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Why is integration so often an afterthought?

HeartOn their own a heart, lungs and a liver would be pretty useless. But when you join them up using the vascular system (arteries, veins, capillaries), all of sudden the sum becomes greater than the whole. Each of our organs has a “specialist role” and when they perform to role, the work they do is invaluable. The heart pumps blood, the lungs oxygenate blood, the liver helps you recover from a big night out.

In this admittedly sketchy analogy, IT systems are no different. Each IT system in your business has a specialist role which it (hopefully) does very well. Most businesses will have a financial system (invoices, accounting, etc.). Some will have point-of-sales systems (POS), some have a sales or contact management system (CRM), most will have an email system. Many, possibly even most, will have a core line-of-business system which helps manage or control the primary business function of the company.

All too often there is no vascular system connecting all of these disparate applications together. Each system operates using its own data set “knowing” things which it is not “sharing” with other systems. Has Customer A paid us in full? Does Customer B have any open queries? These are pieces of information which users across the business could, and should, use to make more informed decisions.

Why are businesses not building their vascular systems?
Why do so many businesses not focus on linking up their IT applications?

 

Is there a fear that integration is too expensive?

Possibly. Traditionally the software that connects up applications – known as middleware – was expensive. It required specialist infrastructure and a lot of work just to get the application talking to the middleware.

Two market forces have arisen to challenge this. Firstly, in the era of cloud applications, the only infrastructure required to run modern infrastructure is often a data connection. Secondly, the advent of common APIs means that connecting to many applications has become much simpler.

Is there a fear that integration is too complicated?

Possibly. Connecting system A to system B requires some degree of planning. It cannot be denied that there will be some work to line up data fields in either system and to ensure that business processes on either side will still operate with data being added/updated.

Using templated connectors and a proven, rigorous, analysis means that the complications can be minimised. Most businesses are not in the business of running complicated IT projects. Using integration templates, supported by repeatable analysis for non-standard data, means the complications can be quickly resolved.

Is there a fear that integration will take too long?

Possibly. For a myriad of reasons, IT projects have a reputation for taking longer than expected. Most companies are not in the business of running long IT projects, they take energy and focus away from day-to-day operations.

Using a well designed toolset which has a demonstrable ability to rapidly deploy integrations removes a lot of the risk. Templates for many common applications, coupled with underlying foundation connectors for common integration scenarios, mean that any development is fast-tracked before it even begins.

Does it have to be expensive, complicated or time consuming?

Of course not. Although admittedly, if the answer were yes that would be a pretty surprising take for this post!

For all too long, sophisticated integration has been the preserve of large enterprises enterprises who could justify the cost, and associated complications, with managing traditional options. Cloud options and the uniquity of APIs has drastically reduced the cost profile of setting up and operating integrations. Complications can be controlled by using a reliable toolset. And the time to deliver can be accelerated by using re-usable components.

With the introduction of reliable, cloud based infrastructure-as-a-service options, coupled with well designed tooling, sophisticated integration is accessible to companies of all sizes.

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