The Data Integration Process: How To Put Your Data To Work With iPaaS

6 minute read | 05 Jun 2023

By Boomi

Data integration is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the process known as Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) has been in use since the 1970s. Data integration takes information from multiple sources, transforms it, and loads it into a central database. This stable process is still in use today. However, it is also relatively slow and inflexible, and often can only work with on-premises systems, leaving valuable cloud-based data siloed and inaccessible.

The modern successor to ETL is the integration platform as a service (iPaaS). It also collects inputs from multiple sources and standardizes data to be easily analyzed. However, the main difference between iPaaS and ETL is that iPaaS can integrate with cloud-based data sources in addition to on-premises systems. What’s more, iPaaS integrates the applications themselves, making data from one source accessible and actionable in real-time by all other sources, including employees, AI, machines on the factory floor, and any other business resource that can be automated.

But how does the data integration process work? And is it worth the effort to have all your data in a central location? Read on for an overview of the data integration process with an iPaaS system.

What Is the Data Integration Process?

Data integration is how an organization establishes connections between all data sources and enables access to that data in an actionable format. Modern data integration with iPaaS takes the concept of API integration and applies it to every data source your company has. This ecosystem of connections allows data to be captured by one system and instantly shared with all relevant applications and tools across the organization. It creates a single source of truth for the entire organization that is always up to date.

There are six steps in the data integration process:

1) Locate all data sources

Before the data integration process can begin, every data source must be identified. It requires all onsite systems, cloud-based SaaS applications, retail POS units, IoT sensors, and any other application or tool that produces data to be inventoried.

Once a comprehensive list has been created, identify any applications, systems, or tools with parallel instances being run by different departments. Consolidating and merging this data will be necessary before the initial integration process can start. Duplicate CRMs, for example, can create multiple records for the same customer, which will inevitably result in lost customer insights for the organization and a poor brand experience for the customer.

2) Create connections

The work of data integration is primarily creating connections between data sources and the integration platform. With a hybrid iPaaS like the Boomi AtomSphere Platform, these connections are made without writing code. Each connection can be made in a few minutes without needing a developer using a visual, drag-and-drop interface. The Boomi platform comes with pre-built connectors, allowing any company to integrate data from across the company quickly and easily.

3) Build custom integrations

While Boomi’s library of pre-built connectors is extensive, it will not always have every connector a company needs. Whether there is a need to connect a particularly niche SaaS application or an internally developed custom application not seen anywhere else, the Boomi Connector Software Development Kit (SDK) allows a developer to build a custom connector. With the ability to create custom connectors, any application can connect to the integration platform as easily as any mainstream enterprise system.

4) Integrate new data sources as they emerge

Because iPaaS systems use an as-a-service model, the development, maintenance, hosting, and testing of connectors are included as part of the service. This also means new connectors are continuously being developed, so when a company implements the next must-have application, a pre-built connector will likely be available too.

Additionally, new sources may emerge as a company scales. Whether it’s a new location, a new product line, or branching into an entirely new industry, any new data source must be integrated into the company’s data ecosystem. With iPaaS, this is as simple as connecting the new data source to the integration platform rather than creating multiple connectors for all the other systems in the organization.

5) Access actionable data with custom dashboards

A centralized collection of every piece of company data on its own is only useful with a way to filter, organize, and visualize the most relevant pieces of information. After all, the data that drives action for the human resources team will not be the same as the data that drives action for the marketing team—and neither team will derive any benefit from the complete set of raw data.

Customizable dashboards are a critical component of iPaaS systems. They allow all data to remain stored in a centralized location while granting users individual access to the data. When data is in one place, employees no longer need to hunt down information from within siloed departments — it’s all in the dashboard. And with this comprehensive yet focused selection of information, trends can be more easily detected, problems can be identified or even anticipated, and more strategic business decisions can be made.

6) Automate common process workflows

The final step in the data integration process is to remove the human element entirely. Many processes can be automated using data from other parts of the organization. The ERP can be integrated with a contract lifecycle management system to advance a signature workflow automatically. Records in the CRM can be kept up to date with the latest interactions across all channels as recorded by marketing analytics tools to ensure the sales team always has the latest on every customer. And the IT department can react to infrastructure challenges or even anticipate them before they become problems with a unified view of support tickets from inside and outside the organization.

Ready to learn more about how to start the data integration process for your business? Read “Modern ERPs Allow Organizations to Integrate and Accelerate.”