For many businesses, integration tools are no longer a “nice to have”. They are a “must-have” and for good reason. Integration between existing apps, services, and systems creates a truly scalable and efficient enterprise ecosystem that’s worth its weight in gold. However, not many decision-makers know where to invest their hard-earned dollars.
In some cases, implementing a sophisticated and full-fledged tool makes sense, particularly for regularly changing processes or bigger and more complex connections. In other cases, however, these tools are simply obscuring a smoother and more straightforward method of connecting endpoints and platforms: point-to-point (P2P) integration.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dial in on everything you’ve ever wanted to know about point-to-point integrations, including their pros, cons, and whether there are other optimal ways to integrate tools and platforms.
What are point-to-point integrations?
Simply put, a point-to-point integration is a tightly coupled integration between two endpoints or platforms. In a point-to-point setup, data flows in one direction and the systems typically know about each other, including the capabilities, data models, and technology infrastructure that each system supports.
How do they work?
A point-to-point integration fundamentally hinges on two key components: connectors and application programming interfaces (APIs).
When your IT team builds an integration between two platforms manually, they commonly use custom connectors to get the opposite APIs to “talk” to each other. They do this via coding. Once a connection is established, data is configured to flow in one direction first, then in the other direction later. At no one point can data flow in both directions simultaneously.
As a prime example of point-to-point integration, fixed integration between Salesforce and an ERP facilitates an obstructed flow of customer and sales data between the two platforms. Specifically, this integration will allow you to transfer the customer information in your ERP system to Salesforce, and sync your Salesforce data with the ERP as well. This way, your sales team can have all the required data on a common platform and they won’t have to update it on two separate tools.
What are the benefits of point-to-point integrations?
For all the bad rap that P2P integration has been getting of late, you might think that this once-adored technology has zero benefits. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here are some noteworthy benefits of P2P integration:
- Defined set of connections and pre-built connectors: Most companies have common ways of working and therefore have similar requirements. To meet these requirements, P2P integration tools can include a number of pre-configured connections and connectors. Access to these privileges makes data mapping smooth and easy and facilitates scheduling and sequencing of data transfers.
- Based on standard tasks: Fact is, the tasks involved in a P2P integration are simplistic at best and therefore do not require a lot of logic or synchronisation. That means no coding experts needed, no additional resources, and no time wastage.
- Connections are built to work in a very limited way: This might not sound exactly like a benefit, but it is one. With something as complex as integration and data sharing, the chances of making an error are pretty high, especially for a novice. Thankfully, for point-for-point integrations, connections are hardly complex or elaborate, hence low-risk and sustainable.
The pros and cons of point-to-point integrations
Point-to-point integrations meet the data movement needs of most small and medium-sized businesses. Don’t expect it to be multi-faceted and faultless, however. For the sake of efficiency and effectiveness, you may have to keep the number of P2P integrations your business is utilising at a minimum.
- Installing the supporting infrastructure for this type of integration is relatively easy. Two platforms and a sound IT team are all you need to set the ball rolling.
- It’s ultimately cheaper and quicker to execute, considering that not a whole lot of platforms and technologies are involved.
- Doesn’t require customisation, since the connection and connectors are already pre-configured.
While P2P integrations might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the proper architecture plan and implementation can bring a cleaner, simpler solution than full-scale platforms.
Every technology has its fair share of drawbacks, and P2P integrations are certainly not an exception:
- You can’t customise them, or if you want to connect two systems in a slightly different way to the way it’s designed, you can’t do it.
- They aren’t scalable, especially when you consider the prospect of building integrations across all the apps and services in your ecosystem. This explains why some businesses are still operating in silos.
- The absence of a centralised means for tracking your P2P integrations leaves many on your team unaware of which exist and how they’re running. This lack of transparency makes it incredibly difficult to monitor your network of integrations and troubleshoot any over time.
When to avoid point-to-point integrations altogether
This integration can be an unviable choice in several situations—especially when each of the following holds true.
- You don’t have repeatable processes or an established workflow.
- You want your apps and the way they interact to shift as your business evolves and requirements change.
- You’re simply short-staffed or lack employees who know how to code in any language, let alone specific ones like Python.
We see you asking, “Is there a benefit of combining point-to-point integrations with other types of integrations?” Well, maybe. Go for it if adopting or trialing new tools and the lower effort for integration of point-to-point can help you experiment more.
