Integration is a pretty broad term that can mean a lot of different things for a business. Integration can be facilitating communication between two different line of business (LOB) systems such as an ERP system and a CRM system. It can be sending and receiving electronic data between organizations such as digital purchase orders, shipping updates, or healthcare information. Or it can refer to exposing internal data to mobile devices for people in the field. Many of you have already addressed some of these scenarios in a variety of ways. Perhaps there is a shared database that gets loaded daily. Maybe you have some custom program that generates a file that is sent to your vendors. There are several methods for solving these business problems that happen organically, without putting much thought into an overall enterprise integration strategy.
But the problem in ignoring this critical part of infrastructure is that these individual solutions will eventually become too numerous and cumbersome to maintain. Here are some scenarios that may indicate a need to think about your enterprise integration strategy:
- Do you have two or more applications that need to share information?
- Do you need to share data with *someone* outside of your organization?
- Do you need to securely expose operational data to mobile devices?
- Do you need to be HIPAA compliant while communicating healthcare information between organizations?
- Do you need real-time visibility to your supply chain or shipping information?
So when is the right time to discuss your enterprise integration strategy? The answer is that it is never too early! As soon as one of these questions pops up, a red flashing light and sirens should go off indicating that a quick fix may work for now, but could cost you in the long run. With offerings in the cloud from Microsoft Azure, it is easier than ever to start small and scale up as your company grows.
In the past, investing in an integration platform could be a daunting and expensive proposition, but with several different pricing levels, Microsoft Azure can be the solution for a company of any size. If a traditional on-premises solution fits your organization better, Microsoft BizTalk Server is a great tool to solve many types of integration problems. The important thing to keep in mind is that every situation is different, and your needs, present and future,should be carefully considered before choosing a solution.