Tag Archives: integration

Any-to-Any Integration

This blog post is part one of a series encompassing the top ten must-haves when selecting an integration solution.

For many organizations, integration capabilities have become mission-critical. They have also increased in complexity. It is now more difficult than ever for companies to produce the right data, in the proper format and at the right time when making key decisions. The result is data integrity and confidentiality risk. More importantly, you risk losing business, as external and internal consumers of data will quickly lose trust and walk away.

With the multitude of niche integration solutions now available, companies must navigate a complex and costly environment, often times incredibly difficult to manage. These point solutions bear inherent risks of inaccuracy and inconsistency, as each solution has in place different procedures and best practices.it-ecosystem

With this in mind, organizations have begun consolidating their solutions to simplify their environment while addressing newer requirements. This has resulted in the adoption of singular, comprehensive solutions that can seamlessly perform any-to-any integration.

Any-to-any integration includes the ability to transform any type of source format to any type of target format. This includes integration of flat files, databases, applications, various standardized files (e.g., X12, EDIFACT), XML or any other structured file. It also includes the integration of trading partners, hubs, web applications and internal applications.

Any-to-any integration also refers to the ability to connect and exchange information regardless of communication protocols used to transport the message. More importantly, it is critical for integration to extend beyond A2A and B2B, to include data file transfers, process automation and integration with the cloud and SaaS.

Unfortunately, many companies simply don’t have a full understanding of what they need in an integration solution and, therefore, end up spending a lot of unnecessary time and money developing custom solutions to enable processes such as integration with SaaS or cloud data. The right integration solution should allow you to work with data in any format from source to destination and process from one end point to another, regardless of platform or technology stack. And, along the way, it should seamlessly perform transformation and validation in a secure and quick manner.

For more information on any-to-any integration and other integration solution must-haves, download our “Top Ten Must-Haves of an Integrated Solution” whitepaper.  wp-download

The Dollar Value of Integration – Part 1: Time to Revenue

As you know, Time to Revenue is the period of time from the signing of a contract until the business arrangement starts to produce revenue.  Depending on the complexity of the contract, it could be days, weeks, months or longer.

When we talk about Integration between external suppliers and both our internal and external customers, months and quarters are simply too long.

Consider that your salesman just landed that new big account, but it requires electronic data exchange.  With a single integration platform handling all EDI transactions, your customer’s purchase orders will flow into your system in days.  What this means is that your company is producing revenue from the new customer in a matter of days.  Any CFO would be delighted with this news.

Now, let’s take this example a little further.  We are receiving POs just days after signing the contract, but we only recognize the value AFTER we can ship and invoice the customer.  Again, your integration platform comes to the rescue by creating data flows that identify when shipments and invoices are created in your back-end system and convert them into a format that the customer can already accept. 

In this example, we did not burden or disrupt the way your customer does business.  What really happened is that you just made it easier for companies to do more business with YOU.

If you can quickly onboard new customers, you not only recognize revenue, but your company will gain a reputation of being easy to do business with and you will help to build very strong customer loyalty.  It may even be the competitive advantage that allows you to become your customer’s Vendor of Choice.

Integration is a competitive advantage that positions your company to say “Yes” to your customers and partners.  When you can confidently say “Yes” to data integration requests, you are positioned to grow your revenue streams deeper and wider.

Watch the Integration Power$ Business 3-part mini-series at: www.extol.com/bethehero

When to Consider an Integration Platform

As businesses grow and evolve, so do the internal applications, systems and processes they depend on to run their operations. In addition to IT changes, they also encounter changes with departments, people, trading partners and other internal and external responsibilities. The impact of these changes is often not realized until it reaches a “Critical Point.” The Critical Point could be anything from performance degradation of both systems and people to losing business because of it. Some of the contributors could be the processes, the flow of data or even the format of the data being exchanged between internal and external applications (including cloud) and trading partners. This may signify the need for an Integration Platform in your organization. Factors that affect the need for an Integration Platform are specifically:

·Organizational changes – There may be people leaving, new people being added to your company or departmental responsibilities shifting. When there are organization changes at this level, domain expertise can be lost leading to process paralysis.

·New trading partner mandates – To start doing business with a new trading partner, you must accommodate their data and communication requirements.

·Customer retention – To keep current customers, accommodating their business requests is critical and may include modifications to the data format or a new format implementation.

·Executive mandate – New directives may have been received from the executive team to consolidate all redundant data and/or siloed applications.

·Business process improvement –Improving performance and efficiency of your business processes may require redefinition of the processes that move data throughout the organization and to/from trading partners.

·Systems modernization – The current implementation may include many legacy solutions for each partner or application that is reliant on fragile custom coded solutions. Consider modernizing systems to remove the dependency on custom coded solutions.

·Automation – Automating the transfer of data between your applications and partners would improve reliability and data safety.

·Electronic transfer – Compliance with certain e-commerce or government mandates could drive an opportunity for innovation.

If any of the above factors are occurring in your organization, it is time to consider adding an Integration Platform to accommodate the changes before your systems reach that “Critical Point”.

Death by 1,000 Integration Tools

Unlike traditional on-premise software, the economics of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) allow for profitable delivery of narrow, highly-specialized applications. As a result, the average SaaS application user consumes more applications than an average user of on-premise software. GetApp currently tracks over 5800 business apps and estimates that there are around 10,000 SaaS vendors, worldwide. And according to Intermedia, the average small-to-medium business uses more than 14 applications, from a variety of vendors.

Few applications, SaaS or otherwise, function as closed systems. So it’s no surprise that the explosion of SaaS applications has produced an aftershock of tools for integrating with external (cloud and on-premise) data and applications. SaaS leaders like Salesforce.com and NetSuite support ecosystems with tens or hundreds of integration options. But even the smallest SaaS application vendors offer one or two integration options. Continue reading

Healthy Processes Simplify Change

What causes a company to change? It could be something as large as a merger or acquisition, or as small as deciding to use less paper around the office. Sometimes change can be scary, in part because it tends to shine a light on the dysfunctional processes within the company.

For example, when planning for change, a company might notice that they have been following a process that no longer is relevant or efficient. Too often a process is accepted, even if it is a dysfunctional one, which ultimately impacts the bottom line. If companies are not evaluating their operational processes on a constant basis, adapting to change will become more difficult.

Establishing regular evaluations of business processes will give more control over operations and help reduce the “fear factor” of having to make a bad decision while adapting to change. That said, evaluating processes requires having complete visibility to them. To do this, companies who have fully integrated their systems and application data will be able to see where their workflow bottlenecks or drop-offs are.

With a single integration tool connecting the entire organization, any department can view the health of operational processes. Automated notices can be set up to alert specific people of process disruptions, while dashboard views and on-demand reports can be called up by anyone, from the IT Manager to the CFO. Looking at data moving through the entire organization gives companies a global view over whether invoices were received, bids were answered on time, or even to check against a chargeback claim.

Whether companies strategically change for growth, or reactively change from market pressure, evaluating current process efficiencies will be at the top of the change plan. Utilizing integration to proactively maintain healthy processes will not only keep the pain of adapting to change at a minimum, it will certainly help companies achieve growth much faster.