By Manoj Santhakumar
With the advent of the digital revolution, the concept of enterprise application integration is undergoing a tremendous change. After a period where the market was relatively stable, we are now seeing the integration of business applications is exploding, with traditional application integration being pushed aside for new sets of solutions including cloud, APIs, mobility, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Microservices.
With this change, the role of the CIO or the integration director is also changing considerably. The Integration landscape is shifting from a “need for stability” to a renewed focus on “business agility” to support the digital initiatives of a given organization.
This article takes a look at the key trends transforming the integration landscape, the implications it will have on more traditional business models, and the changing needs of integration strategy for organizations.
New Integration Landscape: Distributed and Agile
Enterprise application integration has always been looked upon as an IT driven initiative wherein the IT department has taken the initiative to ensure a stable and reliable integration backbone for supporting core systems and business processes. The integration requirements have been predominantly focused as a support function or an operational effectiveness initiative.
The last few years have disrupted this perception with needs, when enabled, providing a significant competitive advantage and revenue generation opportunities to the organization.
So what are the key changes transforming the integration landscape?
Integration needs are no longer limited to enterprise systems and application integration. Today, businesses need to be able to bring products to market even faster than ever before since the availability of readymade solutions has become increasingly more valuable. This is why organizations are moving towards cloud-based models—to utilize the best solutions that are available.
The API economy is driving organizations to expose and consume APIs as a way to extend their business to partner and customer ecosystems. Being able to take a mobile first approach means that businesses are able to access information anytime, anywhere—and applications are expected to accommodate that. The IoT and machine-to-machine communications will also continue to drive the next wave where data from unconventional sources is utilized for generating insights on consumer behaviors, usage patterns for better servicing the customers and enabling competitive advantage.
Open Source Becomes Mainstream
Businesses have also been embracing open source software—open source has seen tremendous growth in recent years. It is no longer adopted for cost savings alone, but as a way to provide a competitive advantage by means of faster trials, proof of concepts, and ready-to-use offerings.
High Scalability Requirements
With integration extending to external ecosystems through the use of APIs and the IoT, the integration message volumes have moved from pre-estimated needs to unpredictable needs in many cases. The integration systems are expected to handle these additional needs in a dynamic and flexible manner.
The changes and implications are not limited to technology alone. Along with the change in technology, there is implication to the delivery model as well. With the increasing adoption of digital technologies, the need of the hour is business agility—the capability to adapt changes much quicker and deliver reliable solutions in short span of time.
Implications: The CIO Dilemma
These changes in customer needs have major implications for integration centers and CIO’s agendas for integration. For example, we are seeing businesses shift from focusing on building out a centralized delivery model to deploying more agile models with decentralized governance, or straying from monolithic integration platforms and embracing container technology. Customers and customer experience also drive today’s requirements, moving from provider driven solutions to consumer-oriented solutions.
After a considerably long period of time where enterprise level integrations of applications were where businesses were focused, these new innovations leave companies’ integration divisions with a large set of decisions to make, which deployment model should they choose? Cloud based, on premises, or Microservice containers? Businesses are also faced with finding the right integration tools, whether it be API Management, integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS), Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS), or real-time analytics.
Along with these integration technology changes, there is a pressing need for businesses to upgrade their delivery models as well. For example:
• Federated execution: While best practices for Center of Excellence (CoE) and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) are still valued, there is an increasing need to execute these processes in a decentralized manner.
• New Development Models: businesses are taking more of an interest in new development models like Crowdsourcing, or the promotion of in-house development by holding Hackathons, for example to inspire employees.
• Automation: Businesses need to bring products to market faster than ever before. The way to achieve this is via automation. The efficiency that automation offers is one of the top priorities for CIOs, and models like DevOps and Robotic automation are now becoming necessary.
• New Commercial models: With Cloud based models, there are new pricing models including pay per use models, subscription models, or transaction-based pricing models.
With new requirements, the industry has seen many new vendors surge into the market, especially in areas like API Management, iPaaS, and MBaaS. Traditional vendors must now catch up with younger companies to meet customers’ changing expectations.
Changing Partner Dynamics
The need for agility is also shifting the working model with partners and system integrators (SIs). We are seeing a shift from ‘offshoring, outsourcing supported by waterfall model’ to a new way of collaborative, agile, scrum team executions where-in customers are looking at close coordination with partners. Partners are then challenged to bring in additional efficiency by means of process excellence, ready-made solutions, and accelerators to support execution.
As integration centers are now expected to handle these changing demands, there are many open questions to address—including solutions best practices such as when to use what tools and what are the best practices for implementations as well as open source adoption and what the implications of adoption might be. How can a business ensure the governance of execution while enabling agility? What is the implication for these in future? What is the criteria for adopting a new commercial model? What types of partners are required for integration?
Integration Strategy Review
The role of an Integration Director of integration centers is becoming even more complicated. These changes are here to stay and there is going to be a tremendous uptake in adoption over the next few years.
Some of the critical success factors for adaption to this changing dynamic include the need for right guidance, technologists, flexible teams, and innovative commercial models.
As indicated, there will be large set of technology and business decisions that will be centered on integration centers. It’s important to have the right level of guidance, with partners playing an advisory role to the decision making group. Partners and advisers must be able understand an organization’s digital strategy and should also have the know-how and technological capabilities to guide organizations to take strategic directions for defining the new integration landscape that is equipped for the current and future needs.
Integration needs will no longer be restricted to enterprises and partners alone, as they will need to support multiple capabilities beyond enterprise service buses and business to business platforms. It is impractical to have separate product specialists for each technology or platform. New integration centers should have technologists who are able to scale up the chain—from architecture to hands-on development or able to scale horizontally with development capabilities across multiple technologies and platforms.
The integration centers must reevaluate their partner ecosystems and delivery teams. Are they stagnant? Or are they flexible to adapt to changes—both technologically as well as with the working model? With this reevaluation, there will be a reduction in pre-defined, structured integration projects and the key to success will be to have flexibility of execution and adaptability to new needs without compromising on the quality of deliverables.
It’s no secret that cloud adoption is on the rise, and adoption will only continue to increase. Today, the customer has the flexibility to avoid lock-in on high capital expenditure assets and opt for more flexible cloud-based models. There is a huge opportunity to invest in innovative solutions for gaining competitive advantage.
In conclusion, the integration landscape is witnessing tremendous changes across technology, operation, and commercial dimensions. Until we see more consolidation and standardization, making the right technology choices for a business remains a challenging task for integration heads of organizations. The CIO or integration leaders need guidance and flexible teams and partners to operate in this transitional phase in order maintain a competitive advantage and be equipped for digital readiness. SW
Manoj Santhakumar has over 14 years of experience in end-to-end implementations in integration space, covering areas like consulting, architecture, program strategy and solution delivery for payments, banking, insurance, and telecommunications. He has been instrumental in setting up Integration Competency Centers and enabling business process management and SOA transformations in multiple client engagements. Manoj is currently working as a senior consultant under connected enterprise services practice of the business application services service line of Wipro Ltd.
Feb2016, Software Magazine