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Why integration helps best-of-breed software, and businesses

May 23, 2016

Best-of-breed apps replacing integrated suites

The dominance of the integrated software suite may at last be coming to an end. In their place, the trend now is for organizations to select best-of-breed (BoB) applications that suit a department or division, and then ensure adequate integration between them – this is the ‘postmodern ERP‘ syndrome. What is the enabler that is making the BoB trend possible, and why is it good for business?

The problem with integrated suites

The rise of integrated suites came in the 1990s when businesses were becoming aware of the costs of point-to-point integrations between the business applications of that era. Those applications were well-known names then, but they operated in silos and were costly and clumsy to integrate using the tools of the day, and the integrations had to be modified whenever the applications were upgraded.

 

 

Integrated applications, software like SAP and Oracle, promised a number of benefits. However, after 20 years, companies have become aware of disadvantages:

  • costs of support and maintenance contracts,
  • efforts, costs and problems of upgrades,
  • functionality was very good in some areas, poor in others, and didn’t suit needs of all department,
  • each module or component required its own expertise, and specialized training,
  • customers had to use the suite vendor’s recommended practices and processes, or incur costs to customize them to suit specific business needs,
  • when vendors increased flexibility it often came with increased complexity,
  • due to inter-component/module dependency it took longer to introduce improvements and so functionality lagged,
  • integrated functions meant an error in one area could unexpectedly impact other areas.

Integration – the enabler of best-of-breed software

Modern integration solutions have become the enabler to allow businesses to dump integrated applications in favour of BoB software.

Integration platforms, not ESBs

The legacy tool for integration, the enterprise service bus (ESB), has become too unwieldy to cope with the dynamic and complex world of hybrid, cloud and on-premise systems. We have customers who have spent huge sums on traditional ESBs, and then to drop them in favour of a modern integration platform because the older systems cannot cope with the complexities and dynamics of modern business.

Support the API economy

The modern combination of cloud and on-premise systems requires a decentralized architecture and loosely coupled integrations. Whether you are a SaaS vendor, ISV (independent software vendor), or a business wanting to make your application open to customers and partners, the critical need is for an application programming interface (API). A cloud-based integration platform gives you the capabilities to build APIs that can support a number of different interactions and devices.

Costs

In the current sluggish economic environment, one question that businesses and IT departments are being asked is “what is your cost optimization strategy?” Cutting IT budgets and stopping digital investments isn’t a viable option if you want to stay competitive. The good news is that BoB solutions are increasingly SaaS (software-as-a-service) oriented, meaning that you pay a subscription based on usage, rather than an expensive maintenance contract with integrated systems. With a modern integration solution, organizations can go with cloud and BoB applications, scale back expensive integrated systems, and reduce IT costs while maximizing business value.

Vendor flexibility

Whether you go with integrated or BoB solutions, one issue is the problem of vendor lock-in – an integration platform resolves this problem. A strategy that incorporates BoB with an integration solution allows businesses to select the best technology, and also reduce risks of vendor lock-in because you can connect and disconnect systems if you wish to move applications.

Customer examples – best-of-breed software with integration platform

GMSGlobal Micro Solutions (GMS), is an example of a business that uses BoB software with Flowgear’s integration platform. GMS provides best-of-breed hosted IT solutions to over 4500 customers, with infrastructure scaled to support 300,000 users. Their solutions are usually not integrated, but in order to provide excellent customer service they needed a platform to integrate the solutions without getting overwhelmed by complexity. Flowgear allows GMS to integrate and orchestrate multiple systems into one platform; it also allows GMS to integrate the cloud solutions with its PSA (professional services automation) software, ConnectWise, and with Sage Evolution for finance management so they can meter and bill for usage accurately and timeously.

Another customer in the agro-industrial market implemented a very industry-specific e-commerce portal, but needed to integrate with its ERP system. The customer had internal IT skills and was able to build a complex integration between the portal and ERP system in under three months. In the first two months after go-live, they processed over 2500 orders through their integration workflows.

Keeping IT costs under control is a major concern for SMBs (small and midsize businesses). Because of limited capital, they only add new IT solutions when they need them. A customer in the food production industry started off small, but after a period of rapid growth wanted to add the WooCommerce e-commerce platform. The customer didn’t have IT skills so sought assistance from Flowgear’s professional services team to create an integration with its Sage accounting application. With Flowgear’s SMB-friendly subscription rates, the customer could add integration capabilities to allow them to keep growing without a large investment in IT.

Integration is no longer the problem

Integrating data between applications is no longer a heavy yoke for a business to bear. Integration has become easier, more cost effective, quicker to implement, and more flexible. Because of this, the advantages that integrated suites used to have no longer apply. Businesses now have a choice to select the most appropriate solution for a specific requirement; an integrated suite doesn’t mean better if it’s functionality doesn’t match a BoB solution. Instead, companies can go with BoB solutions combined with an integration platform. There are many companies who will rely on legacy systems for some time, but are looking to implement new cloud solutions for competitive reasons; with an integration platform, integrating legacy and cloud systems is no longer a Herculean feat.

A modern cloud-based integration platform provides:

  • freedom of choice of software,
  • flexibility of selection of software,
  • manageable and scaleable costs.

If you’re looking an integration solution that can help you integrate your cloud initiatives with on-premise networks and legacy systems you should be considering a reliable, experienced cloud integration partner – whether you’re a SaaS vendor, ISV or an end-user.

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