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Are you paying for empty hours in your integration project?

October 25, 2017

In a previous job I worked with a enterprise software Sales VP who used the term ’empty hours’ to describe work done by technology consultants that didn’t add any value to the customer but just earned income for the consultant and the consultant’s employer.

In the old days, that is 10+ years ago, it was quite common to use a do-it-yourself (DIY) integration, that is if you couldn’t afford or justify an on-premise enterprise service bus(ESB). These days the ease and affordability of cloud-based integration solutions makes the DIY option practically invalid and out-of-date. So it does surprise me when developers or systems integrators (SIs) on an integration project do empty hours for integration work that they could do quicker and better with a modern integration solution.

IT analyst firm Gartner have pointed out that integration is often an afterthought for many CIOs, and many still rely on old methodologies and technologies for integration because they aren’t familiar with newer, better options. By being unaware of new integration solutions, CIOs and IT managers more easily fall into the trap of paying for empty hours.

The role of the developer in an integration project

Integration projects are by definition technical and need the skills of one or more developers. In this situation, what is the role of the developer? It isn’t just to write code, but also to add value by:

  • automating routine tasks
  • using the right tools
  • doing more, with less, and with some thought
  • solving meaningful problems, not re-inventing something someone else has done before and more thoroughly

Developers know that customers don’t pay them to write system calls that already exist an a library. But when it comes to an integration project, instead of using a modern integration platform some developers and SIs go straight to empty hours for writing custom code to implement the integration.



Developer duties and responsibilities

The problem of custom code

Research has shown that the bulk of the the costs of custom applications comes after initial development and deployment; the same applies to integration.

Custom-coded integration projects tend to have the following weaknesses.

  • Involve a steep learning curve that is a once-off, non-repeatable cost
  • Tight coupling between systems
  • Code changes require high effort and costs
  • There is a lot of tedious work to handle and map multiple data formats between systems
  • Over time the code grows and gets more complex, with more functions being added and interwoven with existing code, and so it becomes harder to understand and test properly.
  • As the in-house integration layer grows, you need dedicated operations and support staff to manage the integration services.



Modern integration challenges

Application integration is growing and costs are rising, according to Gartner. As the trend of digitizing the business continues, it is not a question of what to integrate, but how to do it effectively.

Businesses are demanding greater speed and flexibility from their IT departments in order to keep up with changing markets and business environments. Responding to these demands has led to the growing adoption of an agile or devops approach to software implementation and maintenance. Sticking with an old ESB or similar legacy integration solution isn’t going to give an IT team the agility they need to connect systems.

The concept and impact of technical debt is becoming of increasing concern to CIOs. In order to keep technical manageable in the future, you need to be able to swap out old non-performing applications with better ones, and not impact business or IT operations. Without an effective up-to-date integration strategy and architecture, the ability to do this will be compromised.


Advantages of a cloud integration solution

When looking at modern integration solutions, there are good reasons for considering a cloud platform.

  1. Because you don’t have to install and maintain your own software it removes the need to take on operational staff to manage the infrastructure
  2. The software is accessible anywhere via the Internet, therefore it can be used by offsite branches, to integrate with business partners, suppliers and customers, and as a backend service for mobile apps
  3. A cloud platform provides dynamic scalability without the need for manual provisioning


Benefits of cloud platforms

Why an integration platform is better than a custom coded integration

  • With a custom coded integration, how do you ensure a continued high level of maintenance. Developers and SIs come and go, so who will maintain the custom solution in Year 2 or 3 and beyond?
  • As business needs evolve, the integration platform will be much more able to provide the richness of features in the time required than an in-house DIY solution
  • Will the developer or SI be able to provide the same level and commitment to support that an integration platform can?

Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS)

Cloud-based integration solutions, known as iPaaS, provide integration services for any combination of on-premise and cloud applications, services, and data within or across organizations at a lower cost than older integration solutions.

As an iPaaS, Flowgear gives IT manager the freedom to move beyond patching together disparate systems to that of embracing hybrid integration that seamlessly connects multiple applications and databases. Flowgear includes pre-built connectors and transformations that enable faster development of integration flows, using drag-and-drop tools.


Why developers and SIs should consider iPaaS

We’ve found that once developers and SIs experience an iPaaS in a real project, they quickly grasp the benefits, these include:

  • being able to build IP around common integration scenarios,
  • the ease of sharing integrations between individuals and teams
  • the ability to build and reuse libraries
  • allowing junior developers to do low complexity/high volume work and learn, while senior developers do value-add work

So instead of billing empty hours on an integration project, your users and customers get the integration solution they need quicker and get to see the benefits sooner.

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