Written by: Daniel Haurey on 01/29/16

Cloud-based software like SharePoint Online (or Office 365 SharePoint) and Salesforce.com have put powerful, productivity-enhancing tools within reach of businesses of all sizes. But those advantages are undercut when those cloud services won’t talk to the software many businesses are running on their servers to support their day to day operations.  Say a prospect needs a sales quote. At many businesses, outside sales relies on Salesforce.com to collect key data about that customer. But if it’s not integrated with the quoting software that sits on the office server, someone has to re-key all that data. The potential for mis-keying data is high, according to this research by The Association for Computing Machinery, and the time it takes torpedoes productivity and even more critically, slows down the time required to deliver that quote.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Skilled programmers can get cloud and on-premise software talking to each other using any of three important tools and techniques:

  1. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) – Nearly all software, like QuickBooks or SharePoint Online, now comes with a bit of code that allows developers to exchange data with outside applications, in effect extending the software’s functionality, access to data and utility to your team. Programmers can use APIs to integrate cloud and on-premise software.
  2. Software Development Kits (SDKs) – Many software companies make tools available that permit others to write their own modules to extend the functionality of their software. Samsung, for example, used the Android SDK to make its own “flavor” of Android, while Nexus has its own flavor, so they can offer unique functions on their phones. Developers can use SDKs to extend the functionality of your Line of Business applications, making purpose-built features available, often through your favorite software’s already-familiar interface.
  3. Custom Integration – Another way to integrate cloud and on-premise software is through custom integration. Say a retailer wants a supplier to submit shipment data via EDI. Custom integration puts a piece of code – middleware – between their database and the retailer’s system. When it’s time to send a shipment, the middleware pulls the appropriate data, puts in in EDI format and holds it until the retailer’s system comes to pick it up. In addition, developers can also affect ‘real time’ program data interchange by accessing application databases directly.

Sometimes getting SharePoint Online or other cloud and on-premise software talking means using all three approaches. A business that uses UPS WorldShip, for example, could leverage the WorldShip SDK and robust APIs to reach out to UPS to initiate a shipment, then exchange the shipment information with UPS online. When the shipment is en route, UPS might use custom integration to share data with a partner carrier that’s handling one leg of the transport. The possibilities for business teams are virtually limitless, and skilled developers can make it all button-click easy.  Odds are most businesses will use a hybrid IT environment – a combination of on-premise and cloud-based software like SharePoint – for a long time. Programmers can use APIs, SDKs and custom software development to get cloud and on-premise software talking, extending the functionality of your familiar software and making your business more productive while extending the lifespan of your current IT investments.  Learn more.