Digital transformation continues to increase in criticality for enterprise business. In fact, Statista reports that by 2023, spending on the technologies and services that enable digital transformation worldwide is expected to amount to 2.3 trillion U.S. dollars.
Why does digital transformation remain such a high priority? Because today’s customers expect seamless digital experiences that offer convenience and personalization. Enterprises need to create new customer and user experiences through connections across a network of applications that leverage all kinds of data. They can achieve this through integration.
What is integration and how can it help?
IT integration means real-time business communication between multiple entities, applications and components. Integration helps you connect and extend your internal and external systems by establishing a high performing integration & Application Programming Interface (API) platform that is nimble, secure and guarantees message delivery. This core platform establishes a solid but flexible integration and API hub for facilitating your organization’s internal and external communications.
As organizations need to improve integration to optimize their digital business, they find themselves trying to connect or integrate with more customer touchpoints than ever before. There is also a dramatic shift in teams moving from on-premise deployments to cloud deployment in order to support remote workforce needs.
It can be extremely challenging for IT leaders to bring together processes and information sources at the right times, make them available to the right people and ensure they are secured—all with the speed your business needs. To do that, you should make sure your integration capabilities are aligned strategically with your business objectives, so you can effectively shift to the new world of containers, cloud and increasing customer touch points.
Where to start building your integration plan?
In order to build an effective integration plan, start by asking yourself: what is the business problem? Are you trying to consolidate your landscape after a merger or acquisition, or do you need to connect to multiple clouds to better support your remote workforce? Are there any impending events that would dictate a change to your software or deployment strategy?
Do you need to scale your business to support demand, but don’t have the resources to back that up?
When you take a closer look at the scenarios impacting your business, you will be able to determine how to best integrate your technology to boost your digital capabilities. Security should be a part of every discussion, as it remains one of the biggest challenges. You should consider all aspects of security, including your systems, applications, people, information and data. Time-to-market is also important, especially in times like these where companies are facing unprecedented challenges.
Challenging scenarios for business
Here are examples of how integration is important to helping companies quickly evolve to overcome difficult situations, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of the pandemic, one California hospital recently had many medical professionals either working from home or taking shifts. With the hospital’s current technology capabilities, business leaders did not have any visibility into their fluctuating schedules. By quickly improving integration between multiple systems, the hospital was able to create a dashboard that made it easy for medical workers to provide data executives needed to better manage their scheduling efforts.
A large retailer was expanding its warehouse during the pandemic. Many of the company’s brick and mortar stores—stores that customers had visited daily for shopping—were suddenly being utilized as partial warehouses. The need for more warehouse space disappeared and was replaced by the need to improve the online shopping experience. In order to make this happen, the company’s integration plans needed to shift, and fast. By focusing on integration, the retailer was able to better collect and ues data to provide a personalized online shopping experience while improving inventory management.
A large banking system was already struggling for connectivity between multiple endpoints. These challenges only grew during the pandemic because of the increased remote computing, data retrievals and data deployments required to conduct transactions between branches. This bank looked at ways to leverage IT integration capabilities to not only increase speed to market, but also improve ways the banking staff could access system IT better remotely.
4 Best-practices to improve your IT integration plan
When it comes to integration, there may not be a magic bullet, but if you consider these best-practice tips, you will be on your way toward integration success.
1. Conduct a gap analysis
Once you’ve identified your business needs, you should conduct a gap analysis to find any missing links that might keep you from achieving your goals. Look at the technologies you intend to use to enhance your business capabilities and adapt to new changes. Consider what enterprise-wide integration would need to look like to meet your goals. Think about the endpoints you will need to connect with, and of course, consider any/all security needs that may need to be integrated into your systems.
It can help to have an outside perspective. You may want to engage an experienced technology partner to work with during the gap analysis process. A partner with years of experience can leverage its broad industry experience to share gaps identified by others in your industry. This broader perspective can help validate the areas where you are “doing it right,” and identify any potential areas where improvements can be made.
2. Fail faster
It may sound counterintuitive to have a rapid failure rate, but this will help you expedite your time-to-market. Why? Because new models come and go quickly. When you embrace the fact that you need to fail fast, you will be able to test your solutions quickly and then move on. Do not wait for six months to complete your design. This may sound like common sense, but it is an area where many companies struggle. For example, when you consider service and usability, try not to stress out too much about service for reusability. Since each consumer, channel and integration is different, a service you think is reusable across multiple connections right now may not be in a year’s time.
3. Allow your business goals and pains to drive solutions, not the other way around
Companies have a tendency to jump on products and solutions before they even understand their business goals, problems or pain points. Using a more methodical approach can help you do more—knowing upfront that you will need to reinvent along the way. As you adapt, you may see a failure. But that only means you will adapt again—and learn from your mistakes as you go. It’s a dynamic process, not a static one. With a keen focus on business needs, you will connect to the right application, solution, tool or asset that has the best chance to solve your problems faster.
4. Get the experts on board
When you work with an experienced technology advisor that has product, domain and implementation expertise, as well as partnerships with best-in-class solutions providers and required certifications and training—this can give you a bird’s eye view and expedite your integration process.
Working with third-party professionals who are not only integration experts, but also experts in cybersecurity, digital transformation, business analysis and more can be a real advantage.
Find a partner who can help you:
- achieve faster product delivery and fulfillment
- provide seamless integration across business channels
- simplify your data access and seamlessly implement API services
- reduce the cost and complexity of your enterprise architecture
- enable “big picture insights that include a common visualization layer on top of all the data that passes through the hub
- control workload flow
- apply appropriate governance measures to manage multiple system integrations
Third-party consultation should include a comprehensive roadmap or maturity curve that gives you a look at where you are and where you need to go. See if you are in the “crawl”, “walk”, or “run” stage. If you’re crawling, ask for specific recommendations for how to walk, or run. When your IT maturity is plotted out on a curve and backed by quantitative analysis, you will quickly see the steps you must take to reach your goals.
Some common goals related to integration include creating new customer experiences, personalized promotions, real-time communication, and responsive applications. Whatever your goal, integration is key to digital transformation and streamlining your architecture so it is more agile and simpler to manage.