It’s interesting to live in the integration space between modern and legacy business applications. When creating connectivity between old and new systems, you see a lot. There are different technologies from different decades, different connectivity options, different message formats, ad infinitum. However, the most interesting differences are not always necessarily technology-related but often linked to varying operating models – especially how the interconnection infrastructure between applications is operated and managed.
In the early days, integration was some sort of wizardry. Even though business applications have had a need to exchange information between each other since the dawn of computing, making them to communicate with each other was seen as an extremely difficult task. There were some early middleware tools to somehow ease the pain, but in the lack of modern APIs, integration became a swearword in most organizations.
In addition, integration needs weren’t limited to a single organization, but business-to-business data exchanges needed to be set up as well. Because this was potentially even harder challenge than connecting in-house applications, the task of setting up B2B communications was generally outsourced to specialized companies – value-added networks (VANs) and different types of emerging EDI operators.
In those times, it was an easy choice to select outsourcing. The complexity of networking was a challenge on its own, and in addition, the message formats and possible transformations were not in the core of the everyday business. However, outsourced EDI and B2B communications became easily black boxes, providing no visibility to the complete end-to-end business processes spawning across multiple organizations. A common EDI provider business model of charging per kilobyte led customers to minimize the utilization of the then-scarce resource of business-to-business data exchange.
Times changed and teenagers started using networking capacity more in one day than a typical enterprise earlier did in a year. Networking was no longer a problem, and new development patterns and practices started to focus on making interconnectivity between applications easier. The new generation of integration technologies, varying from Enterprise Service Buses (ESBs) to integration Platform as-a-Service (iPaaS) technologies provided more and more versatile methods to create internal and partner integrations – in theory.
It’s hard to change the infrastructure once it has been created. It is easy to build new houses, but the traffic between different places will still most likely take place using existing roads. Just like the road network, messaging between different organizations tends to be routed via existing channels – no matter that new technologies could provide significant cost savings, better visibility, and other clear business benefits.
One reason why organizations tend to stick with old EDI networks is the fact that these networks were essentially built as managed services from the very beginning. Outsourcing the potentially complex business-to-business message exchange has not been considered as a core competency back then, so why would it be now? If your organization is using hammers, why should you start now building them yourself?
In my previous blog, I tried to open a little bit the difference between “do-it-yourself” and “enterprise” iPaaS offerings on the technical level. However, the largest difference is not technical but related to operations of an organization. Do you want to create integrations yourself – that is, build your own hammers? Or do you want to rely on expert organizations who are solving these integration challenges on a daily basis, for different customers who share – after all – quite a lot with your business models? These expert organizations know how hammers are used and know exactly how to modify the basic design to fit your specific needs.
The future generation of managed integration services needs to learn from the past and leverage the new. These managed iPaaS services answer to the old need to outsourcing the business-to-business information exchange to experts but utilize modern technologies when doing so. Characteristics of such services include:
- Ability to connect any business application in any organization regardless of their age, messaging format (EDI, XML, JSON, etc.), protocol (varying from e-mail, FTP and SFTP to AS2 and HTTP-based API calls), or hosting details (hybrid integration).
- Possibility to provide full turnkey service, starting from solution design into operations and support, making it possible for customer organizations to focus on their core competencies.
- Full visibility to information flows from beginning to the end, providing customer organizations the understanding of the end-to-end business process details.
- Flexible and modern communication methods in the daily working routines between the vendor and the customer – not only answering customer tickets but integrating into the customer processes as an extension of the customer’s internal resources.
- Transparent invoicing, explaining the cost structure with real linkage to the agreed invoicing metrics. And last, but certainly not least,
- Subject matter expertise related to your line of business, it’s fundamental business processes, and information exchange patterns between different participants in the value chain – with this expertise visible in all phases of the engagement from integration service vendor’s sales and marketing, via professional services into operations and support.
We at Youredi believe that this is the future model of most successful integration solution implementations now and in the future. The technical details of integration solutions are rarely something that has significant value when held by end-user organizations. Instead, we believe that it is wiser to let experts to build your hammers with the modifications and characteristics that will fit for your specific use. These experts will modify your hammers whenever you find new ways how to use them, and they will maintain and update them all the time (without you even noticing it), so you don’t need to worry that they would gather rust. And these experts ensure that your hammer will work seamlessly together with ancient nails as well as ones that arrive fresh to your favorite hardware store.
Would you like to participate in our online workshop, where you can not only learn more about Youredi's solutions and get the answers to all your integration-related questions but also share your own experience with the hammer that you are currently using? Contact us and we'll enroll you for the workshop!