Just as the industrial revolution completely redefined the economies of all countries, computerisation and the Internet have deeply changed the face of global business, offering great new opportunities but posing serious challenges as well. Since businesses must quickly evolve in their local environment, it is important to have a flexible IT architecture that enables fast implementation of new applications and systems.
This tends to be simpler in small organisations with single applications that are limited in scope. In such scenarios, developing the applications to meet the business operations and customer expectations is enough. The situation becomes more difficult in medium and large enterprises, where the business spectrum is much broader, with greater requirements, and the infrastructure increasingly extensive and complex.
Those huge, monolithic all-purpose systems are becoming a thing of the past for a very simple reason: given the rapid dynamics in terms of change in business needs, they are unable to keep pace with the times and adjust to the required breadth of needs. We have seen systems handling individual business processes for quite some time now, and it is easier to replace and develop smaller infrastructural elements than whole complex systems. An IT infrastructure comprising multiple systems does not necessarily have to be inflexible. Using an enterprise service bus (ESB) as the integrator facilitates administration and the deployment of innovation.
Multiple e-commerce applications and what’s next?
E-commerce is one of the business types that are most dependent on a large number of software solutions. In an era of rapid technology development and constantly growing online traffic, the customers’ requirements and expectations continue to increase as well. The ESB can play a key role in this industry, particularly in medium and large enterprises, with their complex infrastructure of relationships between internal and external applications. So, what if we are now ready to introduce changes?
Some solutions, such as ERP systems, remain unchanged for years due to their key role, while others are often replaced and adapted to match the evolving reality in the organisation. The significance of ERP tends to be very high, such that it needs to be integrated with a range of other systems. It is not the only internal system that requires integration with other solutions. The corporate e-commerce architecture generally includes many other applications that also need integrating, such as:
– sales – order management system (OMS) – product information management (PIM) – customer relationship management (CRM) – warehouse management system (WMS) – supply chain management (SCM) – print server – Active Directory user database – data warehouse
Besides these, current universal trends often dictate the necessity to use mobile business apps.
Apart from systems related to business operations, a range of other tools specific for e-commerce are also used, including:
– content management systems (CMS) – mobile apps for customers – info kiosks in brick-and-mortar stores – checkout systems
There are also many more, depending on the scale of the business. Besides the integration of internal systems, external systems play a crucial role as well. It is difficult to imagine a large online store that does not use a range of integrated systems:
– payment – hire purchase handling – courier company applications – recommended product engines – Google Maps
The possibilities are virtually unlimited. Depending on what channels a company uses, there is a growing number of integrations that handle sales via Amazon, eBay or Allegro. Yet another possibility, and one that has become quite popular recently, is the marketplace model, which involves multiple companies offering and selling products via a single online store. The ESB can be useful in all of these cases.
Each of the systems listed above can be fully handled by an enterprise service bus, which enables communication with other applications. Connecting applications to an ESB solves the problem of point-to-point integration, enhances data flow, enables system modifications without infrastructure-wide changes, and improves security. Switching or adding new elements becomes much easier, as all the systems linked to the bus can be used right away, without the need to carry out separate integrations for each case, as is the case with direct connections.
B2B: fast data exchange between business partners
Besides in-house application integration, companies often need to integrate the applications of their partners; these typically include:
In some cases, it is also necessary to integrate with the systems of other essential entities, such as customs offices, banking and leasing organisations, as well as a potentially infinite number of others. All these IT infrastructure solutions exchange data in various configurations or play important roles related to the services the company uses. With a complex infrastructure of corporate applications, and many relationships between the individual applications, replacing any system can be problematic. This can often involve incapacitating the other applications and require their modification.
What is of particular value for the B2B model is not just the orderly architecture and communication between internal systems, but a fast and smooth data exchange with external systems. The enterprise service bus helps us to achieve this. Connecting our systems and applications to the ESB puts the whole infrastructure in order and enables more independent communication between the individual components, as the ESB takes over the data exchange process. This ensures more order and control while also offering improved flexibility. The same applies to the external applications used by our partners: we no longer need to integrate them one by one. Once an ESB interface is available, all systems can use a standardized and secure mechanism. Afterwards, we can develop our communication interfaces, systems and internal services using the ESB, which ensures transparency for external applications. Another possibility is to use ready-made tools for connecting popular applications.
In business, as in life, change is inevitable. The better we are prepared to tackle change, the better we can address the changing reality. With today’s dynamics in the world of development and change, it seems obvious that not going forward is in fact taking a step back, where we are left behind by our competitors and, most importantly, behind the needs of the market and our customers. As software has become vital for almost any business, software development continues to play a key role.
The enterprise service bus can bring many advantages to the organisation, management and development of systems and system infrastructure in a company. The growing popularity of omnichannel commerce, with its focus on uniform, consistent service across different channels and fast data flow, is likely to generate new requirements in the area of integrating systems and applications.
System Analyst at Unity Group, graduate of Computer Science at Wroclaw University of Technology. His academic interests always revolved around business information systems. Advocate of consistency and usability, Piotr specialises in analysis and design of dedicated applications. Privately, an automotive and new technologies enthusiast.