A Leader's Guide to Enterprise Application Integration
Aug 3, 2021
Today's software development companies have more reasons for enterprise application integration than ever before. In fact, not having a consolidated layout of applications could actually work to your disadvantage. To start with, more tools are available (and in use) along any software value delivery chain than previously fathomable. There are enough to cause confusion if left untethered.
This post introduces IT leadership to enterprise application integration from a solutions perspective. Together, we'll touch on the reasons that make it worth the effort to pursue integration. Several suggestions will be made on what you should aim for. Finally, we'll cap off the discussion with a justification for any costs you may incur down the integration path.
Let's start with a formal declaration of what integration at the enterprise application layer means.
What Is Enterprise Application Integration?
Enterprise application integration (EAI) begins when you wade beyond authorizing notifications from one work application to show up in another. It's an approach that includes every core business application, proprietary and third party alike. The goal is to farm databases.
At best, you'll create a network not too different from your own central nervous system. This way, each member node of your software value chain can create data that is felt across the network. At the same time, this allows the rest of the integrated network to harvest insights that help with decisions downstream.
Think of those non-negotiable department-specific tools your teams swear by, yet they never seem to help much when you log in. Integration is a good way to remove that ambiguity at the leadership level.
Let's explore a wider array of benefits you stand to gain by going down the enterprise application integration path.
Benefits of Enterprise Application Integration
EAI has more benefits across the organization as a whole than just for IT leadership. Since enterprise applications are in use on the ground, their effects are hard to deny.
Increased Data Visibility
Once databases start feeding into each other, previously discarded data points start appearing for all to see. Data visibility is a state that you get to enjoy due to information moving across applications in a timely manner. It'd be like you've removed the cubicles and partitions that separate users from different tools. This is a particularly difficult scenario when your departments are using tools from different vendors.
Better Chemistry Across Integrated Teams
A major benefit that gets unlocked by enterprise application integration is the boost in team chemistry—both intra-departmentally and across corporate function devices. The unhindered flow of information reduces broken-telephone-type grievances. Meetings become less about information updates than strategy formulation.
Cost Efficiencies From Data Sharing
Sharing data does away with having to wait for reports before making decisions. That's on the leadership level, where having fresh information from all directions is in itself valuable. Then you have the removal of printing requirements. Depending on your company size, this can be a sizeable upside.
Shorter Lead Times
Lead time. The duration for which you'd ordinarily wait between tasks being created and being delivered shortens when you go the EAI route. The various nodes responsible for production can work within a data-rich environment. Efforts and processes flow smoother when the systems in use allow seamless information flow. Even the time that developers spend waiting for data from connected tasks shortens, making them more productive.
Enhanced Business Decision-Making From Dashboards
Apart from having a prettier interface to stare at in the name of doing work, EAI makes light work of business decision-making. Visualization has long been proven the best processing method of raw data. One glance and you can deduce performance trends and other key metrics.
Speaking of metrics, once you achieve EAI, they'll start flowing from all directions. This makes it worthwhile to plan ahead and specify which metrics you want to measure.
Key Metrics to Measure When Integrated
As far as deciding which metrics an organization should track, make sure to maintain value across the floor. Remember—while the reports and decisions flow upwards, the actual web of applications works downstream. If you made a system that integrates all applications across an enterprise floor, even the most basic user should benefit from metrics relevant at their input level.
Typically, you reserve the ability to call out any metric from an integrated situation, what with all the newly attained data visibility. However, the noise of such reports gets louder as one's decision-making power grows. The number of new issues awaiting developer input is a good metric for Git-related system users. But the same number won't inspire too many corporate decisions when read by leadership.
On the other hand, being able to see how well tasks flow past the value delivery machine is valuable. The visualization of every metric around performance (not just lead times) could invigorate decision-making tides.
How to Maintain an Integrated State
Most posts would be closing out after telling you what enterprise application integration is and why you should do it. This equates to dumping the idea on readers. Being able to maintain an integrated state is just as important as the process of attaining it. For that, you should make sure to take the following single actionable advice.
Review Your Integrations Frequently
It's reasonable to expect new tools on the list of integrated ones as time lapses. Every other tool not in the network of integrated applications is a data leak that bleeds value from your enterprise. The adoption of new tools should be followed by adding them to the network such that they're not an isolated data silo.
Once you have a defined set of tools and have integrated them, chances are you'll start noticing redundancies. Whenever you unplug applications from your toolchain, the same careful considerations are essential. Make it such that you don't reduce performance in the name of integration and minimizing.
Getting Started With Enterprise Application Integration
There are two sides to this part. The first is having to prove that enterprise application integration is the best course of action. This is usually just a pitch window to highlight the financial benefits to decision-makers. Then there's the feasibility side of integration, and that's not an easy one, either.
Justifying the cost of EAI is possible if you can show how expensive the pre-integration phase is. Some costs to include are time, effort, loss of talent, and an overall stagnant state of growth. You don't have to be disrupting your line of business to agree that lack of innovation eventually leads to the death of companies. Once that's established, a test run should get you stacking proof of concept.
Gauging the feasibility of EAI for your company starts with pushing the fact that you wouldn't be the first to achieve it. In fact, a broad sampling of the CI/CD tools commonplace today can help you prove that under the surface, you're competing with everyone—while also using the same tools. As such, a competitive advantage only comes when you make the best use of enterprise applications.
This is where Plutora comes into the picture, allowing you to connect the apps in your toolchain. The result would be a conjoined working experience for players from every department, all the while contributing to a valuable data resource that magnifies the potency of previously discarded data.