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One-size-fits-all doesn’t fit integration. There are numerous types of integration, and you may need to use one or more to meet a particular business need in a way that makes implementation as quick as possible and keeps long-term management costs down.

But which ways would work best for your company?

In the ebizQ webinar “Integration Patterns: Matching Requirements to Solutions,” sponsored by Data Junction, ebizQ Vice President of Strategic Services Beth Gold-Bernstein runs down the major forms of integration, and gives the pros and cons of each, from the so-called “quick fixes” to the more elaborate, and expensive, platforms.

Overall, she stresses planning strategically as you make your integration decisions, to lower maintenance costs and total cost of ownership. “Always build to manage,” Gold-Bernstein advises, even when deploying tactical solutions, which tend to increase maintenance costs over time. There’s always a need, she points out, to balance tactical business requirements with the long-term viability of the systems you select.

Gold-Bernstein says point-to-point hard coding and screen scraping , while relatively inexpensive and easy, have definite downsides, including being difficult or impossible to change, and are good only in limited scenarios.

Data integration, while more useful than hard coding and screen scraping, and less costly than more full-blown systems, bypasses the target applications’ logic, making it ideal only when data synchronization is the primary business driver.

Functional integration, explains Gold-Bernstein, brings the logic of the target system or systems into play. It involves EAI and brokers, and is more adaptive than the other forms. But it’s harder and more expensive to implement than those other systems. Still, when integrating three or more systems, or when the apps involved may change, functional integration may be the way to go.

Process integration is needed to see business processes end-to-end. It offers better management capabilities. What’s more, Gold-Bernstein adds, tools coming out today offer business users more of a business view of the process, rather than just providing an IT management eye on things. While more complex and expensive, process integration can also generate large returns on investment by optimizing business processes and reducing business cycle times. So “when the business driver is to reduce business cycle times or provide real-time visibility into critical business processes that perhaps cross multiple applications and organizational boundaries, business process level integration is really what will deliver that for companies,” she says. Simply put, process integration is the big leagues. But it’s complex and expensive.

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