Enterprise application integration plays a crucial role in gaining a competitive advantage. And if you have an in-house IT team, it can be tempting to use them for the job. After all, it saves money as well as effort in recruiting, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t the whole picture.
Most inexperienced development teams look at Systems Integration through the lens of application development. Often, they fail to address an organisation's integration requirements adequately because they have not considered all the complexity that goes with systems integration. This very often results in costly problems in both capital and resource expenditure.
Designing Integration Solutions requires thinking about connectors, pipelines, messages, events, and data transformations. Application Developers often solve integration problems with Object-Oriented Design thinking. This often leads to systems being heavily integrated and not properly decoupled, creating unneeded security, performance, availability, and management problems. It takes years of working in integration projects to understand and see the problems and related patterns.
An Application Integration Specialist knows what the right questions to ask are. They consider the appropriate design patterns early in the requirements gathering phase of the project to ensure the design can be complete and all questions asked. Ultimately with this focus on up-front detailed design, the build quality is high and the test phase efficient. This is because the risk of unknowns are mitigated.
Without an Integration Specialist, projects tend to fly through the requirements and design phases quickly with the team thinking they have what they need, but then they inefficiently spend their development and testing time completing the real design by force of the solution not working well, or not at all.
An Application may be secure, but if the integration is not, it is the easiest way to quickly get access to sensitive data.
Often when developers (rather than integration specialists) are your core integration developers, they get so consumed in making the integration work, that security is forgotten or merely tacked on at the end of the project. This is generally high risk, as it is not secure by design and often adds additional expense to what is by this point usually an already over-budget project.
An Integration Specialist by contrast considers the data and security requirements up-front during the requirements gathering phase of the project to ensure that during the design phase, security is considered. Any data that flows through the integration should be appropriately managed and secure along with all archives and related meta-data.
Any kind of integration is incredibly complex. That's why you must approach it with the necessary resources, support, and planning to ensure its success.
Often, companies fail to designate enough funds and support for the integration, thinking that it's merely a part of another project. There are times when they assign the development team from the originating project to handle the integration and won't truly understand the extent of the task.
Implementing integration in this fashion often results in a fragmented architecture which only makes it more complicated. This then leads to increasing excessively complex architectures, which can be far too expensive to repair. However, this issue isn't only within the development team's lack of expertise in integration, but it's also an issue with the management. To help resolve it, an organisation needs a team of application integration specialists to focus on the project so that they can allocate appropriate resources.
To provide Business Systems Agility, a carefully considered Integration strategy is needed. This is one that takes into account the future state of the business, its operating model and how that overlays onto the IT systems.
As companies transform more of their products and services into digital channels, they often end up with a large number of systems. These systems need to be able to talk to each other so this in turn creates an ever-increasing number of system interfaces. Another question to bear in mind is: Who will ensure that every connection between every system is stable, working, secure, and reviewed for upgrades?
Enterprise IT needs to formulate a strategy for ensuring Enterprise Application Integration provides opportunities for quick and efficient outcomes and projects. If not, these projects cause bottlenecks or even worse, become that piece of software that everyone is afraid to touch.
In the long run, a team of Systems Integration specialists will cost you less than a team of standard in-house or offshore developers. However, more importantly, they will set up your organisation for future strategic opportunities, improve overall system reliability, and ensure business goals are met on-time and on-budget.