What Is Application Integration? The Basics, Explained

6min read



The supply chain management industry is rife with technological solutions for complex problems. Various applications address customer response management (CRM), management information systems (MIS), and enterprise resource planning (ERP). Whether you need to manage inventory or track orders, there’s an app for that.

And yet, many of those applications aren’t set up to communicate with each other. So, what do you do when you rely on tech assets that don’t automatically connect?

Application integration bridges the gap between programs that would otherwise struggle to communicate. Increasing connectivity and eliminating data silos paves the way for frictionless data management, so you can do a better job in less time.

With everything from cost savings to customer satisfaction on the line, the question isn’t whether to integrate but how to approach the process.

What is application integration?

Application integration combines otherwise separate workflows by enabling connections between software applications. It’s also used to connect on-premises systems with cloud-based enterprise applications.

Ideally, this integration process helps eliminate redundancies and simplify operations, allowing organizations to work smarter, not harder — and much faster, too.

Data integration tools rely on comprehensive software to consolidate, transfer, and interpret the necessary data to make these connections. Although the programs themselves are highly complex, they’re easy for users to adopt.

Typical application integration capabilities include:

  • Coordinating the data flow of actions carried out by different apps
  • Modernizing outdated infrastructures to streamline multiple app usage
  • Unifying daily operations for a less clunky and fragmented experience
  • Linking on-premises systems and cloud-based enterprise apps
Types of application integration

Every integration software employs a specific architecture to manage connections and serve as a central messaging depot.

Point-to-point integration

Point-to-point integration lets two separate systems speak directly with assistance from bespoke coding or APIs. No intermediary or third-party software paves the way.

This direct hookup is typically more effective when you’re connecting only a few apps. If you’re working with dozens or even hundreds of apps, establishing separate connections from A to B, A to C, A to D, and so on can be incredibly cumbersome.


Integration platform as a service (iPaaS) connects applications and data streams stored via on-premises systems, cloud networks, or both. iPaaS providers frequently offer customization options, so organizations can experiment with mobile optimization and even incorporate data taken from social channels.

Enterprise application integration (EAI) or enterprise service bus (ESB)

EAI is also known as a “hub and spoke” approach because it uses one central hub application to connect each “spoke” app. This allows for real-time communication that’s still controlled by your on-premises IT team. ESB implements EAI using a comprehensive framework and defined principles to govern integration and maintain consistency when data is accessed and shared.

Application integration: Benefits and challenges

Most application integration solutions seem like no-brainers; after all, who wouldn’t want to make their life easier? However, there are several notable benefits and challenges to consider before integrating your apps.


  • Reduced costs: Using one integration platform to handle all your application connections is far more affordable than employing numerous point-to-point integrations and hiring an army of IT professionals to manage them.
  • Increased data visibility and accessibility: Proper app integration lets you access data from anywhere at any time, connecting your on-premises solutions and your cloud apps to remove barriers that could otherwise cause delays and frustration.
  • Better scalability: When you find a new app that could improve day-to-day operations or boost customer satisfaction, an app integration solution makes it easy to incorporate. This helps you meet needs faster and take ideas from concept to execution with fewer hiccups.
  • Improved productivity: Tech roadblocks often hamper growth-minded businesses. App integration tools take care of error recovery, log capture, and transaction updates, among other vital tasks. Your team is free to shift their attention from learning the nuances of every app and platform to finding new ways to achieve organizational goals.


  • Siloed application: Not all organizational structures support seamless integration. When existing on-premises or cloud-based services don’t play nicely together, you could wind up with "siloed" data that's cordoned off from general access, undermining the integration process.
  • Long onboarding time: Building point-to-point integrations eats up time and other essential resources. You need skilled hires or freelancers to oversee a custom build and troubleshoot as needed, and you must wait until everything is done before you can move to the next stage in your growth plan.
  • Specialized maintenance: Even when the build is done, those freelancers or special hires aren’t off the hook. You’ll need them for fixes and updates as you develop your system and your business changes.
How to choose the right application solution

Choosing the proper infrastructure for your business takes careful research and consideration. Weigh these characteristics when you decide which option best suits your organization:

  • Flexibility: Do you need a simple, one-off integration, or do you have multiple apps that must be connected ASAP? And even if you only use a few apps today, you should plan for scalability and choose a more flexible infrastructure that allows for expansion over the coming months or years.
  • Data management capabilities: Today’s digital landscape encompasses both on-premises and cloud applications, and your integration solution should service each option. Between an ERP, CRM, and various SaaS tools, you will likely need to consolidate information from diverse sources.
  • Ease of use: Consider the people who will use these solutions and get to know their skill levels and comfort with technology. Choose a solution that balances accessibility with capabilities. In other words, all the bells and whistles are no good if your team doesn’t understand how to utilize them.
Application integration use cases

The easiest way to grasp the true value of application integration is to see how these solutions manifest in the real world.

  • Healthcare: Increased connectivity in the healthcare industry can improve patient care by boosting information access, theoretically allowing different providers to access patient data kept in the cloud or on servers maintained by independent specialists.
  • Manufacturing: Creating a single product involves many steps. Multiply this by thousands or even millions of products, and you’ve got an enormous need for software that monitors machinery, counts inventory, identifies potential errors, and ensures quality. App integration connects those programs to increase productivity and reduce costs.
  • Supply chain management: You must employ precise coordination to ensure retail products get from manufacturer to retailer to customer. Application integration, including EDI software integration, helps automate steps like making bids, ordering products, tracking shipping, sending notifications, and monitoring par levels.
Application versus data integration: understanding the differences

Data integration focuses on combining data sourced from multiple locations into a single data warehouse and view, making that information easier to understand and utilize. As the data is compiled, it’s also reviewed for redundancies, presenting a clearer picture for the end user.

Organizations might conduct data integration in real time, perhaps to generate a report or answer an important question, but it’s more often used to monitor and improve upon a data set over time.

App integration also looks at data, but it’s considered a more functional integration because you’re linking entire apps so they work together continuously — not just for a single instance of data farming.

App integrations are almost always running in real time. This is why they’re so agile and valuable in situations requiring accurate info and swift communication.

Increase your agility and productivity with Orderful

App integrations bring together the scattered pieces of your operational process under one umbrella. You can increase control, oversight, and output.

Electronic data interchange applications are some of the most important programs to integrate. They ensure effective communication between you and your business partners — especially when you have a team of experts ready to assist.

Orderful’s cloud-based EDI solutions are ideal for any future-minded business. Speak to an EDI expert today to learn how our modern and speedy EDI solution can streamline your data exchange processes.


Go live with new trading partners in days, not months. Orderful’s modern EDI platform standardizes integrations and streamlines testing, getting your business connected with partners 10x faster than other solutions.

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