To thrive in today's highly competitive digital business landscape, organizations must harness their "digital DNA." In other words, they need to connect all of their systems and databases — including various business applications, devices, big data and any instances of IoT and hybrid cloud environments — so they're accessible and actionable. By integrating all existing components and new technologies, organizations can gain a comprehensive, trusted view of their business functions, thereby enabling more agile deployment processes and ensuring scalable growth and relevance over the long-term.
There are a myriad of solutions designed to help integrate applications, systems and databases, however, too often organizations are tricked into buying multiple integration platforms that are segregated by personas. Rather than benefiting from one, holistic platform that allows them to conduct a variety of tasks, organizations (and integration vendors too, for that matter) tend to prioritize only the buyer persona's pain points. For instance, if a sales department wishes to acquire an integration solution, they're likely going to focus only on ensuring customer data accuracy by integrating their CRM with an ERP system, but other departments such as finance, marketing and logistics will be left to fend for themselves.
Multiple Buyer-Skewed Purchasing Can Wreak Havoc
The problem with buyer-skewed purchasing processes is that IT departments tend to get left behind, and IT has the broadest understanding of all the various integration requirements across all departmental use cases. Furthermore, when integration platforms are sold to non-IT buyers, the due diligence process of confirming first whether a solution to the integration problem already exists is often neglected. Three additional challenges that emerge as a result of buyer-skewed purchasing include:
1. Integration technology isn't capable of being managed over time, especially as the number and variety of business applications continue to increase.
2. Redundant subscription costs arise. These costs could have otherwise been avoided by standardizing a single integration platform. This also results in each department having to procure and pay for their integration services separately, which can damage the scale of future purchasing power.
3. The "spaghetti problem" is exacerbated. When IT isn't overseeing a cohesive integration platform implementation, integrations are hard coded between all applications, systems and databases, and the scenario starts to resemble a knotted clump of spaghetti. When one system gets upgraded, every other component is impacted, and identifying all the various integration points can be a nightmare, especially if they're being handled by many different integration tools across multiple departments.
By Implementing One Platform and Starting Small, Benefits Abound
By implementing a single IT-vetted integration platform capable of performing a range of tasks, organizations can avoid complex management and configuration challenges and instead realize a wide variety of benefits, including:
■ Greater Visibility: In any integration project, it's essential to keep tabs on which applications, systems and databases are being integrated at any given time. By serving as the single source of truth for any ongoing integration, single platforms can make it a lot easier to plan for upgrades to major applications like ERP or CRM.
■ Multi-Domain Capabilities: Since data needs to be shared across all data sources, single integration platforms that can support a variety of different use cases can be invaluable. For instance, rather than relying on a platform that only supports SaaS integrations, look for a solution that can also support hybrid, API, B2B (i.e. partner) and IoT integrations concurrently.
■ Self-Service Options: Single platforms that allow for multiple integration use cases are much easier for IT to standardize, which empowers any department in an organization — even the non-technical ones — to access the integration platform as and when they need it.
■ Fewer Vendors: Rather than having to interact with multiple integration vendors, organizations that implement a single platform via a single vendor can improve their buying power and reduce security and/or data loss risks.
A crucial best practice when making the switch from multiple integration platforms to one, single platform is to start small. Rather than trying to integrate everything at once, pinpoint the key priorities. Given the seemingly endless amount of SaaS applications most organizations subscribe to, it can be helpful to start with these to establish a SaaS integration protocol that includes a variety of departments and is repeatable for other integrations.
Democratizing Integration is Critical for Long-Term Success
Data has emerged as a competitive differentiator, and as such, it needs to be shared across all systems and made accessible for any strategic initiative. When each business department uses different persona-based tools for integration projects, however, complexity inevitably ensues and data gets siloed. Therefore, it's paramount that organizations responsibly democratize their integration efforts by putting integration tools into the hands of those who need them most to eliminate any harmful bottlenecks. Seek out integration platforms that can support a variety of user personas and is powerful enough to support ad hoc integrators and specialists.
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