How the world is so different today that it was only a decade ago! Or even a few years ago. If you are a person using your laptop computer and mobile phone extensively at work, you’ll instantly what we are talking about. Tech companies are trying to automate the smallest of things and, in doing so, becoming invaluable. Like, manually hailing a taxi is something that one wouldn’t expect requires a lot of physical or mental effort. But, Uber is a highly valued company now. And so, companies and startups are identifying the smallest of things, requiring low mental or physical effort, and building products to automate them. Of course, human intervention will be required at some point how much ever automation is thrust in.
So, in doing so, what is the aim of these bridge companies? For instance, you use Uber to hail taxis, but if there is a payment application, it has to work with Uber or someone else to be of use. Of course, the rationale would be to plug holes and create applications that can potentially work with some other application. In doing so, we are integrating two applications and maybe more, if we intend to. What is the final aim then? To bring everything to one place so just one click can do everything for you.
Why are these companies even looking to automate things?
Well, that’s the direction technology is taking. Why is everyone doing it may not actually be the right question considering the one of the prime purposes of technology is automation and efficiency improvement. Accuracy is another purpose. So, it is only natural that people look to automate mundane chores of daily life and try to help improve efficiency at work.
Has it only started now?
Well, automation has been around for a long long time now. Even so in enterprise through large applications. But to eliminate work on the smaller things, applications are only being built in recent times or even if they were constructed some time ago, they are finding acceptance only now.
So, what’s integration all about?
Well, let’s look at what Looker did sometime ago. The data visualization and business intel company integrated with Slack to show its data directly within Slack conversation windows. It’s just an enhancement and – no, Looker’s primary intention wasn’t probably to integrate with different apps – adds immense value because the user doesn’t have switch windows or launch new apps and get confused. The data can directly be dropped into the conversation window which is comfortable and improves efficiency. It might seem ordinary but the efficiency and benefits of automating logging into multiple websites are multifold. That’s exactly why people want integrations because it brings all the data from all the applications to one window eliminating the need to shuffle across multiple applications and windows finally forgetting what they were actually trying to do. People want everything to be available at the tip of the same finger, not even all ten. That’s what propelling integrations. Even Looker CEO Frank Bien told TechCrunch that integrations are critical in an area like business intelligence because people need data where they are. He said trying to find new ways to present that data in context is an important differentiator, “People have been consuming business intelligence in old interfaces, but they want to consume data where and how they are working. In user interface design, people want to have conversations. Slack has taken off because people want to collaborate and data needs to be part of that conversation,” Bien told TechCrunch.
So, it’s only relevant where data or business is involved?
Not in the least. Consider another situation of an integration. Google Maps is providing options to books cabs directly from its interface. In 2014, Google Maps added the Uber integration allowing Maps users to book taxis directly from Google Maps. No need to launch the Uber app. And now it is adding other taxi hailing apps too so you get a list of all available taxis from your location. Of course, taxi hailing apps have to use Google Maps within their apps but that’s more of an imperative. The reverse, on the other hand, is innovation to simplify things for the end user. “So when you’re leaving work to meet a friend for dinner, you can easily compare your options to find the fastest way there, without having to open multiple apps,” Google engineer Holger Flier wrote. The integrations were made available in March this year. Of course, there are other motivations too. Like more usage of Google Maps. But that doesn’t matter to the end user. It’s the simplicity and efficiency and number of steps within which the job gets done is what matters.
How are applications integrating with each other?
For instance, Single Sign-On is one such concept which basically allows users to access multiple applications or websites – under one business umbrella – logging in just once into any of the applications. It’s a priceless piece of innovation and has gained acceptance only in recent times though it was conceived years ago. It might seem ordinary but the efficiency and benefits of automating logging into multiple websites are multifold. Most applications these days are web days – rather than isolated installations – and make their APIs available publicly for third party applications to sync with them. So, by using APIs and making API calls to an application, the originating application can easily integrate with it. API integration, especially medium sized business and enterprise grade software, is critical because multiple automation technologies have to be used in sync. Even though there are applications that attempt at covering the full stack, there is no application yet that covers multi-disciplinary functions across departments like IT, marketing and sales. It is simply impossible. Yet, it is imperative that stacks across these departments talk to each other and integrate with each other simply because of the convergence between various disciplines like marketing and IT.