P2P alternative: multi-point any-way connections
Given the ongoing uproar against point-to-point integrations, you’d bet your bottom dollar that solid alternatives do exist. Top of the list are multi-point any-way connections (custom integrations).
This type of integration allows for multiple applications and systems to be connected in a bi-directional manner. That means data gets to flow throughout the entire technology stack of a business, unobstructed. As your business reaches new heights of scalability and success, multi-point and two-way integrations offer true elasticity in your data movements and an ability to fast-track your orders and requests.
There’s a downside to these integrations, though. While they can seamlessly connect anything to anything (and apply smarts between them), they do cost big dollars and require in-house capability to operate and maintain them. For that reason, it might be difficult for small and medium-sized businesses to afford them.
What are the most optimal ways to integrate tools and platforms?
At this point in the article, one thing is indisputably clear: no one type of integration is without flaws. So when it comes to choosing the most ideal way to integrate your tools and platforms, it really comes down to your business’s unique processes and workflows.
That said, integrations should be used in any and all repeatable tasks. They may be simple and only require point-to-point, or they may be more complex and require a customised solution.
Here are tools we recommend for different solutions:
Simple point-to-point connections – Zapier
Zapier’s automation tools make it easy to move information between your apps, so you can focus on the work that pulls the most weight for your business.
- Quick and easy to get started
- It’s completely out of the box/plug and play
- Huge range of connections available
- DIY (literally anyone can activate and utilise zaps)
- Zaps can break, and when that happens, you could lose data
- There is no customisation possible
Managed point-to-point connections – MuleSoft Composer
Not too long ago, MuleSoft was exclusively a developer tool, out of reach for most team leaders and administrators. However, to make the tool accessible to anyone and everyone, MuleSoft recently launched MuleSoft Composer, a one-of-its-kind no code integration tool that’s quickly becoming a darling for growing businesses.
That’s not even the best part, this is: it’s embedded within the Salesforce platform!
- A good way to start with less to worry about
- Everything is included as part of your Salesforce package – leverages your security model, is managed by Salesforce, and connects to key LOB systems, e.g. Xero etc.
- Licensing & pricing can be difficult to navigate
Complex many-point any-way connections – Cloudfuse
Literally any scenario/workflow is possible with Cloudfuse. If you can envision it, Cloudfuse (owned by Lander Systems) can bring it to reality. It’s that simple.
- Affordable product for SMBs
- Managed integration – it’s set and forget from your point of view; Cloudfuse will look after anything that changes on your behalf
- Seamlessly integrate LOB capabilities e.g. invoicing, pricing, inventory, payment, etc.
- No data or connection is ever lost
- They talk through your business’s systems and processes and orchestrate the connections that work the way you want them to work
- New player on the market
- Supported by a small team
Complex connections – MuleSoft
When working with complex connections, you might need to find better ways to solve issues such as increasing service agility and getting real-time insights from all the data sources you have—and that’s where MuleSoft can help. Its open architecture, flexibility, and customisation options are, quite simply, unmatched.
- Faster connection to core systems – quickly and easily introduce new systems, software versions, devices, and data sources
- Highly efficient APIs – trade one app for another one with reusable APIs whenever your business is in the need of an upgrade
- Advanced security features as standard with end-to-end governance to ensure compliance with local, regional, and industry regulations
- Next-level agility – unlock data with MuleSoft’s pre-built connectors and automatic data mapping
- It’s quite expensive. If you are an established business with a big budget, then great! However, if you’re an up-and-coming small or medium-sized business, you might be better suited to one of the more affordable options above.
When it comes to choosing integrations capable of powering up your entire enterprise ecosystem, a cookie-cutter approach simply doesn’t cut it. It pays to be meticulous from start to finish. The best solution is the solution that works for YOUR business processes and workflow, whether that be a simple point-to-point, a combination of point-to-point and multi-way two-way, or a completely customised many-point any-way solution. Here is to consistent growth, a more robust technology stack, and happier customers and employees!
At Fluent Group, we acknowledge that finding the ideal integration solution for your business is not exactly a cakewalk. We know that it’s a journey often marred by indecisiveness, second-guessing, and unfortunately, a bunch of unhelpful experts who’d rather gloat about their accomplishments than actually lend a hand. Not us, though. We’re different. We’ve baked professionalism and a sense of urgency into our approach, so rest assured that we’ll help you right from the moment you initiate contact. What are you waiting for? Get in touch with us today, and we’ll help you work through your company’s needs and devise the right solution for you!