The undeniable truth is that you must have a integration strategy. It cannot be neglected or overlooked anymore. There are a lot of different options on the market for developing integrations, enhancing connectivity, and automating data flows. However, some come with downfalls, such as long development cycles and the costs may also skyrocket.
Today, software and applications are moving to the cloud. At the same time, you struggle with utilizing your existing legacy technologies that show little to no compliance with connectivity and real-time data sharing. Your internal issues are probably the easiest to fix, but you also need to connect and exchange information with your entire ecosystem. Your partners may use a large variety of formats that make it even more difficult to build connectivity with all your partners, suppliers, and customers in a timely manner.
Your integration strategy needs to be a living entity. Your integration needs can constantly change – faster than you would think. -
You will need to come back to it and revise time to time. Developing an agile approach to your strategy requires tools and solutions that support you in executing your strategy.
This blog is focusing on some of the current integration challenges that enterprises are facing and shows guidance as to how iPaaS can help you to overcome integration challenges. These challenges are the foundation of your data and B2B integration strategy. You need to consider these issues when you develop and adjust the strategy. This will help you to identify the best possible solutions that support your evolving business initiatives enterprise-wide and help you to overcome your integration challenges.
Challenges that Affect Your Integration Strategy
When you are developing your data and system integration strategy, first you need to think of the big picture on the enterprise level and then drill down to the department level.
Depending on your existing infrastructures and integration solutions, you will face different kind of challenges. Use these integration challenges as the foundations of your integration strategy.
How could you solve these? What are the best practices? What tools do you need to use? What vendors can support your strategy the best?
Let’s look at some of the challenges:
1. Hybrid Integrations
This is a burning problem right now. Most enterprises have already noticed it and they started to seek solutions.
Although, we are talking a lot about the cloud and all its benefits and you may already use plenty of SaaS solutions, your organization probably still utilize legacy technologies and systems that we wouldn’t call “integration friendly”.
Changing all your technologies is not necessarily a good idea. There are a few reasons why you don’t want to change them completely:
- It is too risky.
- It would be also too expensive.
- It would be too time-consuming.
- Your technologies work well. (But data sharing and connectivity management are almost impossible.)
- You face with organizational or governmental policies regarding data security and tie your hands and you cannot change them.
If you have encountered any of the above-mentioned thoughts, hybrid integrations are for you. You need to be able to connect your legacy on-premise technologies with cloud-based modern applications to enable data transfer between them in real-time.
We discovered this topic in more depth in a previous blog post that you might want to read if hybrid integration is a significant challenge for your organization.
2. B2B Integrations
Communication between businesses is crucial, but it’s easier said than done. The above-mentioned need for hybrid integration is a part of the problem when it comes to business-to-business integrations.
Today your business-to-business network is so extensive that developing integrations internally within your IT department can become to be quite a burden. Creating business-to-business integrations is a challenging task that requires the knowledge of integration architects. It is also time-consuming to hand code all the integrations and making changes can be difficult to implement.
Probably, your network will be growing even further and you would need to develop more integrations fast. This is a lot easier when you use an iPaaS with prebuilt connectors, adapters, and integration scenarios. It also helps you to overcome the challenge of hybrid integrations, going beyond firewalls, and all the different formats that you may encounter.
3. Data integration
Once you have connected with your ecosystems, you need to be able to share data with your partners in real-time and you also need to be able to receive data from them.
Problems do not lie only in systems – developing the connectivity required to orchestrate data management -, but the different formats (EDIFACT, JSON, XML, CSV, etc) that your stakeholders use make data integration even more difficult.
Once you orchestrated the data, you also want to ensure that you send it in a format to your partners that they can understand and you also receive back data that your systems prefer. When you build out connectivity across systems with iPaaS, translating the data format happens already during the data transfer that ensures that all stakeholders receive the information in a way that they can process it easily.
Data you transfer may have errors. To speed up your processes, fixes need to be automated to eliminate manual labor and further errors, thus improve operational efficiency while reducing costs. With iPaaS, we can implement solutions that check and verify your data against your business rules, ensuring that the information that you receive is always flawless.
The importance of regulations regarding data security has been emerging during the last couple of yours both on enterprise and government level. Since the volume of data, we are dealing with is yet to grow, we can expect that regulations will be even more strict. You need to ensure that your data integration solution is compliant with your internal and governmental regulations and that you maintain the highest level of security, so you only share data with your relevant stakeholders.
4. EDI Integrations
EDI as a challenge would be worth a blog on its own and that is something we will do in the near future.
Here we just want to provide you with an explanation as to why EDI is a challenge and why you could better manage it with the help of an integration platform provider.
First of all, there are hundreds of different EDIs for different industries (transportation, ocean logistics, healthcare, etc.), therefore having a partner familiar with EDIs and business rules is beneficial for you.
EDI is a restrictive format and requires knowledge to work with it, therefore, developing EDI solutions in-house can be time-consuming due to all the nuances in terms of errors it may have. For example, it may happen that some fields as marked by your partner as optional, but according to the EDI business rules, it is actually mandatory.
You need to have a service in place that is capable of validating the EDI transactions while transferring them.
When you are looking for a partner, you need someone that is managing everything for you from building the integrations, through validating EDI, monitoring performance, and dealing with alerts and notifications related to the integrations flows and errors in the data. The solution needs to be affordable, so you ensure the best possible return on investment.
5. API management
We previously wrote about why should you outsource your API management. Why should you include API management in your integration strategy at all?
We described APIs previously as:
“Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) connect your business processes, services, content, and data to your partners, customers, and internal teams in an easy and secure way. In other words, API is a digital glue and the foundation of the digital economy.”
In some cases, all you need to connect with your partners and receive information in real-time is an API.
However, you may need to operate many different APIs and you often need to do versioning when the original intent of the API is changing, therefore, having an integration partner to take care of it on your behalf can be a good idea.
6. Agility and speed
Regardless your industry, for sure you are operating in a fast-paced environment and new start-ups may appear time to time, trying to disrupt your industry with new innovative processes.
Integrations have a crucial role in creating new processes and innovation and improving data sharing with all your partners. This is the reason why you cannot spend months with developing and deploying new integrations (yes, it could take up to 6-8 months to do one single integration with traditional integration providers or in-house). Also, you need more agility so when your requirements are changing, the integration solutions can be adjusted quickly too.
iPaaS brings more agility and speed to the development and deployment of both data and system integrations. Depending on the complexity of your integration needs, some solutions can be developed and deployed in just a few weeks.
+1. IoT gaining market share
Are you looking to use more IoT devices in the future to better track your processes and assets? If your answer is yes, you want to start thinking about how you are going to connect with all the devices (in some cases with millions) and how you ensure real-time information flow.
What does iPaaS add to your integration strategy?
iPaaS offers a solution for all the challenges above. With this modern cloud-based integration platform you will be able to overcome challenges that your legacy systems and strict regulations mean, connect easily and quickly with all your stakeholders while maintaining data integrity and ensuring that all the information is transferred in a timely manner for all the right stakeholders.
It will add a layer of transparency to all your operations and allows you to maintain better relationships with all your stakeholders.
You will also have better insights on your processes that will help you to improve current ones or create new innovative processes that may give your business an edge.
iPaaS is not only reducing the workload of your IT personnel but helps you to improve your gross margins. Utilizing an integration platform is affordable and for sure has an outstanding ROI, as it also removes the costs from owning a software or paying for maintenance.
The best is that all solutions are completely tailored to meet your specific needs and the integrations are constantly maintained by your vendor and iPaaS comes with pro-active support.