In a recent study, 97% of organizations surveyed said they are currently planning digital transformation initiatives.1 Often, one of the first steps to implementing digital transformation efforts involves integrating an organization’s enterprise applications.
Application integration is important because it enables applications and systems that were built separately to work better together. It allows you to merge and optimize various datapoints and workflows between multiple applications by creating a seamless experience between existing on-premises systems and newer, cloud-based applications.
This makes application integration key to digital transformation because it enables organizations to create personalized, customer-focused engagement models that provide a holistic, omni-channel experience and a 360-degree view of customers. It opens doors for organizations looking to provide new services, optimize operations, improve insights, reduce exposure to security risks and increase agility.
The challenges of application integration
Of those companies surveyed, 84% find that application integration challenges slow their digital transformation efforts. Nearly half of the 650 IT leaders in the study said they use more than 1,000 applications across their business, and only 29% of those applications were integrated.1
This means these companies are not leveraging their data and legacy applications as well as they could to benefit their business. It also means their organization is not as cost-effective or efficient as it could be since they are not maximizing their existing investments.
Application integration poses challenges for many IT leaders and oftentimes issues are created due to a lack of integration experts, ineffective communication between siloed business units, and the inability to see what applications are in use—and are of highest priority—across the organization.
A renewed focus on application integration, especially in the following scenarios, will help you modernize your organization, deliver an improved customer experience with real-time data and accuracy, and find success with your digital transformation initiatives.
4 Key drivers of application integration
Apart from an overall need to digitally transform, here are four key drivers of application integration that cause IT leaders to focus on bridging the disconnect between their systems and applications:
1. Interface consolidation allows you to merge your data and your endpoints into a single source of truth, simplifying your applications upfront. This will reduce the cost of maintaining multiple interfaces, which is important for IT leaders looking to keep their digital transformation budgets under control. Rather than recreating a system functionality elsewhere, it enables multiple applications to use a single, common interface. In addition, you will eliminate the redundant endpoints that give rise to issues with system maintenance, scalability and data governance. Overall, it enables you to simplify your applications, reducing their overall footprint without sacrificing functionality and reachability.
Implementing a services catalog is one way to identify and organize the services exposed by your applications. By tracking information such as the endpoint URL, function, stored procedure, input and output data elements and the consumers of any particular endpoint/service, you will gain immediate insight into the interface’s reusability score. It will also provide Information about similar data structures. This information will be important for developing an integration roadmap, core data model and an effective plan for interface consolidation.
2. Mergers or acquisitions (M&As): When companies go through mergers and acquisitions, IT usually feels the brunt of the initial challenges because it forces an integration of each company’s inventory of technology. The newly combined company is exposed to a number of anticipated or unknown and unintended risks, largely because its disparate structures, applications and systems need to be aligned.
Developing a systems consolidation plan will help. This plan should take into consideration an objective strength assessment of each platform or system that the newly consolidated company now owns. The strength assessment of each system should help drive the overall integration roadmap.
3. Creating an API framework: API-driven integrations bring the services end-user or consumer to the center of the decision-making process. APIs and interfaces are created with the goal of rapid innovation based upon high reusability and faster development speed. â€‹â€‹A successful API framework needs to be completed in a short amount of time and with great customer appeal, and then the integrations are built upon that.
4. Security: Because different applications follow different security models, while integrating applications, your security should cover critical aspects such as: application, transport, network, physical access, logs and mobility. While designing your integration strategy, each of these should be holistically and separately considered.
For example, if the applications you are integrating are authorized using basic authentication (application security), but the underlying transport layer is http (transport security), then there is a huge risk that a malicious element could intercept the authentication credentials while the data is being transmitted through the wire.
Another example could be, if your integration platform is built upon solid security models, it will consider the sensitivity of the data being recorded when capturing audit logs.
Best practice recommendations for ongoing success
Investing in an integration platform is a long-term commitment. It’s the foundational element of your IT infrastructure and often involves difficult choices or tradeoffs between short-term, point-to-point objectives and building reusable services such as hub and spoke.
One way to ensure you are building the integration platform that meets the needs of your IT and your business is to work with an expert, third-party advisor. They can help you make these decisions based on proven experience with thousands of clients in all major industries. They can also help you evaluate your entire ecosystem so you can build and maintain a service catalog that truly serves your needs.
You will need to keep tight control on your services and API lifecycle through an active governance team. If you do not have these skills in-house, this is another area where an independent consultant can help. And finally, you will need to consider your customer and your product right from the startto ensure your application integration will meet your SLAs and produce the best outcomes now and in the future.
1. “7 Considerations for IT’s Never-Ending Integration Challenges,” CMS, April 2019
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