The Importance of Data Integration

Posted on August 10, 2021


Whether through sales and marketing, accounting and customer service, or engineering and production, modern businesses generate massive amounts of data. Each branch of a company contributes to a huge pool of information from multiple sources, including enterprise systems such as CRM software and ERP systems, as well as desktop tools such as Excel spreadsheets.

However, the disparate nature of this setup can lead to serious issues arising, as different systems will often be incompatible with each other. In these cases, data may need to be shared manually via spreadsheets, emails and phone calls, which could easily result in mistakes. Potential inaccuracies like these make it harder for businesses to unearth strategically important information, and can possibly impact the ability of departments, customers and partners to collaborate and communicate with each other.

The generic term for methods to deal with these issues is “data integration”. EASA software can, in certain cases, be harnessed as a data integration tool, offering a range of benefits for businesses.

What is data integration?

Data integration is the process of combining data from disparate sources into a meaningful and valuable collection of information. It essentially produces a single, unified view of an enterprise’s data, which can then be used to generate actionable insights.

What are the benefits of data integration?

Simple and quick access

Data is accumulated from many different sources, and these sources may not always be easy to access. For example, some may be cloud-based and be protected by different network security protocols, such as firewalls and encryption. By instead having all data in one place, users can quickly gain the insights they need.

More accurate data

Without data integration, every department will have to take data from one system and re-enter it into another. As well as being time-consuming, this also makes it more likely for mistakes to be made. Data integration can therefore help to maintain the integrity of the information.

Better use of data

One of the primary benefits of data integration is that, with more widely available data, people will be more inclined to integrate it within their projects, as well as sharing it and keeping it up to date. Considering how important data is to businesses, the more effectively it can be used the better.

Improved collaboration

Whether it’s cross-department collaboration or discussions between a business and its partners, this joint work is made much easier when data integration instantly provides everyone involved with all the information they need. With no need to rely on others to share data, individuals can begin working together right away.

Making the most of specialized applications

Different types of software represent and analyze data in specialized ways. By integrating this into a common format that can be used by all of the applications in question, businesses can harness their software in ways they couldn’t before.

What data integration solutions are there?

Middleware data integration

Middleware applications can act as a mediator across different types of software — typically between legacy systems and more modern forms. These legacy systems often exist in silos, and are incompatible with others, making data extraction extremely difficult. To resolve this, middleware offers services and capabilities to this software outside of its operating system. For example, it could transform monolithic software into cloud-native applications, enabling companies to more easily gather its data into the master pool. All in all, middleware is used when a data integration system is unable to access data from applications by itself.

Application-based integration

This is when an application locates, retrieves and integrates data from different sources. It ensures all the data from multiple systems is compatible, and can therefore be transferred from one application to the next. For instance, iPaaS (integration platform as a service) tools are used to integrate data in this way.

Uniform access integration

This data integration solution creates a front end that makes data look consistent wherever it’s accessed. However, unlike other forms of data integration, the data remains within its original source. Also known as virtual integration, this method is beneficial for having no latency from the source system to the consolidated view of the data. However, businesses may not be able to access a source’s entire data history this way.

Common storage integration

Common storage integration is the most widely-used storage method within data integration. Here, a copy of data is drawn from its original source into a data warehouse and processed for a standardized visualization. This is in contrast to uniform access integration, where data remains in the source.

How can EASA help with data integration?

Spreadsheets are one of the most common methods companies use to generate, store, analyze and present data. From forecasting future performance and calculating tax, to projecting risks and generating proposals, to keeping customers’ contact information and employee records, there are countless ways spreadsheets can be used by businesses. And with around half a billion users worldwide, Microsoft Excel remains the most popular spreadsheet software. However, while it is still one of the most reliable tools for data handling and manipulation, like many other legacy applications, Excel doesn’t play well with database-backed enterprise systems, making data integration for processes which involve Excel very difficult. Fortunately, EASA software provides a simple solution. 

EASA is an application that is most commonly used to allow companies to share a master or template version of a spreadsheet with multiple end-users, inside or outside the company, while capturing users’ saved information into a database rather than to multiple flat files. This approach not only protects the intellectual property in the master version, it also enables the data generated from these spreadsheets to be integrated with other databases, such as SQL and Oracle, or CRM systems used within your business. EASA facilitates collaboration and allows businesses to make better use of data generated by spreadsheet users by allowing users to access it from one, centralized database.

Web apps created with EASA ensure that the correct version of a spreadsheet is always used, and only enables end users to edit and view the most up-to-date versions of files, preventing the version confusion caused by the dissemination of outdated documents. And as a low-code solution, EASA also requires no expertise in building the app from scratch, meaning anybody can develop their own apps using our software. Furthermore, the underlying spreadsheet continues to be used, rather than being replaced or rewritten, thus saving the huge amount of effort that would otherwise be required to code up the complex business logic often encapsulated in spreadsheets.