Those who find a way to leverage technology in the service of business-led integration will count themselves among the 30% of digital transformation winners.
Real-time applications don’t offer much if they operate in isolation. But for technology-savvy businesses looking to expand or accelerate their digital transformation efforts, integrating disparate sources of data is a profound challenge. The idea of business-led integration seems like an impossible reach.
That’s because, according to one McKinsey & Company report, 70% of digital transformation efforts fail, mainly due to the quality or consistency of integration work. It’s not for lack of talent among IT teams, but rather because data integrations are seen as technology-driven products with technical deliverables, like a repository of code or a new dashboard.
And even when IT teams do deliver functional integrations for real-time data, they become valueless if someone has to spend all their valuable time watching them like a hawk. The necessary middle ground is a way for business users to define the business problems they need to solve and apply low-code tooling and automation to discover solutions in partnership with IT.
See also: Successful Integration is a Team Sport
A company performs business-led integration when non-technical talent and IT personnel are collaboratively involved in using integration projects to solve a real business problem.
Business-led integration is designed to unify two disparate departments and reframe how each side thinks about the work their counterparts perform. Business users see IT as much more than coders mindlessly working through a queue of tickets. IT talent sees their non-technical peers as using technology to solve specific problems and now have an opportunity to become consultants rather than delivering IT assets.
It also shifts both teams’ goals for an integration project. In traditional integration, IT aims to deliver an application after haggling with business users over the specific requirements. Business-led integration shifts that goal toward delivering capability and leverages new tools, like AI, templates, and low-code tooling for repeatable, automated processes rather than one-off wins.
See also: Center for Automated Integration
Even in companies undergoing digital transformation thanks to strong technology leadership, integration projects are often a divisive negotiation that results in one-off solutions that don’t enable automation.
For example, a retailer is looking for new ways to optimize their existing sales channels and explore new ones quickly. The business development team wants to onboard a new channel, like social media influencers, and files a request to IT to develop an integration between the company’s social media data, activity on marketing assets, and customer attribution.
This request springboards a negotiation between business development and IT on exactly what kind of data needs to be exposed or analyzed and how it’ll be presented to the team. In time, IT delivers the requisite code and moves on, only to get another request for the same type of integration, but now for affiliate marketing, repeating the same manual cycle.
A business-led integration process might even begin with IT leadership, who’s aware that the company needs to expand beyond existing channels. They request a meeting to understand the genuine business problem behind this need, which is that business development needs to test widely and fast to validate a single additional channel for further investment.
IT now sets out to deliver the capabilities required to solve that problem. They’re not just writing code or connecting pipes between disparate data sources. They’re not just delivering IT assets. They’re consulting business development on the platform they’ll need to own and automate the entire solution, including building new integrations using low-code tools.
While this mode of delivering integrations requires cultural and process change, it also demands new technology. One option is the Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)—sometimes known as cloud integration or cloud-based integration—which are cloud-based, self-serve solutions that help companies develop, execute, and govern integration flows between applications.
Offerings like IBM Cloud Pak for Integration give non-technical users and even outside consultants the tools they need, plus the standardization that IT teams require for high availability and security governance, to make business-led integration a reality.
The next few years look promising for iPaaS providers. Companies are looking to upgrade from their aging enterprise service bus (ESB) platforms as part of their digital transformation, and their IT teams are eager to try cloud-native technology like microservices and containers as their new paradigm for deploying applications. Those who find a way to leverage technology in the service of business-led integration will count themselves among the 30% of digital transformation winners—likely by a long shot.