integration development to move faster, freeing up IT to spend time on higher value initiatives. 

However, whereas  empowering the “citizen integrator” is great, as your list of integrations grows, governance and oversight will become more important. Otherwise you may end up with a spaghetti mess of point-to-point integrations that can’t be reused, leading to duplication of effort when you want to get data from the same systems in the future.

Enter MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform. Anypoint Platform is a very robust integration platform built from the ground up with the citizen integrator in mind. It’s also enterprise-grade, built to satisfy the integration management and governance requirements of IT (security, scalability, reliability, monitoring, etc). 

But where MuleSoft really has the advantage over the competition is in their unique “API Led Connectivity” approach to integration. This approach is centered on  APIs as the fundamental building blocks of integration. APIs have evolved as one of the most popular ways to integrate applications because they are light, loosely coupled, and can be secured and controlled. And when they are created and structured using this approach, it promotes reuse, which is key to avoiding the spaghetti mess of point-to-point integrations.

Is MuleSoft Right For My Business?

MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform is a great fit for companies who want to take their integration game to the next level and might be the right choice for you if:  

  • Iyou have a substantial integration roadmap ahead, and you’re tired of creating the same point-to-point integrations over and over again 
  • you want to empower your “citizen integrators” to create their own integrations and to be able to discover and reuse integrations developed by others
  • you’re concerned about governing, monitoring, or managing the integrations that you’re creating so that you don’t end up with “API sprawl” 
  • you’re strategically focused on integration and on improving your integration maturity. 

What can integration do for my business? 

CSA Group

One of the largest standards development organizations in North America, CSA Group knew they needed to improve their customer experiences to achieve their business goals. They had revised the complex product and pricing structure of their subscription and one-time purchase products, and needed a storefront that could support the various purchase options and bundles. They also needed to improve their after-purchase experience, making it easier for clients to access the content they purchased and manage content access to individuals within the buying organization.

Avionos provided one cohesive experience for multiple customer personas. To do so we leveraged Mulesoft in multiple ways, including: 

  • Integrating the CSA site with a search engine for simplified search capabilities
  • Integrating the entitlement engine on Salesforce with the new Digital Rights Management engine to allow users to assign access permissions 
  • Integrating the financial transactions with CSA’s ERP system 

After launch, CSA Group saw over 50% increase in online revenue, 33% increase in conversions, 49% decrease in bounce rate and 24% increase in average order value. 

Merz Pharmaceuticals 

Merz Pharmaceuticals, which sells pharmaceuticals and medical devices, was using Salesforce Commerce Cloud for its digital commerce platform. But managing sales with HCPs, aestheticians, and other medical professionals meant they needed increased B2B functionality for their complex buyers’ requirements. They also sought to modernize enterprise integration capabilities so they could re-use integrations and develop new capabilities faster. 

Avionos led the analysis, architecture, design and implementation of the initial integrations between Mulesoft and Salesforce B2B Commerce.  This enabled an API-led set of experience, process, and system APIs that can be reused, extended and expanded to multiple systems and experiences as they deploy globally. 

How Do I Get Started? 

Ready to start your integration journey, but not sure where to start? Mulesoft-certified architects at Avionos are here to help. Get started by contacting us here

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