Transformation projects are happening everywhere but what is the missing link?
Integration platforms are vital to move data between systems and transformation projects are driving their development and accessibility but what is the missing link?
For most businesses struggling to understand the different cloud-based "as-a-service" technologies available, the idea of having data seamlessly flowing between these technologies (or their more traditional infrastructure) seems way out of reach - and 5 years ago, this was the case. However, the emergence of iPaaS (integration platform as a service) has drastically reduced the cost to implement and the skills required to maintain.
This blog is an extremely brief summary of my journey from skeptic to believer in the necessity of integration platforms.
The skeptic: When first introduced to weMethods nearly 10 years ago (one of the first iPaaS platforms and a major player), I wasn’t convinced of the need for a platform dedicated to helping other platforms talk to each other. When I was asked to help, it seemed a waste of time for me, designing firstly a communication sequence between our workflow tools and the integration platform, then secondly between the integration platform and the requesting system. It felt like an extra step and an extra tool adding complexity.
Keeping development to a minimum: Point to point communications seemed so much simpler, given “nothing else would need to make a request like this to our system, right?” This was very true in many subsequent projects, where only 1 other system (or process) really interacted with the tools we were introducing into marketing or publishing departments. Building a custom interface or worker process inside the DAM, and having that development be very purpose specific, had its cost saving advantages (with very little feature creep). So, our business continued down the tried and tested path of creating system interactions directly inside the products we distributed.
The twist you knew was coming: Eventually, some projects later, someone saw what we were doing and introduced other reasons as to why their system wanted to request data from our systems also. OK, I'll admit, some of this was prompted because I accidentally seeded the idea (well, it was the appropriate response given we were getting all kinds of "this can't be done" pushback and I just wanted to help the project succeed as I knew it could).
All of a sudden it makes sense: So, then arose the moment where I realised that it would be great to reuse some of the functionality we had created for other purposes with this new project. On top of that, wouldn’t it be great if we able to use the work we've done, and make it more modular for completely different purposes?
Meanwhile a number of other projects were cropping up where I realised that we had designed (and were about to build) a custom solution based on a premise that already existed. You guessed it, integration platforms. Once I started talking to experts about the different integration platforms available, the floodgate of ideas opened up.
We'd been helping people use DAMs and manage content for so long. Our intention was to make resurfacing of content and distribution easier. There was a whole range of tools out there that could do this far better than we could write it from scratch. Why hadn't I seen this before??
When I introspect for a minute, I realise how I've been designing and building integration pieces for so many years, without thinking (to the extent with which the thought deserved) "What if someone else wants to use this functionality?" or "What if I want to add more stability, security, tracking, functionality?", or most importantly, "Isn’t there a system that already does this kind of thing and probably does it more efficiently than I ever could?"
The continual opportunities: So, that led me to where I am now. With each new project I participate in, some of which are now way outside of my domain of Content Technology, I'm noticing so many opportunities for clients to start introducing iPaaS into their business. In many cases, we've not even gotten to the end of a scoping phase before secondary functions are being thrown in to the iPaaS just because it's there and these functions otherwise would've been a mammoth task without it.
We eat our own dogfood too (no, not literally). We have built a number of integrations internally for our own use. We also build POCs, just to prove we can do it.
Products such as Mulesoft (and their free community edition is absolutely fantastic for building out a POC), Jitterbit (which is extremely strong in the Salesforce world), and Logic Apps (owned by Microsoft, simple to use and completely hosted in Azure) are some great platforms that we've interacted with. I’m looking to get into Informatica also, as it’s considered the flagship of iPaaS by many.
The final note: My conclusion is that after you've been exposed for a while, you realise how the entry to sharing information lowers (be that marketing, advertising or publishing content, financial data or otherwise) and the opportunities to using that information rises. With the current acceleration of information in the cloud, there also comes a different way of thinking about how we share our information. I’m pretty confident that it won't be too long before you see a reason for surfacing your information somewhere else - and when you do, you'll know what to look for.