Linking systems through a single integration platform gets your business moving faster
Over the past few years, there have been many changes in the landscape of enterprise integration. In the mid to late 90s, there were multiple tools to handle the different integration requirements for data, business to business (B2B) and application to application (A2A). This meant if your company had to meet all of these integration requirements, you had to either code your own solutions or purchase and support multiple products to solve that one problem, Integration.
Your first integration requirement may have been B2B. Why? Mainly because your largest trading partner told you to do it. They were changing the way they do business and requested that you stop calling in and faxing your orders to them and instead, start sending them electronically. Most often they would specify the data format, which could be EDI or flat file and later XML. This single request, with possibly an unrealistic deadline, lead to a quick fix to accommodate this partner. It wasn’t planned; but it had to happen. Current projects had to be put on hold and re-prioritized in order to fulfill this request. Once implemented, the fire is out and you could go back to business. But, as time goes on, more and more of your trading partners are requesting to do business this way. This tactical solution soon became an integral part of your normal business activities.
A few years later, you are faced with a multitude of new integration challenges: A2A and data integration. Different departments in your company needed to consume each other’s data from multiple disparate systems. Customer service needed information from the order processing system and the warehouse in order to accommodate your customer’s needs. Your data was also at risk of becoming stale, so you needed to keep all of this data up to date in real time. There were many ways to accomplish this, but you couldn’t spend too much time on it. So, you either coded a quick solution, or bought another commercial application to fill this need. Unfortunately, these internal integration needs keep growing and you are constantly finding ways to accommodate. This tactical solution also became an integral part of your normal business activities.
Here we are, a few more years down the road, and another type of integration is becoming popular: cloud integration. Your company is implementing cloud solutions; your trading partners are implementing cloud solutions; your competitors are implementing cloud solutions. Now you need to support cloud integration. Instead of interfacing with databases and files, you now have to interface with services and APIs. Don’t forget, you are still maintaining your B2B and A2A integrations and you may still be accommodating some of your smaller trading partners needs by processing spreadsheets, manually. You also may be generating excel reports for internal distribution, manually. And now it is time for yet another tactical integration solution or two.
You manage to apply solutions to all of the different integration scenarios you encounter. But you also have to maintain them. And once you reach a certain threshold, the number of programs or applications may become unmanageable. Once this happens, you realize that you have been integrating solutions instead of integrating your business. Before the next integration requirement becomes your next “project”, you may want to take a step back, analyze your integration environments and come up with an all-encompassing strategy to solve your integration needs that can scale with the growth of your business with one single integration product.