As an organization grows, so does the number of applications and application versions it supports.
Getting clear visibility into all the applications in use across the organization, understanding actual usage, and consolidating multiple applications that provide the same functionality becomes its own project.
An integration framework is critical to managing this growing IT infrastructure, especially in a hybrid workforce commonly found in today’s world.
Companies that pursue digital transformation are acquiring particularly high numbers of applications and SaaS solutions, anywhere from dozens to thousands of apps.
One key challenge is that systems in use within those organizations tend to not integrate with each other beyond what’s operationally necessary.
“Especially where those systems view each other as competitive, it is difficult to look at their data together in one place and in a structure that makes sense, much less update that data on a regular basis to facilitate decision-making,” says Andrew Sweeney, co-CEO and co-founder at ReadyWorks.
Those decisions in turn drive initiatives that often require operations occurring in coordinated fashion across multiple systems — an integration framework supports the organization’s ability to execute those initiatives at scale.
Integration Framework Possibilities
An integration framework makes it possible for these applications to work and interoperate together and collaborate on data. The key benefits to developing and incorporating a flexible integration framework for an enterprise include faster time-to-value, tech-debt reduction, and better customer and user experience.
Sweeney explains that having a unified view of the entire enterprise, and being able to automate complex, multi-system operations will substantially reduce risk, project duration, and required resources when executing large-scale change programs.
That perspective was shared by Michael Nixon, vice president of SnapLogic, who called an integration framework “an absolute business imperative” for any company that wants to evolve into a modern, data-driven organization — especially for organizations pursuing business transformation through digitalization.
“When all these applications interoperate together and collaborate on data, broader insights on customer habits or on revenue opportunities can be achieved,” he says. “This, in turn, can lead to improved customer experiences or more successful revenue initiatives.”
Automation a Key Benefit of Integration Frameworks
Another benefit is that operational business processes can be automated, saving individuals from mundane or error-prone procedures, which ultimately, improves productivity and accelerates business results.
Otavio Rodolfo Piske, member of the Apache Camel Project Management Committee (PMC) and a senior software engineer at Red Hat, explains integration frameworks provide a set of features and patterns that work across industries and provide a solid foundation for organizations to focus on the specifics of their business.
“In the case of Apache Camel, because it’s free software, licensed under the Apache 2.0 license, not only can it be used to implement integrations, but the framework itself can be modified and extended to suit the needs of the organizations,” he says.
He notes that when Apache Camel was first introduced in June 2007, the world was already in an accelerated pace towards being more connected and digitized.
“Since then, the world has grown more connected and businesses are increasingly adapting their business models to become more digitized to stay competitive,” he says. “Naturally, all this data needs, and will continue to need, to be consumed, mediated, routed and processed.”
The challenge of handling all this data should not be underestimated, with an ever-increasing number of systems, protocols and data formats that need to be dealt with.
“The scope for security requirements in modern applications is broader,” Piske adds. “Legal requirements for privacy, data retention and financial compliance — sometimes in more than one jurisdiction — may affect how the systems are designed, developed, and integrated.”
Skyscraper Thinking: Plan, Research and Develop
Nixon compares the adoption of an integration frameworks to the building of a high-rise.
“Skyscrapers aren’t built at the time tons of steel and materials are delivered to the construction site, they are built during the planning, research, and development phases with architects, engineers, and the owners,” he says. “The same is true with the integration frameworks.”
When integration is core to the planning and execution of the IT architecture, companies are better positioned to attain the data-driven and digital transformation benefits they seek.
“It’s about thinking with foresight and creating a great foundation to achieve all the benefits,” he says.
From Piske’s perspective, adopting an integration framework is therefore increasingly important for organizations to help standardize processes and uniform their integration needs to ensure data is readily available throughout their entire organization.
“Today integration is a core and essential part of any IT architecture,” he says. “Adopting and using a framework that is well established and modern can also help organizations leverage new technologies more efficiently and with greater ease, improve project delivery and reduce maintenance costs.”
Securing C-Suite Buy-In with Metrics
Nixon says to secure executive buy-in, align with business objectives, identify the integration framework impact to the business, identify the important criteria for success, and then the necessary metrics for measuring the criteria.
Common metrics related to application, data, and digital/data microservices integration, as well as enterprise automation projects, include the timeline for implementation that meets important business milestones, or that avoids new service charges in the case where older systems may be retired.
Other metrics include the number of users empowered to build their own integrations, or a specified reduction in time-to-value from data, applications, or services integrations to achieve revenue objectives, thus leading to ROI targets.
“As time goes on, as history and trends have clearly shown, the need to manage data, applications, services, and digitalization will only increase,” Nixon says. “Getting a handle on integration is always better when done sooner, rather than later.”