On one hand, enterprise IT has struggled with the integration of on-premise systems and applications for years, and the addition of cloud technology has only complicated matters more with a slew of unique issues to solve for. On the other hand, the rise of the cloud has led to business users expecting instant access not just to applications, but to the data residing within and across applications.Houston, we have a problem.
Cloud connectivity challenges may soon be solved with flexible, agile out-of-the-box integration capabilities as more SaaS providers embed integration technology into their applications, but we’re not yet there.Until we reach that point, enterprise IT professionals and the systems integrators (SIs) who service them must work to first understand the new world of cloud connectivity, and then adopt an approach designed for long-term success by accounting for each stage of the entire cloud integration lifecycle.
The Rise of Cloud Applications and the New Era of Connectivity Needs
Wider adoption of cloud computing has created a culture of user expectations for easier, faster, better. In fact,according to Gartner’s 2015 CIO Agenda Survey, a majority of IT Leaders indicated they are increasingly measuring their performance by their impact on business agility and innovation. IT organizations and end user priorities have shifted to benefit from the agility of the cloud, resulting in an intensive focus on integration as a key driver of business value across departments including sales, marketing, finance and human resources.However, to reach the connected enterprise nirvana, IT needs to reevaluate its underlying approach to integration.
With cloud solutions being updated at five to 10 times the pace of traditional on-premise apps, the resulting integration challenges and application silos are making IT and business professionals alike pull out their hair in frustration.The culprit for this frustration – the current enterprise norm of custom coding to an API – offers short-term flexibility, but at the expense of the long-term agility needed to evolve alongside constantly-changing cloud applications. The future of connectivity in the cloud requires a different integration framework that offers agility, flexibility and lower costs; it requires an integration lifecycle management approach.
Best Practices to Manage the Cloud Integration Lifecycle
Research from Gartner has shown that up to 90 percent of the total cost of ownership from custom applications comes after the initial development and deployment, and integration is no different.In order to consistently provide the seamless connectivity expected by line of business users, enterprise IT needs to focus on the long-term success of an integration. The first step in that process is recognizing the limitations of custom coding to APIs.
Writing custom code to an API may seem like an appealing strategy because it is familiar to most organizations. IT likely already has the tools and skills necessary to accomplish the initial integration, whether through a central IT organization or through an existing relationship with anSI. Over the long term, however, this approach can prove to be a costly mistake. Integrations must adapt constantly over the entire lifecycle of connected applications, and while custom coding allows for some flexibility during the initial integration, on-the-fly changes are much more difficult due to a lack of agility.
Integration lifecycle management is a long-term approach – often aided by the use of integration platform as a service (iPaaS) to provide IT and SIs with the tools needed to account for each stage of the lifecycle – that focuses on every stage of integration. An integration lifecycle management approach includes four key phases:
- Design phase – Identify participants for the entire project, document the object model in plain language and plan for rapid change. Select an integration approach that allows for up-front flexibility and long-term agility.
- Development phase – Treat integration as a team sport by leveraging the knowledge of various application experts. Identify repetitive actions and build a library of resources you can reuse, documenting processes as you go.
- Deployment phase – Iterate, test and validate the integration with a phased approach where you perform an initial sync, integrate core objects and then add additional workloads.Continue documenting.
- Run phase – Empower runtime staff for self-sufficiency, monitor and address alerts and continue to obsess over data.
The pace of cloud adoption is picking up, and the right integration approach will become increasingly important in the coming years. Enterprises need to consider adapting now in order to set the company up with the right connected infrastructure before it’s too late. The integration approach selected is only as good as the stability and agility of the integration built into it, and an integration lifecycle management approach provides the best framework for creating the stable yet agile integration needed for long-term business success.
Founder and vice president of Business Development, Scribe Software