The evidence is growing. Analysts and other independent research, as well as our own experience, is showing that integration is becoming an increasing need of modern businesses. Essentially, there is too much inaccessible business data, and too many data and application silos.
It’s a well established fact that the amount of data is growing. Information from analyst organizations like Aberdeen indicate that data volumes are increasing by over 50% per year; the major sources being business software – ERP, CRM, supply chain management, and finance and accounting solutions. Application integration enables these systems to synch their data.
No matter the size of the organization, or whether it’s a B2C (business-to-consumer) or B2B (business-to-business) company, data growth and making timely use of that data is important. For telecommunications network provider Electronic Communications Network (ECN), it was integrating its various line-of-business applications to the SAP B1 so that the company could have ‘a single source of the truth’ for the information. At leading furniture manufacturer and retailer, Coricraft, it was integrating the data from an acquired company into its SYSPRO ERP system, and managing stock movement between its multiple warehouses and stores.
There’s another factor making application integration an issue – the adoption of cloud software. As companies increasingly turn to SaaS (software-as-a-service), some of their major challenges are integrating those systems with existing solutions, and migrating legacy data to the cloud.
For IT departments, integration is not a simple project. Even in larger enterprises, integration skills are in short supply. The difficulty is compounded for SMBs (small- and mid-size businesses) as they often don’t have the IT staff or range of skills to address the issue.
What is the solution? It has both a technology and a business or culture component.
The business or culture aspect relates to the way integration projects are typically run – using the traditional waterfall project methodology, which has several problems.
- It relies on the accuracy, understanding and precision of the initial requirements document and project scope.
- Once begun, the specifications cannot change, otherwise the dreaded word ‘scope creep’ arises.
- Verification of the results by end users can only be done at the end.
- The business need is not static, and is likely to change fairly soon in the future.
A better approach is an iterative, incremental process that allows users to check results as the solution develops, learning and adjusting their requirements during the development, so that the specification gets gradually more precise. However, to do this businesses need to adopt a newer technology solution.
In the days of on-premise software the technology solution was an ESB (enterprise service bus). But ESBs were not built with the cloud in mind, nor do they readily support an iterative process. Using a single cloud-based integration tool for on-premise and cloud is less expensive and more agile. As several of the analysts groups have mentioned, using an iPaaS (integration platform-as-a-service) like Flowgear, has advantages of speed of deployment, and lower costs, and is a hot topic among IT architects.
The combination of growing under-used masses of data, and the need for business to be more agile and flexible, require a new business approach and technology solution to enable more effective application and data integration – which is available today with an iPaaS.