For many years, when people described companies like Packet Fusion as integrators, they were referring to combining hardware from many manufacturers with software from many providers to create superior solutions.
Today’s integrators add value by combining cloud services and making them work well together. This provides tremendous latitude when planning more effective user experiences, in process automation, and in leveraging information resources to improve business operability and profitability.
Today’s Apps are Integrated Suites
If you go back far enough in IT history, you’ll find a wide variety of stand-alone products in many categories. WordStar was the big name in word processing, also WordPerfect, MultiMate and Microsoft Word. You could choose the VisiCalc spreadsheet, MultiPlan, Lotus 1-2-3, or Excel. Aldus Persuasion or PowerPoint for presentations.
Today, however, you’ll be hard pressed to find an application that stands alone to provide one function that isn’t part of a more comprehensive suite of applications that all work together. Microsoft Office, Google Workspace (G Suite), Apple iWork, Apache OpenOffice, and many others.
Integrations are a Competitive Differentiator for Platforms
Software platforms are now competing based on how many integrations they offer with other software. Communications platforms such as Zoom integrate meetings and phone on their own platform, but also integrate with utilities like Otter.io for transcription, MailChimp for large-scale email distribution, Calendly to automate calendaring activities to make scheduling meetings as frictionless as possible, and all of this integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, and other email clients. Integration may be automatic within a single developer’s platform, but its just as viable between providers.
Even before Salesforce.com CRM acquired Slack, the collaboration and communication platform and the customer relationship management applications integrated well. Its safe to say that the larger the platform provider, the more software applications want to offer tight integration and user experience.
Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) platforms offer all the core business operations and accounting applications, but enthusiastically integrate with Salesforce, Dynamics, Sugar, Zoho, and other CRM applications. Many extend further to include marketing automation (MA) platforms like HubSpot, Marketo, or others.
Connecting Contact Centers to Customize
Contact Centers may seek to include all the applications they could possibly want in their primary software purchase, but many add all kinds of additional functionality using software products that integrate well with the popular primary platforms. There’s really no such thing as a one-size-fits-all contact center. Each has many unique aspects. Technologists can adapt platforms highly customized with connected applications to accommodate any usual requirements. Integrated Voice Response (IVR), and screen-pop software that instantly displays valuable information about each incoming caller are just two examples of applications that add significant value.
Dedicated Integration Platforms
The past decade has seen the introduction of platforms dedicated to enabling users to integrate various applications, products, and platforms together at home and in business. Some of these, including In-This-Then-That (IFTTT), Zapier, and the Microsoft Power Platform are intended to allow end users themselves to connect various parts of their digital world. While this may be viable to tie turning on houselights to unlocking the front door, more sophisticated connections require deeper understanding of the protocols and processes involved.
The Year of the API?
Enabling all this integration is a category of “middleware” that sits between various software products that facilitates the connections and sharing of data required to get all these diverse components working in concert. These application programming interfaces (API) have long been in use for operations such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) which defines protocols required for automating communication of transactions between merchants and suppliers.
One of the lessons learned in environments like EDI is that the actual platform software components must be kept unaffected by the API software that connects them. If the API is part of the component software it will need to be re-written every time any component is updated or upgraded. This is expensive, time-consuming, and highly error-prone. The best APIs sit between various software components without invading them.
The Increasing Importance of Interoperability
While Cisco tells us there have been more “things” on the internet than people since 2008, the burgeoning growth of the Internet of Things continues to grow faster than most people imagine.
The more diverse “things” attached to the internet become, the more the need for all those devices to speak the same language, use the same protocols so they can seamlessly interoperate. Automation control standards such as Z-Wave, ZigBee, WiFi, specialized industrial control system (ICS) protocols and more could keep interoperation from happening as quickly as VHS, BetaMax, LaserDisc, and Blu-ray held back the advance of smaller, more durable auto-signature entertainment media. Standards are critical to interoperability.
Packet Fusion provides the guidance you need to take fullest advantage of the wide range of possibilities enabled by integration. Bring us your challenge we’ll be happy to recommend the complement of technologies required to provide your most cost-effective solution.