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.

Rolling out the Remedy for syncing ticket data

Seamless is being used to sync tickets between Remedy and ManageEngine

Recursyv have recently deployed Seamless to integrate between two industry leading ticketing systems: BMC Remedy and ManageEngine.

Remedy / ManageEngine

Our client is an IT Support organisation who use Remedy as their primary helpdesk management tool. In turn, one of their clients uses ManageEngine for their own internal helpdesk. The ManageEngine helpdesk needs visibility of select tickets raised within Remedy so that the onsite team can provide feedback to their user community as those tickets progress.

A sea of complexity

The integration presented a number of new challenges for the Seamless service. It was great to see how our underlying engineering was able to help us address these without requiring updates to the core Seamless service. Instead of talking the talk, it was time to walk the walk.

  • One of the APIs was taking too long to respond to a data request (in excess of 20 minutes/request). This resulted in the Seamless service timing out while waiting for the data. Upon further investigation, we learnt that we could change the API request to retrieve data in a flat structure. In turn, this allowed us to use a Seamless plugin to re-normalise the data. This was a real validation of the plugin architecture and the power of putting processing at the point of need.
  • Neither system sits on the Microsoft stack and yet we’re still able to use Azure as our underlying platform to enable the Digital Transformation for both organisations. Additionally, both systems are on-premise implementations, we’re using Seamless to enable a ground <-> cloud <-> ground hybrid architecture.
  • The Remedy API is SOAP based. The ManageEngine API is RESTful. Seamless’ service bus architecture effectively decouples the integration into separate pieces meaning that connecting a SOAP API to a RESTful API was not a challenge at all.

 

When is an error not an error?

There is a complex matrix of products and product mappings between the two systems and only tickets which meet certain criteria within this matrix will be accepted by ManageEngine. Tickets which are in the resolver groups for syncing but don’t meet the product mapping criteria need to be identified and updated.

Seamless has the ability to separate errors by type. Tickets which ManageEngine does not accept on the basis of product mapping are identified as “data errors” and forwarded directly to a team at our client. From here, they can be assessed and have the product data corrected (or possibly raise the prospect of adding to the product mapping). Once the product data is corrected, Seamless identifies the ticket as having been updated within Remedy and will attempt to sync it to ManageEngine again.

Recursyv Seamless

Recursyv is focused on making application integration easy to setup and easy to operate. Recursyv’s first integration went live in early 2017 and, since then, a growing number of companies are relying on Recursyv’s Seamless integration solution to keep applications in sync.

Seamless is an application integration service that makes it easy to connect different software applications. New integrations can be quickly setup using Recursyv’s growing library of application connectors. Foundation connectors (SOAP, RESTful) are available to integrate with bespoke applications, either in the cloud or on-premise.

Seamless is provided as a managed service operated by Recursyv. The subscription fee covers access to all Recursyv connectors, initial configuration, pro-active monitoring, the ability to make reasonable configuration changes and support.

Getting fresh information into Freshdesk

Seamless has been listed in the Freshdesk Marketplace

Freshdesk

Recursyv’s Freshdesk application connector has been listed in Freshdesk’s integration library. The listing details our connector plugin allowing you to quickly deliver Freshdesk integration to any other application.

Freshdesk integration

One client who has already taken advantage of the connector to integrate Freshdesk with Dynamics is Feefo, the global reviews platform. Feefo’s sales and technical support teams are using different underlying applications meaning that sales (using Microsoft Dynamics) could not see open support tickets (managed within Freshdesk). Seamless is integrating ticket data from Freshdesk into Dynamics to give the sales team complete visibility of what is happening within their client base.

“We wanted to be sure that our sales teams were always fully informed before ringing customers. With Seamless we were able to quickly surface data from our helpdesk into our CRM.” – Wayne Elliot, Sales Manager, Feefo

Freshdesk offers intuitive, feature-rich, affordable customer support software. Freshdesk is part of a growing family of applications from Freshworks which covers all aspects of operating your business. This includes IT service desks, CRM, call center management, recruitment, messaging and online marketing.

Using the Seamless integration solution

Using the connector plugin requires subscribing to a Seamless integration and choosing to integrate to Freshdesk. Integrations can be configured by Recursyv or your own development team (using tooling provided by Recursyv). In most cases, the Freshdesk connector is being used to synchronise core data such as companies, contacts and tickets across systems although it is able to source and update all Freshdesk API accessible data.

