What has changed over the past 50 years?
I know, I haven't been in this business for 50 years.I'm not even 50 years old myself. But there are historians who write and teach about things that happened thousands of years ago, and physicists who write about things that have happened billions of years ago. I bet they weren't living during those days either.
When we started this business, we already knew pretty well what systems integration is. The reason for this is that not that much has changed in IT over the past few decades. I like to think that the last new thing in IT was invented in late 1960's when packet networks, particularly the Internet, was invented. After that we had it all: tools to create software applications, hardware to run the software, and networks for applications to communicate with each other.
I like to think that IT has changed after the invention of Internet as much as cars have done during the same period. Give a modern car to a driver who just time-travelled from the late 1960's and most probably he or she can still drive the car. The car still has four wheels, an engine and a steering wheel. And maybe slightly better sound system.
As long as there has been more than one software application, there has been a requirement to transfer data between these applications. Still this interchange of data is surprisingly often done manually, but automatic transfer (systems integration) has been around for a long time too. As Vesa pointed out in his blog post a couple weeks back, EDI has been a known term in the integration world for ages - and it still is a big part of it.
Integration has always been, and still is, based on interfacing, transformations, and process control as well as monitoring, maintaining, and alerting. This is where we started as well, building the base functionalities that are needed for integration. But we didn't just want to replicate existing capabilities.
Even though the basis of integration has not changed, the business around it has. The velocity today is very different to what it was at the beginning of the century - or fifty years ago. Businesses change, technical requirements change, and the amount of information transferred is growing at a huge pace. The time allocated to adopt a new software application into a business is no more years; it should be months or even weeks.
This leads into a situation where the integration service provider needs to be more agile, able to respond more quickly to customer or partner demand, and simply be able to deliver faster. This has to be combined with better quality as well, as in the modern cloud era the integration provider cannot create tight customer lock-ins any more.
As Jaakko mentioned in his earlier post, you have to understand your competitive advantage. Our own competitive advantage is not based on the things we do, but on how we do it. Integration in a modern world cannot be a dinosaur, it cannot be a technology or a project that consumes all the resources, light and happiness from a living organization. Instead it has to be a versatile glue between living software entities.
Our competitive advantage is in being that glue, living in the business ecosystem that we serve, and growing with it.