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The challenge of self-service integration

January 7, 2016

What do CIOs and IT managers do when they can’t respond quickly enough to business users’ requests for information? Businesses are increasingly combining the digital and physical worlds – known as digital business. Because digital businesses tend to move and respond quickly, IT departments must accept the need to respond faster to business users’ requests. One way to deal with this is to allow for light-weight, self-service data and application integration so that users can get data themselves.

When business computing changes from a paradigm of control in the hands of a few skilled techs, to one that allows users greater access to computing and information resources, a new set of tools, approaches and attitudes is needed. This is not the first time this has happened, in the 1980s it occurred with the move from mainframes to PCs; now it’s the move from on-premise to cloud apps. IT departments then, like now, had to adapt to allow users to have easier access to information.

The challenges

One challenge that CIOs and IT managers face is how to operate an IT department which has to maintain the traditional IT infrastructure, as well as dealing with new digital business requirements, the so-called bimodal or two-speed IT strategy.

bimodal-itAnother related challenge is how can they reduce the backlog of user requests, given limited resources. Gartner has said that resisting business users accessing data themselves with their own resources is ‘futile and counterproductive’.

Although various consultants talk about the bimodal approach, experience is showing that it is easier recommended than done, and that the traditional side uses up far more than 50 percent of IT resources.

How to address the challenges

So instead of trying to do everything themselves, or telling users to wait, what should CIOs and IT managers do? One of the first steps is to re-think the company integration strategy. Gartner proposes the concept of ‘citizen integrators‘, but at Flowgear we believe that there needs to be recognition of different ‘integration personas.’

Integration personas

We have found that there are different categories of individuals who work on and use integrations.

  1. End users – are focused on the outcomes and results of integration
  2. Citizen developers – need a trigger or action integration interface
  3. Business analysts – require blueprints and patterns for workflows and connectors
  4. Developers – built and maintain low-level technology connectors.

Free formal integration

While businesses will want to invest in self-service integration, there is the issue of ensuring security, data integrity and governance as what may have been ad-hoc integrations become more formalized within the organization.

Flowgear’s Free Formal methodology supports the full application lifecycle for integration and allows businesses to embrace the flexible approach to integration – from informal, self-service, effectiveness-oriented user applications, to systematic, efficiency-oriented systems. This includes:

  • release management
  • performance and service levels
  • error handling
  • access and logging

The trouble is that traditional technology and approaches for integration cannot support self-service integration. What is needed are new user-oriented tools that allow citizen integrators to access data through APIs and cloud services.

New integration tools required

An ideal integration platform includes:

  • No on-premises infrastructure
  • No custom software development – simple drag-and-drop workflow design
  • Browser-based management dashboards
  • Secure ground-to-cloud connectivity – reliable support for web APIs as well as legacy APIs/interfaces

flowgear integrationsWith the right integration platform, organizations can see a number of benefits.

Seamless connectivity

The right integration platform enables organizations to seamlessly connect the wide variety of on-premise and cloud-based systems and devices that comprise today’s complex infrastructures. Network traffic is optimized and data flows unimpeded between the enterprise and a mobile workforce.

Improved productivity

Integration between internal teams, customers, and suppliers becomes faster and more reliable. This minimizes errors, reduces business risk, and improves project completion rates and time-to-market for a greater overall competitive advantage.

Improved data utilization

Secure, reliable, and scalable data storage and processing is greatly improved when diverse data centres and data warehouses are seamlessly integrated with on-premise systems and made more easily accessible to workers.

Lower operational costs

Using a cloud-based software-as-a-service platform reduces costs and eliminates the issue of maintenance and system upgrades. A platform like Flowgear can even automate implementation and integration so you’re free to choose the best, most cost-effective software solutions for your business without fear of incompatibility.

Actions and recommendations

How does an organization implement a self-service project. Gartner provides these steps.

  • Promote self-service integration capabilities
  • Share recommended practices
  • Recommend and support suitable tools
  • Provide guidelines to reduce risks
  • Work with integration tool providers to ensure their platforms work with your infrastructure

CIOs and IT managers need to reduce the backlog of information requests by providing users with appropriate integration tools to access data, while at the same time maintaining consistency and governance across the organization. The ideal integration tool will have the following capabilities:

  1. Cloud-Native platform designed from the ground up to enable enterprises to build, adapt and manage application and platform integration.
  2. An architecture that enables a flexible approach to integration providing rapid time-to-value while maintaining enterprise control.
  3. A user experience that delivers friction-less deployment and drives user engagement.

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