We believe that systems integration in your business environment is the only sustainable path. Sticking with the theme of sustainability, here’s a new definition of the three R’s.
Visualize business operations and strategy in an ideal context.
Knowing that you cannot change everything at once, categorize and prioritize.
Implement a new technology architecture, but accommodate your legacy.
Without some form of system integration, manual processes are required to link disparate processes. Meetings, phone calls, emails, mailroom scanning, data-entry and spreadsheet manipulation – these are all very expensive approaches that should be eliminated or reserved for unique, high-value collaboration scenarios. Integrate to lower costs.
Customers generally want a real-time relationship with organizations, or a close approximation. Latency is minimized through integration of the supply chain and frictionless flow of information. Integrate to respond faster.
Timely access to accurate information is essential for all stakeholders. When combined with experience and motivation, such information supports decisions that optimize business goals. Executives want real-time dashboards. Staff want composite apps that facilitate all their tasks through one interface. Partners want portals or machine-to-machine integration. Customers want to manage their own data and transactions. Integrate to empower your stakeholders.
Business Agility is a hallmark of success. Not all forms of integration support business agility. In fact, if architected as a set of disparate point-to-point integrations, the opposite is true. However, modern services-oriented integration architectures can be agile by nature, allowing fast response to business events: mergers and acquisitions, onboarding a new partner, embedding into a new channel or ecosystem, and more. Integrate to remain agile.
Everyone has had the experience of being bounced from one department to another, having to retell their story multiple times before finally getting personal service. The best way to show that a customer is valued is to know them and support their unique customer relationship. Although privacy is a significant concern, most people are willing to trade away some privacy for convenience if given them that option in the appropriate context. Integrate to embrace your customer.
As business expectations of system integration have grown, integration technologies and methods have improved.
Most legacy systems have point-to-point integration between systems. Although generally undesirable, such a direct integration method may be practical if integration is tactical, temporary, or where performance outweighs other concerns.
Web services (REST and SOAP) represent the most common implementations of a Services Oriented Architecture (SOA). REST is the newer protocol; it is more lightweight and simpler to implement. SOAP is more structured and complex.
Integration Frameworks, like our LANSA Composer product, provide a reusable and flexible foundation for integration. Composer is used to design and execute business integration activities involving transport, data transformation and custom business processing and is compatible with all common interfaces; like Web services, EDI, FTP and email.
An ESB typically uses XML and document transformation to integrate disparate applications. The ESB allows for a common, reusable approach for each integration challenge, and tackles data integration as well as process orchestration.
To illustrate, consider Altostrat Industries, a fictitious mid-sized manufacturing company that has operated in North America and Europe for 50 years. Altostrat has assembled and manages a mix of systems across various hardware platforms.
As shown above, the systems combine to support business processes including Manufacturing, Sales, Pricing and Accounting. Altostrat’s IT department struggles to maintain the existing systems, and the point-to-point system integration is rather brittle.
Worse, business groups across the enterprise have each created their own silos of data and business processes, using one-off database and spreadsheet solutions and consumer-grade cloud offerings which are not scalable, backed-up or secured.
This environment was never planned; it just happened over time. The business impacts are the inverse of the aforementioned top 5 business benefits – high costs, poor efficiency, restrained staff, rigid business and weak customer relationships.
No one is to blame, but changes are needed.
Since Altostrat is a multinational organization with a mix of cloud and on-promise solutions, they might be too large and complex for an integration approach that’s limited to a series of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), even if these APIs are developed in a common framework.
Instead, Altostrat’s enterprise-wide integration strategy requires a scalable, repeatable, agile approach. As such, we might recommend a target architecture like the one depicted above, with an Integration and Process Orchestration layer implemented via a an integration framework like LANSA Composer, or a Platform as a Service (iPaaS) cloud offering such as MuleSoft, SnapLogic or Boomi.
iPaaS is a modern take on the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) and is similar in many respects. Both typically embrace Business Process Management (BPM) to re-imagine and orchestrate processes. Both typically offer pre-built connectors to popular systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The primary difference is that iPaaS solutions are cloud hosted and focus more on cloud to cloud integration, whereas traditional ESBs hosted on premise and tend to focus on integrating on-premise solutions. However the lines have blurred, with most Integration Platform vendors recognizing that many organizations need integration between their unique mix of on-premise and cloud solutions.
When determining the best solution for Altostrat, a lot depends on what particular applications need to integrate. The more pre-built connectors available from the Integration platform, the less manual process and data mapping is needed, and the more likely the solution platform will keep its connectors updated as software versions evolve. On the other hand, if Altostrat mainly needs to integrate custom on-premise solutions, they may pay too much for an iPaaS focused on building its portfolio of connectors that Altostrat may never use.
If you find yourself in a situation like Altostrat, with a mix of on-premise and cloud solutions with brittle point-to-point integration that is not scalable, feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to listen, answer questions, and ultimately help you re-imagine, rationalize and re-architect – achieving a modern integration architecture and the resulting business benefits.
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