There are many reasons why IT integration projects fail. From the lack of senior management support to imprecise, inaccurate goals, IT integration projects fail more often than they have to. Based on consulting I’ve done with system integrators, distribution providers, financial services firms, logistics providers and manufacturers, five core lessons emerge. One of the most innovative companies taking on these challenges is enosiX, whose customer wins at Yeti Coolers, Vera Bradley, BUNN and others provide a glimpse into the future of real-time integration.
- Middleware forces IT integration projects to focus only on moving data instead of improving business processes.
- Not having a clear idea of the goals the integration needs to attain in the first place.
- Sacrificing application response times, data accuracy and user experience in never-ending middleware projects.
Five Lessons Learned From IT Integration Failures
The following lessons learned are based on my experiences and work with IT departments, Vice Presidents of Infrastructure, Enterprise Systems, Cloud Platforms, CIOs, and CFOs. The lessons learned from them are helping current and future IT integration projects increase the odds of success.
- Selecting middleware or an integration platform not capable of offline, mobile use with the ability to synchronize in real-time once connected. The fastest growing areas of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) are being fueled by the real-time availability of data on mobile devices. In Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) and Quote-to-Cash (QTC) workflows, tethered and untethered use cases dominate. To be competitive, any company relying on these two strategies to sell must have an integration framework capable of delivering data in real-time that enables quick app response times, higher performance, and a better user experience. IT integration projects that don’t take this requirement into account nearly always fail.
- Selecting an integration solution that requires time-consuming, expensive training and has a steep learning curve. When a given middleware, integration technology or framework is too difficult for IT to learn and use, projects fail fast. The middleware landscape is littered with companies whose marketing is covering up products that have non-existent to mediocre documentation and learning materials. One of the primary factors behind Salesforce’s exceptional growth is their commitment to making the user experience on their platform immediately scalable to each application developed and launched on it. Within 30 minutes, sales teams are often up and running with new apps, successfully selling as a result. Integration frameworks that don’t force system users to change how they work are the new gold standard and are driving the market forward.
- Using middleware for business process logic integration when it is designed for data only. Attempting to use middleware for business process logic workflows can get complex and costly fast. It’s one of the main reasons IT integration projects don’t deliver results. In reality, the most valuable aspects of any integration project are the business processes and supporting logic that is automated, streamlined and tailored to a businesses’ unique needs, revolutionizing it in the process. This point of failure happens when IT architects push middleware beyond its limits and attempt to do what more streamlined integration frameworks are designed to accomplish. Business process logic is core to the future of any IT integration project. It is surprising that more organizations don’t look for integration frameworks that have this capability designed into the core architecture.
- Failing to consider how data transfers can be minimized or eliminated in the planning and deployment of an integration project. The more customer-centric a project, the more the variety and depth of data transfers required for the integration to be complete. Data transfers grow exponentially and can challenge the scale of a middleware platform quickly. The most successful IT integration projects aren’t data transfer-intensive, they are business strategy driven. One of the most effective best practices of integration is not having to move the data at all. Using an SOA-based framework as a means to enable data consumption without having to perform lengthy ETL processes is the future of integration. By definition, middleware relies on a series of tightly-coupled integration points designed to move data asynchronously. In contrast, SOA-based frameworks are designed to enable real-time synchronous communication through the use of loosely-coupled connections that can flex in response to business process requirements.
- Failure to plan and anticipate how a change in one cloud platform or enterprise application including those running on Salesforce’s Force.com, a SAP R/3 system and other platforms impact the entire company’s IT stability. The VP of Infrastructure for a globally-based gaming and hospitality chain told me he and his team often are given the challenging task of bringing up new casino and hotel operations offices globally in two weeks. He sends in an advance team to determine how best to integrate with any legacy on-premise systems. The team also works to integrate any unique Salesforce apps that need to be included into the main Salesforce instance at the tab level, and to determine how best to integrate into the SAP R/3 procurement system. System security is the highest priority during the integration pilot and go-live work. The company has standardized on a series of network adapters and connectors that are designed to shield all traffic across the network. He told me that just one API change in the IT stack supporting their SAP R/3 integration would cause all adapters to quit working, report an error condition and force debugging to the line level. They learned this during a go-live with a Reno property. Today all changes to middleware are run in a pilot mode in a sandbox first, and the company is looking to get away from middleware entirely as a result.
(Cross-posted @ A Passion for Research)