Relying on your developers to build and maintain integrations via custom code (i.e. point-to-point integrations) isn’t sustainable.
Your engineers are forced to modify and troubleshoot the integrations over time; your organization becomes vulnerable when these developers leave (as they may take their knowledge of the integrations they build with them); and, depending on the size of your tech stack, your developers will have to implement and manage anywhere from dozens to hundreds of point-to-point integrations.
To help avoid these issues, you can turn to a 3rd-party integration solution.
We’ll highlight the different categories of tools you should be aware of, as well as some of the features to look for during your evaluation. But first, let’s align on what an integration solution is.
What is an integration solution?
It’s a 3rd-party solution that allows you to build and maintain connections between cloud applications, on-premise systems, or a combination of the two. Moreover, depending on the vendor, the solution may be delivered in the cloud or on-premises.
Related: What is application integration?
Types of integration solutions
Here are a few common categories of integration solutions:
Enterprise service bus (ESB)
An ESB is an architecture that includes rules and principles for how apps can connect to a “communication bus” middleware. Once an application connects to it, its data can easily flow to the bus, where the data can then be transformed and moved on to other systems that are connected to the bus.
This type of integration tool provides a central location for building, monitoring, and troubleshooting integrations. It also allows you to connect numerous applications to the bus. That said, it requires technical expertise to use, thereby limiting its adoption and scalability at your organization. In addition, if the bus experiences any issues, the applications connected to it are left vulnerable.
Native integrations are any that a business application (e.g. ERP system) offers.
Native integrations are likely to come included with your subscription, or at a low additional cost. However, providers often offer a limited number of them. Moreover, given that engineering departments at these organizations face competing priorities, these integrations likely don’t improve at the pace you’d expect, and any issues may not get resolved as quickly as you’d need them to.
Integration software as a service (iSaaS)
An iSaaS is a cloud-based, low-code/no-code solution for connecting applications and databases and implementing task automations that work across them.
While iSaaS solutions can be adopted by lines of business, their scope of automation capabilities are inherently limited; for example, they don’t let you automate processes end-to-end. They also likely don’t provide the level of governance and security you need to protect the sensitive, confidential information in your connected applications.
Integration platform as a service (iPaaS)
An iPaaS is also cloud-based, and it allows you to connect applications, data, and processes.
A traditional iPaaS often offers powerful governance and security controls, and it likely comes with pre-built connectors to numerous applications and databases. However, it can require technical expertise to use, and it may not address your organization’s automation requirements.
Key features of an integration solution
Given all these categories and their respective pros and cons, the prospect of pinpointing a solution that does the best job of meeting your integration needs can be intimidating.
We’ll try to make it less daunting by covering some of the features you should look at more closely during your evaluation.
Comprehensive and robust library of application connectors
As you evaluate different vendors, you’ll need to learn about the application connectors (pre-built, API-based connections to applications and databases) they currently offer, or will offer soon, and the set of endpoints available for the ones you’re interested in.
A platform that’s cloud-native is optimized to connect your SaaS applications. Coupling this with the fact that your level of investment in SaaS technologies has likely increased as of late (and will likely continue to grow over the coming years), indicates that the benefits of using a cloud-native solution will only amplify.
While integration is important, it’s only part of your digital transformation journey. Your organization should look for a tool that also offers API management capabilities, a process-oriented approach to automation, data integration functionality, platform bots for business communications platforms (e.g. Slack), and more.
By offering a low-code/no-code UX, you’re allowing business teams to participate in the process of building and maintaining integrations. Aside from freeing up IT and engineering, this gives employees who are well versed in their department’s business processes and applications a chance to implement more impactful integrations over time.
Related: Tips for empowering citizen automators
As you open your integration platform up to more employees, it’s critical that it provides enterprise-grade governance and security controls. Only then can you prevent (or quickly mitigate) activities that compromise your clients, employees, or your business. With this in mind, look out for features like role based access control and activity audit logs, and check to make sure that solution is compliant with critical regulations like GDPR and has passed audits like SOC 2 Type 2.
Access all of these features with Workato
Workato, the leader in enterprise automation, enables your organization to integrate and automate at scale by providing more than a thousand pre-built connectors, a low-code/no-code UX, and much more.