Recursyv Seamless

Recursyv is focused on making application integration easy to setup and easy to operate. Recursyv’s first integration went live in early 2017 and, since then, a growing number of companies are relying on Recursyv’s Seamless integration solution to keep applications in sync.

Seamless is an application integration service that makes it easy to connect different software applications. New integrations can be quickly setup using Recursyv’s growing library of application connectors. Foundation connectors (SOAP, RESTful) are available to integrate with bespoke applications, either in the cloud or on-premise.

Seamless is provided as a managed service operated by Recursyv. The subscription fee covers access to all Recursyv connectors, initial configuration, pro-active monitoring, the ability to make reasonable configuration changes and support.

Being dynamic with Dynamics 365 Integrations

Easily integrate with Microsoft Dynamics 365 using Recursyv’s Seamless connector plugin.

Recursyv’s Dynamics 365 Seamless connector plugin is now available for use.

The Dynamics 365 connector allows users to quickly setup Microsoft Dynamics 365 integrations to other applications. Seamless is Recursyv’s application integration service. Seamless connects different applications using connector plugins to accelerate deployment of new integrations. The Dynamics 365 connector allows users to retrieve/update all data within Dynamics including bespoke entities, data fields and lookup values.

“Using the Dynamics 365 connector allowed us to quickly integrate our Dynamics deployment with existing software. Without an option to quickly integrate to Autotask, we would’ve struggled to rollout the Dynamics solution as easily as we did.” – Craig Fisher, Director, Technica Solutions

Is there a need for a new Dynamics integration option?

There is already an established market of existing integration tools which work with Dynamics 365. These have a long heritage in the Dynamics community. In some cases, these tools have some inherent limitations which have been baked in as they’ve evolved. Often, extending the use of these tools beyond their current feature set is hard to achieve.

Seamless allows developers to extend connector plugins, including the Dynamics 365 plugin, using .NET. This allows developers to take advantage of Seamless core features while also providing the flexibility to disable unwanted features and develop bespoke features to meet specific business requirements.

In some cases, existing tools require additional infrastructure and cannot be operated as cloud-only services.

Seamless is delivered entirely in the cloud and requires no additional infrastructure. It is able to connect cloud and on-premises systems to enable true hybrid architectures.

What about tools provided alongside Dynamics 365?
Dynamics 365 enables users to write Azure aware custom plug-ins enabling data to be written to/from an Azure Service Bus. This approach has some structural limitations in that it is based on a trigger driven activity (i.e. when x happens, do y). This approach imposes some limitations on error handling (when a post to Azure fails) and underlying implications on system load within Dynamics.

Seamless is architected as a polling service, this allows it to be more robust in guaranteeing message delivery as well as in configuring its impact on Dynamics system load.

Azure aware Dynamics plugins are predicated on using an Azure Service Bus, requiring additional development to read/write data at the other end of the integration. It also requires the user to establish and manage their own Azure environment requiring them to learn a new technical stack.

Seamless is provided as a managed service connecting two more applications. Plugins already exist for a number of other applications and new plugins for bespoke use can be quickly developed using Seamless plugin framework.

The most recent Dynamics 365 version introduces a feature called Virtual Entities. Although Virtual Entities are great for displaying external data within the Dynamics UI, that data cannot be worked on, updated or analysed within Dynamics.

Seamless places the data into Dynamics 365 as data which can then be used for business processes, updated and synchronised back to the original data source.

Using the Seamless integration solution

The Dynamics 365 plugin is already live in a number of implementations connecting Dynamics to, among others, Autotask, Hoopla and Freshdesk.

Using the connector plugin requires subscribing to a Seamless integration and choosing to integrate to Dynamics 365. Integrations can be configured by Recursyv or your own development team (using tooling provided by Recursyv).

Recursyv Seamless

Recursyv is focused on making application integration easy to setup and easy to operate. Recursyv’s first integration went live in early 2017 and, since then, a growing number of companies are relying on Recursyv’s Seamless integration solution to keep applications in sync.

Seamless is an application integration service that makes it easy to connect different software applications. New integrations can be quickly setup using Recursyv’s growing library of application connectors. Foundation connectors (SOAP, RESTful) are available to integrate with bespoke applications, either in the cloud or on-premise.

Seamless is provided as a managed service operated by Recursyv. The subscription fee covers access to all Recursyv connectors, initial configuration, pro-active monitoring, the ability to make reasonable configuration changes and support.

