The Fundamentals of Cloud Technology Integrations
Ever remodeled a kitchen?
It’s a daunting task because of the sheer number of components involved—cabinetry, counter tops, fixtures, appliances, electricity, and more—so homeowners spend a lot of time with contractors and designers thinking about the plan before they make any decisions, or purchases.
We want you to think about your community’s government technology strategy in the same holistic way.
Instead of purchasing a single software product, communities are now building technology product suites, designed to bring constituent services into the 21st century. This ambitious objective is more attainable than ever before thanks in large part to cloud-based integrations.
If you’re not a technical person, cloud integrations may sound intimidating. But chances are you’re probably already using them for many professional and personal purposes, such as logging in to social media.
What Does “Cloud Integration” Actually Mean?
Cloud integrations are systems of tools and technologies that connect various applications, systems, repositories, and IT environments for the exchange of data and processes. In other words, a network of distinct cloud-based software applications that can directly communicate with each other. Cloud integrations allow data to be shared across platforms with less manual effort.
When software-as-a-service (SaaS) boomed in the early 2000s, the development of cloud integrations was an inevitable next step. As more data and information was being captured, stored, and exchanged online, there was a need for these applications and systems to communicate with one another in order to avoid creating data silos or manual workflows.
In addition to the daily workflow benefits, integrations also allow teams to evaluate a wider array of software products and select the best ones for their needs, knowing that they can be seamlessly integrated with each other and existing systems.
What Are Some Examples of Common Integrations?
Depending on the purpose of the cloud software in question, this answer can vary widely. Within ViewPoint Cloud’s permitting platform, for example, the most common cloud integrations directly relate to the workflow steps associated with approving a permit or license application: GIS applications, financial systems, and reporting tools.
Here’s what this looks like in practice:
- Reports: ViewPoint Cloud integrates with all major reporting packages. By automatically pulling data collected by ViewPoint Cloud into reports, public officials are able to save time while making more informed policy decisions.
- Finance: When constituents pay for permits using ViewPoint Cloud’s public portals, the platform passes fee data along to a community’s existing financial software to access—no manual calculation required.
We’re continually looking for ways to simplify and automate integration procedures so governments can become more efficient, while still controlling their data and processes. Future integrations currently in the works include E-plan review, document management, and our very own application programming interface (API).
Understanding the Challenges and Benefits of Cloud Integrations
For governments constantly collecting and processing data, the benefits of cloud integrations outweigh the negatives. Data sharing among cloud-based applications makes information more uniform—improving connectivity, visibility, and ultimately optimizing business processes.
Increased integration abilities ensure that when accessing data online, different departments are always viewing the most up-to-date and synchronized version. By connecting applications together, previously complex and tedious workflows can be automated, which reduces both errors and operational costs in the long run.
For communities, having an internal understanding of data and systems architecture can greatly inform decisions about software procurement—and reduce complexity in the future.
Two Types of Cloud-Based Integrations
Now that you’re an expert on the integration basics, an important thing to note is that there are two distinct types of cloud-based integrations: real time and batch processing. Depending on the software you are evaluating, you might encounter one or both types in the future.
Real time means that there’s a direct process to an application programming interface (API), which is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components. Simply put, APIs allow software applications to speak the same language. This is important for integrations because through communication, software systems can share information and work in tandem, sometimes automatically.
For example, ViewPoint Cloud interfaces with the ArcGIS API to render complex spatial visualizations for inspectors, assessors and other public officials to complete a variety of tasks, including optimizing inspection routes and reviewing active projects across the city.
Batch processing means that two databases are connected to each other and moving data around, usually with minimum human interaction. Integrations with financial software are an example of a batch processing as permit records, fee types, and user data captured through ViewPoint Cloud are regularly exported to the community’s financial reporting system for further analysis without any manual effort required by city officials.
Whether your community has just started the transition to online services, or you already have an entire suite of software products, a firm understanding of cloud integrations and systems architecture will ensure you are fully prepared to evaluate your existing technology strategy.
Why Should Local Governments Care?
Governments rely on mission-critical systems to provide services to constituents and run internal operations. From issuing permits to local businesses, to budgeting for new public works projects, government processes affect entire communities.
Historically, public-sector technology solutions have been created with a one-size-fits-all approach that can’t be modified or adjusted for communities’ respective needs without extensive consulting or exorbitant customization costs.
We believe that to create the best technology system, one that makes things easier for constituents and public servants, government purchasers must have the power of choice—and should be the driving force behind improving government technology. Cloud integrations make it possible to have a diverse set of tools and technology solutions at your disposal in a way that has never previously been possible.