Almost 21 years ago, when I joined TOPAZ, integration between software systems was unusual and exotic in our market. On the rare occasion when a customer wanted to integrate a third party system with our software of that era (GRANITE), it involved direct access to the database using SQL scripts, and many warnings from TOPAZ “not to change the data”!
Things have changed a lot since then. Well over 50% of new TOPAZ customers are interested in integration and see it as a central part of a broader IT strategy. These integrations are many and varied, but probably the most common are; 1) integration to authentication / directory services (e.g. Active Directory, SAML/Shibboleth), 2) integration to training content systems (e.g. CITI, AALAS Learning Library) and 3) integration to finance/procurement systems (e.g. Peoplesoft, SAP).
The modern approach involves using Web Services. These allow customers to write their own integration code if they wish. They also protect the data in Elements by ensuring that the same business rules and validations are applied to any incoming data as would be applied if the user was typing the data in on the Elements screen. They also mean that TOPAZ can make changes to data structures as part of enhancements without breaking the integrations our customers have painstakingly developed.
TOPAZ publishes these Web Service methods for customers and we can help with understanding best practices and conceptual mapping of data between systems. For the more common and standardized interfaces (eg CITI, AALAS Learning Library) we also have a software tool that you can use to “plug and play” without needing to develop your own code. And finally, we’re always ready to help with some custom development engagements if you need our technical expertise.
Well-planned integrations can significantly improve efficiency, reduce data entry errors and make you friends in the finance, training and other departments!