Automate your Autotask integration

Seamless has been listed in the Autotask integration library

Recursyv listing

Recursyv’s Autotask <-> Dynamics 365 Seamless integration template is now listed in Autotask’s integration library. The integration template integrates Autotask and Dynamics 365 based on pre-configured data mappings. The integration template includes (1) bi-directional sync of Accounts and Contacts and, optionally, (2) Autotask –> Dynamics sync of tickets.

For more complex requirements, the Autotask connector plugin is able to connect Autotask to Seamless and, from there, to integrate it to any system using Seamless.

“Using the Autotask connector meant we were able to accelerate delivery of additional applications into our business. We used our Autotask data as our initial data set and, after populating the new system, we now keep both systems in sync with each other using Recursyv’s Seamless. It’s great that we’re able to ensure our staff work on the most up-to-date information no matter which system they need to work on.” – Craig Fisher, Director, Technica Solutions

Templated or bespoke?

The integration template listed by Autotask’s includes (1) bi-directional sync of Accounts and Contacts and, optionally, (2) Autotask –> Dynamics sync of tickets. This approach enables businesses using Dynamics for CRM to ensure that customer data is kept in-sync across both systems as well as providing Autotask ticket information as reference data within Dynamics.

Recursyv recognise that different helpdesk operations have different approaches to incident resolution, workflows and queuing. Building an implied operational structure into the template seemed like we’d be making the template harder to use rather than easier to use.

As the integration template uses the Recursyv connector plugins for Autotask and Dynamics 365, all the flexibility of these plugins remains. Users of the integration template can easily extend their use of Seamless to include additional data types (e.g. Autotask Projects), additional list values and/or bi-directional syncing of ticket information.

If you need to sync ticket information bi-directionally, or want to introduce other data types, please reach out to us and we can discuss how to set these up as part of implementing your integration.

Using the Seamless integration solution

The Autotask connector plugin is already live in implementations connecting Dynamics to Autotask. The integration template listed in the Autotask library specifically focuses on connecting Autotask to Dynamics 365. The Seamless Autotask plugin can also be used to connect Autotask to any system using the Seamless platform.

Using the connector plugin requires subscribing to a Seamless integration and choosing to integrate to Autotask. Integrations can be configured by Recursyv or your own development team (using tooling provided by Recursyv).

Recursyv Seamless

Recursyv focuses on making application integration easy to setup and easy to operate. Recursyv’s first integration went live in early 2017 and, since then, a growing number of companies are relying on Recursyv’s Seamless integration solution to keep applications in sync.

Seamless is an application integration service that makes it easy to connect different software applications. New integrations can be quickly setup using Recursyv’s growing library of application connectors. Foundation connectors (SOAP, RESTful) are available to integrate with bespoke applications, either in the cloud or on-premise.

Seamless is provided as a managed service operated by Recursyv. The subscription fee covers access to all Recursyv connectors, pro-active monitoring, the ability to make reasonable configuration changes and support.

[icon name=”phone” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]  If you’re looking to integrate Autotask with Dynamics, or any other application, please reach out and discuss with us how we can address this, quickly and affordably.

Rolling out the big guns – SQL Server, MySQL and Oracle

The initial development of Seamless focused on ensuring we could support clients and opportunities that we were, at the time, working on. That quickly resulted in connector plugins for Microsoft Dynamics, Freshdesk, Autotask, Hoopla and SharePoint lists. As these have been stable and in use for a while now, this has given us the chance to focus on building connector plugins for more popular enterprise-grade tools.

That left us with an interesting choice … what next? We decided we’d focus on a handful of widely used applications which are deployed in thousands of different ways at organisations across the globe: Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL and Oracle. We’re delighted to announce these are now built, tested and hungry for data.

 

Seamless wall of fame May 2017

 

These plugins are all configurable, offering the best mix of rapid deployment and ability to control and extend the plugin’s work to meet the requirement at hand.

  • Configure mappings (i.e. fields to integrate) using XML to identify relevant tables and fields
  • Extend the feature set of these plugins using .Net to code extensions which are deployed on top of the existing plugins (i.e. you are not constrained by the limitations of any given plugin)

 

[icon name=”phone” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]  If you have an integration need for any of these technologies, please reach out and discuss with us how we can address this, quickly and affordably.

[icon name=”exchange” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]  More information on Seamless can be found here.