A mature integration strategy, a strong governance framework and robust implementation of such an integration framework largely determine the success of your Digital Transformation initiative.
In this blog, we discuss common integration challenges faced by large enterprises and present a wider scope for Integration that transcends organizational boundaries. A well-planned Integration strategy must facilitate your enterprise to talk to systems internally, talk to partners and their offerings, talk to third-party businesses to collaborate and take new offerings to market. It must help you to offer Platform business models in your own industry or adjacent industry verticals. The ability to build such an extended enterprise, a strong business differentiator, is made possible by a mature Integration foundation. Integration is thus a business value enabler.
As a CIO, your ability to support the Business is proportional to the focus on your Integration landscape maturity. A well-oiled integration machinery enables your success in rapidly launching new business offerings, supporting channels of access and seamlessly helping consume and provide data to/from third parties. A lack of this capability typically results in “shadow IT teams” within business units with their own Integration capabilities.
Common integration challenges in large enterprises
In most large enterprises, IT has grown and evolved over the years in size and complexity. This includes in-house custom developed applications and off-the-shelf business applications such as CRM, ERP, Billing, etc. Though, there is a customer facing element in these systems, these systems were not designed to factor multiple channels of access, exposure of data and core use-cases as APIs, to third parties.
Compare this with today’s Digital Native start-ups. They have low barriers to entry through Mobile-ready, API-friendly, third-party SaaS solutions. Large enterprises don’t have the luxury to “flip-the-switch” and move over to these new solutions in one-go.
Legacy and modern IT options will need to co-exist to factor in the vast amounts of customer and business data that have grown over the years as part of the legacy set-up. Making changes to your integration landscape to support such efficient co-existence of on-premise and SaaS applications is usually a part of integration transformation.
The most common challenges related to integration we see are:
- Lack of visibility of data outside the teams that manage its lifecycle, i.e. data at rest in the systems of record, in the respective backend systems.
- Ad-hoc, point to point integrations over the years to support urgent business needs that are not documented, published or made discoverable. This results in duplicate points being established across the same set of systems for similar requirements from different business units.
- Lack of Integration Governance from a Process and Technology standpoint. This leads to a fragmented technology landscape with inconsistent integration approaches.
- Challenges in keeping the specifications, documentation and metadata current, as there is no clear owner to enforce this, even if there is visibility of legacy integrations through a repository.
- Testing end-to-end use cases is a challenge as different teams need to co-ordinate and provision the test data required to conduct meaningful tests.
- Operational difficulties in tracing transactions across different silos due to lack of adequate tooling.
All or many of the factors stated above collectively influence the successful delivery of strategic business transformation initiatives.
"Integration-first" approach to digital transformation
Most challenges described above can be addressed by re-aligning objectives of the Integration team in your organisation. Objectives need to be aligned to outcome-driven capabilities. A sample list of Integration capabilities mapped to business objectives is shown below for reference. This approach is key to ensuring we don’t use technology for technology’s sake; instead make the technology choices business-purpose driven.
The ability of Integration to meet business objectives as illustrated in the diagram above determines the measurement. We could measure this across four key areas:
As a business enabler
Ability to launch new offerings within timelines is a critical area of measurement. The complexity of your integration landscape should not create a bottleneck to implement the required changes such as creating or changing integration flows and/or adding a new component to the architecture. The needs of digital ecosystems and third-party consumption demand scalable, robust and stable back-end applications and legacy systems. Application Modernisation initiatives should align to the needs of your digital offerings.
Experience of engagement
To render a world-class experience to your customers, you need to focus on a combination of the degree of automation, self-service, discoverability, testability, abstraction and customer friendliness, all orchestrated by the Integration team. The team should work to reduce friction in using integration flows across multiple projects and across multiple teams.
As part of our API and Service Factory engagements, we use a survey to measure “Consumer Satisfaction Index” that captures the “customer experience” and “perception” aspects of engaging with the integration team. Tools such as RepoProTM enable you to publish services and APIs to allow easy discovery.
Return on investment
This is a metric defined and measured by the sponsor of the integration program. It deals with the definition and implementation of funding and chargeback models to build the integration technology stack, development of components, microservices, APIs, etc.
Over a period of time, RoI is measured as a function of usage metrics of these integration components (microservices, APIs, etc) that actually fulfil one or more business offerings. A factory based delivery model for APIs is cost effective, as it defines a unit of work using “service point” methodology.
Runtime / Operational experience
Most transactions in enterprises span the digital channel of access to the last mile such as an ERP system or a legacy application. The integration framework in such transactions become critical as any downtime in any component in the chain will lead to revenue loss from your digital offering. Operational maturity of your integration estate is therefore paramount to ensure service uptime and responsiveness.
Special focus is also needed on the infrastructure, especially considering the extended boundaries of on-premise and cloud applications.
The role of governance in securing the business value of integration
Integration Governance, a subset of IT Governance, defines and enforces discipline in your integration framework. It helps establish the technology and process foundation, in alignment with business strategy and future business capabilities.
Torry Harris Integration Solutions works with you to put together a robust governance framework required to secure the business value of integration.
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