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TDWI Upside - Where Data Means Business

The Challenge of Integration and the Role of iPaaS

Automation is the future of business. If your enterprise doesn't adopt a powerful, holistic application integration strategy, it may lose out to competitors that do.

Many business applications today are so easy to deploy, IT teams are no longer the requisite decision makers when it comes to purchasing and implementing them. Now, individual departments can pick the best-of-breed apps they want for their specific tasks. The possibilities are endless. As amazing and essential as many of these apps may be, though, is it possible to have too many of them?

For Further Reading:

Data Integration and Machine Learning: A Natural Synergy

Taming Cloud Data Integration Complexity

In the Middle of DatA Integration Is AI

As the volume of data grows, so do data silos, manual processes, and the number of spreadsheets. In the end, the fluid exchange of information is critical in any organization, large or small. As the volume of data and complexity of an organization expands, establishing a robust automation strategy becomes critical.

A key component of this strategy involves connecting data and processes across disparate applications. This process is known as integration, and to achieve it, most companies use a hodgepodge of tactics to combine their many business processes.

Options for Integration

The concept of integrating applications has existed for years, but for most companies, it's an afterthought when new applications are added. Integration projects are often tackled on an as-needed basis and when they ultimately do move forward, companies often use a patchwork of application integration solutions, including the following.

Build-It-Yourself (DIY) Integrations. This is a favorite of IT departments. By leveraging code and APIs, custom integrations can be powerful and are often the path preferred by operational teams. However, they are incredibly time consuming and require a host of trained technical resources to implement. DIY application integrations require building critical functionality such as error-handling and data-delivery guarantees. Further, as processes change, these application integrations need to be meticulously maintained and updated by already-stretched technical resources.

Native or Vendor Built-in Integrations. Software often includes out-of-the-box native integrations allowing users to quickly connect with specific applications. For example, practically every marketing automation tool today connects to Salesforce. However, although native integrations might be presented as value-added features to help sell the software, in reality these features are typically not designed with enough flexibility or customization to address important edge cases.

Third-Party Point-to-Point (P2P) Connectors. Point-to-point connectors may be very cost effective and simple to use in the beginning. However, with thousands of cloud apps available today, it's difficult to develop integrations for every possible permutation. Prebuilt P2P connectors tend to be limited in scope and often lack the flexibility or power to handle complex use cases.

 

Integration Type

Pros

Cons

Native or Built-in

Handles most common use cases, easiest to set up

Limited ability to handle customizations and edge cases

3rd Party Point-to-Point (P2P)

Simple to use, low upfront costs

Limited number of prebuilt use cases, hard to customize and scale

Build It Yourself

Most control and customization

Heavy dependence on technical resources for building and maintaining, hard to scale

Standardizing Integrations with iPaaS

Custom integrations led entirely by technical teams are no longer suited for today's business climate. Processes need continuous modifications. Market opportunities and threats appear in the blink of an eye. Employees come and go. Customers expect immediate and perfect responses. Every day new applications become prominent while others become less useful.

As a result, IT departments often struggle to consistently manage the changing needs of companies that are progressively automating. These enterprises are increasingly interested in offloading some of the integration management to users themselves.

One of the increasingly common integration strategies today involves the adoption of an integration platform-as-a-service, or iPaaS. The term was coined by advisory firm Gartner in referring to a cloud-based integration platform that makes connecting applications and business processes much easier. IPaaS solutions holistically standardize how applications are added to an organization, making it easier to automate business processes to move static or transactional data across applications while providing critical functionality out of the box.

IPaaS platforms also make it easier for both technical and non-technical users to quickly integrate applications. They are generally simple solutions that easily guides business users through the step-by-step process of creating and managing powerful integrations without relying on IT. Similarly, the tech department is now able to focus on projects that drive bottom-line revenue instead of managing integrations.

IPaaS as a Key Component of an Automation Strategy

Automation is one of the most important tactics to ensure operational success in an age of soaring competition and high customer expectations and integration is a key component to automation. Today, iPaaS technology is becoming a critical part of a company's tech stack and considered much earlier in an integration project. A well-considered integration strategy supported by a robust iPaaS solution ensures applications are working in concert, offering maximum efficiencies and productivity gains.

Automation is the future of business and the companies that don't adopt a powerful, holistic application integration strategy will lose out to those that do.

About the Author

Rico Andrade oversees marketing organization at Celigo, where is he is responsible for the company’s brand, messaging, demand generation, outreach programs, events, and communications. He holds degrees in computer science and communication from Stanford University. You can connect with the author on LinkedIn.


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