As software vendor and service provider to organizations across many industries – from insurance and manufacturing to medical, biotech and ISVs – I’ve gained significant insight into corporate IT priorities for 2014. And from where I stand, I see business and IT both expecting to undertake a growing number of integration projects.
Whether undertaken centrally or by individual business units, integration projects are transforming from “nice to have” to “must-have” – demanding immediate attention and budget.
The four main factors driving this trend are:
Simply doing business bette
These trends are not only driving increased demand for integration, they are also creating new requirements for integration solutions.
An increasing number of companies are moving important IT systems to the cloud to reduce costs and capital outlay. A company’s new cloud-based enterprise system triggers the need for integration with other back-end applications, whether it’s to recreate previously established integration processes or to create completely new ones.
Integration with cloud-based systems poses new challenges and more demanding requirements of an integration solution than integration between on-premise systems. For example, your integration solution needs to provide a secure means to connect your on-premise enterprise data to the cloud without compromising your firewall.
And since some companies are taking the bold step of moving all their IT systems to the cloud (yours could be next), it might be a good idea to make sure you’re your integration solution can also run in the cloud.
There’s no doubt that enterprise mobility is the way of the future. Apps that mobilize enterprise data and let users view and update information in real-time are going to drive increased productivity and innovation. An integration solution lets you mobilize, connect and automate the exact business processes you need across your back-end systems so your business, your customers and partners can work most efficiently.
For example, a mobile app that integrates your CRM, ERP and Warehouse Management System in real-time can let a sales person taking an order onsite (or anywhere, anytime) see exactly how soon the product can ship and tell your customer exactly when to expect it. Your salesperson not only closes the sale because of their great service, they’ve saved a lot of time for everyone involved.
But this is by no means easy. According to the newly-released The Global State of Enterprise Mobilitysurvey of practitioners, solution providers and analysts by the Enterprise Mobility Exchange, over one-third (36%) of all respondents believe integration with legacy systems to be the greatest challenge of mobile technology implementation. This was slightly behind change management issues (40%), but well above budget constraints (28%). A striking 60% of analysts 55% of solution providers agree, reporting that integration with legacy systems is the main obstacle to mobile implementation.
Therefore, your mobility solution should have a strong integration component, including off-the-shelf adapters optimized for multiple leading enterprise systems and a large array of built-in technology adapters to connect to virtually any legacy system, operating system, database, and standard. A comprehensive and proven enterprise-grade integration solution reduces the risk of your mobility projects and increases ROI as the same solution can let you create multiple business apps that mobilize any combination of backend business processes. In addition, certified and validated connectors to popular IT systems mean they follow the vendor’s roadmaps and versions, ensuring that your integration investment is protected as your IT systems evolve over time and lowering your total cost of ownership.
Businesses maintain a great deal of data within individual business systems. These data silos are not conducive to big data analysis. For example, Customer A appears separately within the CRM, ERP, Customer Support and Marketing systems. It’s difficult to track and correlate their behavior using big data analytics without being able to access all the data simultaneously and in real-time because if your data is outdated then your analysis and insight won’t be any good. That’s where data integration needs to come in.
Integration to serve big data analytics is tone of the drivers for in-memory data grid (IMDG) based integration solutions. An in-memory data grid leverages the processor for data storage instead of writing it to a disk. The fast, low-latency processing assures fast access to business critical information. Together, IMDGs’ high availability, clustering, elastic scalability and failover and recovery functions make In-Memory Data Grids a must have for long-lasting integration solutions.
Simply doing business better
Look at your business systems and processes. Many business systems hold duplicate information such as customer records and product codes within your CRM and ERP. Updates to one system have to be made manually in another and sometimes the lag time or transcription errors cause problems. An increasing numbers of businesses are choosing integration to automate these processes and make for happier, more efficient workplaces.
In addition, with all the focus on being a “customer company”, many businesses are realizing the benefits of integrating CRM, ERP and other related systems to give sales, finance, customer service and management a 360 degree view of the customer from the system which they are most familiar. Not only does this provide improved customer service, it provides improved opportunities for upsales. Let’s face it; there are numerous opportunities to improve your business through integration. If you can do it easily through a code-free integration solution, and use the same integration solution for multiple projects, then you can really give your business a competitive advantage.
OK, IT, you are going to be very busy over the next year. You can take a nice, deep breath, though. Some of my analyst friends have looked into their crystal ball and told me that you won’t be responsible for all the work, that the business units demanding these projects will be taking the lead and you’ll be the facilitators, ensuring the business keeps running smoothly.
One bonus predictionBy 2016, I would even venture to say that half of enterprises will have a full integration platform embedded in their IT infrastructures.
No matter how integration is going to affect you personally in 2014, may you have a happy, healthy, and productive year. My crystal ball says you will.
By Tania Amar, VP Global Marketing at Magic Software Enterprises.
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