Integration in general means combining two or more components which can work together in order to form a unit.
A dictionary definition of integration is the process of placing more than one integrated circuit on a single chip.
Integration can apply to almost anything, as long as you are combining 2 or more units to form a whole, but in information technology it can also be referred to as systems integration.
Some examples in Information Technology include*:
C) They were all designed together at the same time with a unifying purpose and/or architecture. (They may be sold as piece-parts but they were designed with the same larger objectives and/or architecture.)
E) They share some special knowledge of code (such as a lower-level program interface) that may or may not be publicly available. (If not publicly available, companies have been known to sue to make it available in order to make competition fair.)
Systems Integration is defined as:
A discipline that combines processes and procedures from systems engineering, systems management, and product development for the purpose of developing large-scale complex systems that involve hardware and software and may be based on existing or legacy systems coupled with totally new requirements to add significant functionality.
In essence the core purpose for systems integration is to improve functionality when combining many different sources of information in order to improve the way your business is run.
Integration helps reduce the amount of work you need to do when creating a business system. Information in one component of a system may be needed in another. Instead of having to input this information into every single component, you can integrate the system so that it can easily acquire this necessary data from another part of the system.
You can use forward and backward integration, so that all the components that are working together can use the same information,
without you having to manually input that data into each and every component. Integration is a huge expense for a business because it includes the initial investment of the system and the remaining upkeep of the programs to ensure they continue running smoothly. It is up to the business owner to determine whether it is economically viable for them to adopt new programs and integrate them. These new programs may possibly increase future revenue or may be too expensive to make it 'worth' the company to integrate.
Ex: a small local convenience store may decide not to purchase the new program to keep track of inventory because of the size of their store, but a large chain of family owned grocery stores may decide to because it would reduce the labor costs of having employees count inventory and would be worth it in the long run.
Also, depending on what industry the business is in, integrating new software or programs may give them a competitive advantage and thus make it necessary or worth it for them to integrate.
As it pertains to information and databases, there are two forms of integration: Forward Integration and Backward Integration which are both forms of vertical integration.
Forward Integration means having information that has been entered into a system will be sent automatically to all downstream processes.
Backward Integration takes all information entered into a system and sends it to all upstream processes.
It is ideal for companies to build both forward and backward integrations, but because integrations are so expensive, as well as hard to build and maintain, they generally only set up forward integration.
Because of this cost restriction, there also needs to be some restrictions on where changes are made to the information already in the system.
With forward integration, the system will usually be set up so users outside the initial system have read-only access. In simpler terms, users with access outside the main system will only be able to view information and thus would be prohibited from making any changes to the information they are viewing.
If users did want to make changes, they would have to make changes to the main system, which holds the hard copy of all the information being used in the system.
This does not necessarily reduce the redundancy, but it does ensure consistency of information within the entire system.
By following these standards a business will be able to perform more in sync and smoothly when it pertains to their information technology.