Facing a deluge of data, disparate data sources, and ever-increasing customer and employee expectations, enterprises are challenged with optimizing their operations. Integration has and will continue to be a core strategy for successful business optimization.
The market views a number of developing trends as the next go-to technology applications for business optimization. Microservices, APIs and IoT are among these trends driving the next wave of disruption.
For businesses attempting to stay one step ahead in their digital transformation journey, these trends could easily be the next big thing. However, it’s important for digital business leaders to first consider a comprehensive integration strategy before jumping on the implementation bandwagon. Planning and following through with an integration strategy is key for true business optimization.
Integration Q&A with Perficient Chief Strategist Eric Roch
Eric Roch, Perficient’s Chief Strategist for IT Modernization and Integration, provides his take on what’s happening in the market today, and how leading enterprises can successfully optimize their business operations in 2019 and beyond.
What major changes have you observed in the world of integration?
The way we provide applications to business has changed, making integration more important than ever. Modern applications are highly distributed and require integration for a consistent user experience. For example, popular SaaS applications like Salesforce must be integrated with other applications using their APIs.
How we build applications has also changed. Modern applications built on native cloud, hybrid cloud, or PaaS platforms are highly distributed. For example, Microservices decomposes applications to discrete business functions that communicate with each other via APIs and/or messaging. Synchronizing data between Microservices and back to legacy systems is one challenge that impacts integration.
We’re all aware of how today’s rapidly growing data volumes present a variety of challenges. The movement and access of data requires an integration and access strategy. For example, providing APIs to access the data and storing real-time streaming data require different integration approaches. Your data management strategy is dependent on your integration strategy and tools – and the architecture should be unified.
How are emerging technology trends affecting integration?
In addition to rapid data growth, the number of devices that require integration is growing exponentially. Smartphones and IoT devices stream a great deal of data that often must be integrated as events that trigger responses and actions.
Recent statistics from We Are Social and Hootsuite’s 2018 Global Digital suite of reports, show the number of mobile phone users in 2018 has reached five billion, and the number of internet users has grown to four billion. We’re connected and have fast access to information at our fingertips. Each touch of the screen creates more data that can be used.
You can imagine how these trends greatly influence your integration approach.
Also, integrations for applications like mobility and IoT must be fast and reliable. While modern applications are now easier to integrate via well-defined APIs, the number of integrations needed is growing exponentially.
For today’s enterprises to keep up, they must have an integration strategy and architecture that supports rapid, reliable integration by a wide user base. These requirements have to be met with a comprehensive integration platform and strategy that includes the users, devices, data, and applications.
How are these market trends enabled and supported by a comprehensive integration strategy?
Supporting the multifaceted demands of integration requires a platform approach that addresses many use cases and integration-developer personas. For example, a business user might want to merge customers in Salesforce to backorders in a legacy ERP system. And, a developer might want to verify if an API exists to check credit versus build something from scratch.
Users need a lot of freedom to build and integrate systems rapidly. However, it’s important to set some standards for things like public APIs and security. Establishing governance around data access and the publishing of business services as APIs is also important. And yet, this should not significantly sacrifice software delivery velocity. This is why considering the people and process aspects of integration should be part of an integration strategy.
What elements of a comprehensive integration strategy should today’s digital business leader consider in order to be successful?
Your integration strategy should capture the following elements:
- Business drivers and requirements
- Current-state vs. future-state architecture and plans to address gaps
- Organizational and a lightweight governance model
- An integration roadmap for people, processes, and platforms
All of the information addressed so far outlines the activities and topics for consideration needed to create an integration strategy and roadmap. I recommend following the form and content of a larger IT strategy and business plan; one that aligns with IT objectives, tactics, and principles. You can read more about the essential steps in a previous blog post, “Establishing an Integration Strategy and Roadmap.”
What pitfalls should you know about in order to avoid them?
One common issue we see is using old integration approaches for addressing new integration problems. For example, a centralized integration development team with a hub-and-spoke style ESB tooling will find that it’s difficult to keep up with the integration demands of modern applications and the proliferation of data and devices.
Another common problem we see is when tool use and approaches are siloed within functional groups. For example, a data management group uses one set of tools, a development group codes things from scratch, and an integration center of excellence (COE) uses an ESB. The lack of standards, design patterns, and a unified integration architecture becomes very inefficient. It also results in problems with performance, reliability, and security.
What advice would you give a digital business leader to ensure success?
Perficient often assesses a company’s integration platforms. I highly recommend ensuring your integration architecture is up to the demands of modern applications. For additional proof that this is an important step, analyst firms Gartner and Forrester stress integration as critical to a digital transformation and running a digital business.
Many companies have also established integration competency centers or COEs. However, if you look at today’s integration needs, the COE style has liabilities. We recommend an enablement approach to integration. This allows for integrations to be experimental and agile but also follow guidelines to become reusable assets. Read more about this recommendation in a previous blog post, “Establishing an Integration Center for Enablement.”
Digital transformation continues to drive today’s organizations to grow and innovate across the entire enterprise – from the front-end customer experience to backend business operations, and everything in between. Implementing a comprehensive integration strategy that addresses growing trends and technologies like Microservices, APIs, and IoT, will ensure your company doesn’t become disrupted but rather disrupts and evolves for the future.