The benefits of integrating applications need to be worth the effort, given the cost and resources that are required. The business case for EAI is dependent on a thorough understanding of the business processes used in an enterprise. How do the current business processes used in your company or department function? Are there cases where users enter the same information into separate applications for different purposes? Would timely information from one application benefit another group of users and applications?
Some of the main benefits of enterprise application integration are to:
In most enterprises, it is quite common that some of the same information is entered into separate applications. Company personnel information is an example. Some of the same information is entered into the payroll system, human resource system, the business directory, and other software applications. Employees frequently change home addresses or have a name change. At a minimum, a change is needed in both the payroll system and human resources files. This information is possibly stored in various sales databases, organization charts, business directories, and emergency contact files. Since these are likely found in separate applications, this information is probably manually entered several times by different users. An employee is required to submit several separate forms (for example, one to payroll and one to human resources). An outcome from integrating these applications and automating this process is a reduction in forms processed and the staff time needed (increased productivity) accompanied by a reduction in accidental errors that are introduced and require correction.
Sales and manufacturing division information from the inventory system is easily shared to potentially boost sales and reduce manufacturing and inventory costs. Another benefit EAI can provide is building links for information sharing into existing applications. Some of these existing applications represent stovepipe systems that were adopted to meet a narrowly defined need in a department or division. Providing the semblance of an enterprise data store or data warehouse can facilitate information sharing.
EAI is also used as a mechanism to provide a more uniform look and feel (user experience) for diverse applications in an enterprise. Improving the user interface may well increase productivity, reduce errors, and reduce training costs. While providing some application consistency is generally not the primary reason to implement EAI, it is often a side effect of the process.
The costs and benefits of implementing EAI can vary dramatically based on the mix of existing applications and business processes currently in use. Companies and organizations differ. Some existing software applications are easier to integrate than others. For example, it is generally easier to integrate applications within a single operating environment (client/server applications in a distributed computing environment, for example) than within multiple software environments (the mainframe host environment, client/server, and distributed objects, for example). Companies that have been involved in mergers and acquisitions usually pose more difficult problems as a result of the complex, multiple environments that are likely to exist.
However, the potential benefits are usually greater in large enterprises with multiple environments. In these cases, EAI can provide substantial benefits precisely by reducing the amount of redundant information that is entered and by providing effective information sharing between applications.
EAI is often a prerequisite requirement for implementing business-to-business (B2B) applications. It makes little sense to embark on an aggressive plan to develop and deploy B2B processes if the existing internal applications lack integration.