Integration Challenges and Solutions in Software Development

March 4, 2021

With the IT industry growing at a tremendous rate, there is multiple software being used for various purposes. There are softwares that needs to work hand in hand to act as a single system and perform a certain task. This is where software integration comes into play.

Software integration is one of the most important phases during software development. This is because, most of the hidden problems of the previous phases start to appear in this phase. Integrating these technologies and systems is not easy. It has been a challenge for IT teams.

In this article, we’ll learn about software integration challenges in software development. Also, you will learn the how to overcome system integration challenges.

Goals

  • Understand what software integration is.
  • Understand why software integration is important.
  • Understand challenges in software integration.
  • Practices to be followed to overcome these challenges.

Table of contents

Software integration

Software integration is the process of combining different softwares and subsystems to create a single system. The manual way of doing several things is now replaced with automation in a single system.

Integration improves business operations and processes, productivity, and quality of the final product. It enables easier communications among IT systems, thus speeding up the flow of information and reducing the operating costs.

There are four various ways to achieve software integration.

They are:

  1. Vertical integration - this is a software integration method where subsystems of a network are merged according to their functionalities.
  2. Star integration - it is when the subsystems connect with other subsystems through point-to-point connections.
  3. Horizontal integration - it is where a subsystem can be used as an interface for other subsystems. The subsystem used as an interface is the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). An advantage of this method is that, it is easy to change a subsystem without interfering with other subsystems.
  4. Common data integration format - it sets down an application-independent format with a goal of achieving a single format system. Systems that use this technique can convert applications to a common application.

Why is software integration important?

The software integration process is facilitated by Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). They are functions and procedures which facilitate interaction between different software intermediaries. Below are some reasons why integrating software is important.

Improved accessibility of data

When software or systems are integrated, they form a single system. This means that the data is in one place, which in turn eases data accessibility. Employees can access data anytime without looking for help or being familiar with the systems in a company. Improved accessibility reduces cost and saves time.

Error reduction

With software integration, errors are minimized due to the data synchronization. Without software integration systems or method, there would be data scattered everywhere that would require manual movement. Scattered data lacks uniformity. In case of changes, they have to be done in all the data locations to reflect the right data.

In a single system, databases are synchronized and hence accurate and complete. The movement of data is automatic in an integrated system, which in turn minimizes the errors.

Quicker business processes

For corporations and businesses, software integration ensures faster business processes. Studies show that customers do not like to wait. They like a faster service provider.

With software integration, all the data is in the same place. Therefore, data is easily accessible, and the clients are served faster. There is no manual entry of data with integrated systems, which means that it is more accurate.

Improves security

Data security is a major concern in the IT industry. This is mainly because of the cloud technology which has not been scrutinized like other technologies.

Software integration improves security. This is because employees can only access data from an integrated system. Therefore, we have better efficiency and better data flow. Thus, data breaches are minimized.

Reduction of costs

This is the most obvious advantage of software integration. Due to the automation of tasks, costs can be reduced when compared to manually handling these tasks.

Accessing data from scattered locations and unsynchronized databases is costly and also erroneous. Integrated systems reduce the cost of correcting errors.

High employee productivity

Without software integration, employees will have to move data manually around different tools, which is time-consuming. Looking for resources and necessary information to do their jobs can be tedious. Systems having data in a central location reduces time and complexity. Hence improving employee productivity.

Better data flow

With integrated systems, there is no manual movement of data. It is all done automatically. Manual movement of data is unproductive and time-consuming.

There are no overlapped databases in integrated systems. The data is real-time data because of synchronization, which means better data flow.

Challenges with software integration

Picking the right integration tool

There are many tools for software integration. Choosing one among them is a challenge. Today, a software integration tool that supports hybrid integration is the most preferred.

Hybrid integration allows a local application to integrate with other cloud-based integrations. They are preferred because developers may not want to go completely on the cloud for security and privacy concerns.

Integrating with monolithic systems

Many enterprises have monolithic architecture systems. Therefore, it is not possible to do away with those systems efficiently. Organizations heavily depend on monolithic systems, as they are mostly legacy systems. Replacing these systems for the sake of integration is difficult. Thus, it becomes a challenge.

Changes in the environment

Integrated software solutions are often not the same as before integration. Today, nothing stays the same for a long period. Most integrated systems are designed to solve a particular problem.

Components and subsystems integrated may also not be well prepared for integration. Such systems are unable to keep up with changes and become obsolete.

Success factors for Software Integration

There are keys to ensuring successful software integration.

They are as follows:

Security

Security is a major concern in IT. For successful integration, it is important to ensure that it takes place over secure lines such as a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or a Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP).

Integrations should also be audit trailed. An audit trail is a record of documented activities to show what is happening during the integration process. It is also important to be able to disable the integration in case of a compromise of security.

Keep your software or system simple

Systems work well and effectively when they are simple rather than when they are complex. When integrating systems, use the KISS (Keep it simple stupid) principle.

Do not risk using the big design upfront (BDUF) development because of the level of complexity. To be safe, break it down and build what you need and when you want it. By doing this, you will be able to overcome the system integration challenge.

Application analysis

This involves analyzing the proposed system integration needs and gathering all relevant information to be used in the process. It also involves analyzing the success factors for the integration and how to achieve them.

Go for smaller integrations over extensive integrations

Small and straightforward integrations are much more powerful. They hardly create any dependencies when compared with larger and complicated solutions.

Flexibility

Software integrations can either be file-based integration or can be achieved through web services. File-based integration involves sharing the data between two different softwares.

They are done manually using:

  1. File Transfer Protocol (FTP).
  2. Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP).

The best software integration is through web services. To achieve integration, and the data flows between platforms, flexible web services can support Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Representational State Transfer (REST) standards. Integration should be able to be moved from a file-based integration to web services based integration.

Conclusion

Software integration can be seen as a complex but very vital step to today’s technology infrastructure. We learned integration combines different technologies or systems to achieve goals. Although it is complex, it has solved many problems and simplified many operations.

To summarize:

  • The reader has learned about what software integration is, and how it works.
  • The reader has also learned about various challenges faced and success factors for measuring successful system integrations.

Happy coding!


Peer Review Contributions by: Srishilesh P S


About the author

Judy Nduati

Judy is a student pursuing Business Information Technology. She is passionate, self-motivated, and a solution-oriented technology enthusiast. She is also a front-end web developer and a web designer. She loves technical writing and contributing to open-source projects.

This article was contributed by a student member of Section's Engineering Education Program. Please report any errors or innaccuracies to enged@section.io.