5 Elements to Include When Crafting an Integration Strategy

April 17, 2018

I’ve been recently going through a lot of data integration strategies from different firms – some of our customers that were kind enough to share it with us and some shared on the internet. I've noticed that all of these documents were touching on five main things: application/system integration, data integration (including data formats and data quality), business process integration, cloud integrations, and security. 

It’s undeniable: an integration strategy is vital for aligning the business and IT departments of the organizations to execute the change. The alignment will help you to focus on the execution and supports the success of the integration projects. On a long-term, data integration solutions will support your current and future business operating models.

If you are still working on your strategy, here we discuss the 5 elements that are commonly found in most integration strategies. To supplement each element below, you need to find a comprehensive data integration solution provider that will help you achieve your goals, both in the short and long-term. 

Application/System Integration

Application/system integration is the cornerstone of modern business operations.

You need to be strategic of what applications and systems you want/need to connect with one another and in what order you are going to do it.

Nevertheless, the story is more complex than this. You need to consider the applications and systems you are about to connect the following: 

- Are these internal or external applications and systems?

- If internal, what’s the purpose of the connectivity?

- If external, how will you cooperate with your value chain to execute your strategy?

- Are there any technical restrictions e.g. firewalls?

- Are these applications and systems in the cloud or on-premise?

- Do you or your value chain operate on legacy technologies that are inflexible to integrate?

As you may need to create and maintain numerous connections, point-to-point connectivity is not a feasible option. You should find a modern integration platform that can help you to develop integrations to overcome any challenges that you’d possibly encounter during application and system integrations.

As modern integration solutions are scalable, you will be able to start out with only a few connections as part of the pilot. Once you create connections with a couple of stakeholders, you will be able to assess whether the solution is the right one for you. Developing complex solutions for cloud-to-cloud, hybrid, and on-premise-to-on-premise integrations should be agile and fast with predictable pricing.

Once the solution is proven, you can go forward and start to add new connections rapidly. 

Data Integration

The ultimate goal of connectivity across applications and systems is always to improve data sharing so that organizations can utilize data as a strategic asset.

Data sharing is critical for businesses for more transparency. However, many are still lacking sufficient solutions for sharing data in real-time, and the timeliness of the data is increasingly important for organizations for better utilizing insights and improving operations and efficiency.

The core purpose of the solution needs to be that all relevant stakeholders can easily access and use the data, the data is at their disposal at the right time, and to ensure that the data is moving between systems and applications. 

Data formats

The variety of different data formats that firms are using makes data sharing a lot more complex. While one may use EDIFACT, the other one may have upgraded to JSON, and some may use their own proprietary formats.

The data formats need to be automatically translated during the data transfer to the preferred format of your ecosystem.

Mapping out what formats you use will help the implementation of the data integration solutions greatly. 

Data quality

Besides data formats, data quality is a challenge too.

If you are currently spending time with validating all the messages that you are receiving and you need to forward it back to enrichment, then this is something you should also include in your strategy. 

Business Process Integration

Integrating applications, systems, and data are the foundations for business process integration (BPI). Integrations can help to streamline processes by automating the ones that are currently happening manually. This can increase operational efficiency and productivity.

BPI is especially significant for supply chain management as many of the processes are still paper-based and happen manually.

Best way to go about integrating business processes is to start with one that is really causing you to lose money due to current inefficient procedures. Once the concept is proven and you see the benefits of the solution, you can go back to your strategy document to plan what are the next processes that you want to improve. 

Cloud Integration

Aren’t you using cloud integrations yet? You should! We have previously written about why you should use a cloud-based integration platform for business-to-business data sharing. Even if you are skeptical, you should include it in your strategy and try. Due to predictable pricing, you don’t have much to lose.

Cloud will enable you to execute all that’s written above. Additionally, the solutions developed and deployed on top of a cloud platform are flexible, scalable, and easy to manage and maintain.

The most important factors are that modern iPaaS has been designed to free you from the burden of integrations: solutions are deployed faster (this drops the price of integrations significantly) and your IT team doesn’t need to have integration expertise, your partner firm’s Professional Services team will handle it all on your behalf.

Obviously, here at Youredi, we are partial. This is why we have written another post on how you can find the best data integration provider for your needs. However, trying out the cloud as part of a small pilot won’t hurt – and you may even go for more.

Security

Security must be your number one priority when you connect with external parties and share business-critical information with them. This has been one of the key concerns of all our customers.

You may already have a security assessment procedure, but if you don’t, consider developing one simultaneously with your integration strategy.

Your assessment may be influenced by your organization’s security policies, as well as governmental policies and often these exclude the cloud for security reasons.

Nevertheless, when you are building connections and transferring data through the cloud, you are not giving up on the ownership of your data. Moreover, the data is not stored anywhere, it’s only moving through the integrations. This may permit you too to start thinking of moving your integrations to the cloud.

As part of the security, consider also to include what data you are about to share and with who, to avoid data leaks. 

Your Integration Strategy Should Be a Living Document

Don’t write a integration strategy document just to forget about it. Your integration strategy needs to be a living document.

You can adjust it if something didn’t work or plan new connections with new parties if something was working really well.

You may also opt for more than one data integration partners – it completely depends on the nature of your business and what integrations you need to develop.

One thing is for sure: cloud integrations are becoming increasingly popular due to their flexibility, agility, and scalability. If you are planning for the future, you have already realized that you will constantly need to add more connections, and the data volumes are yet to increase. Trying out an iPaaS now will set you up for the future.

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