Connecting the data dots

Organizations have embraced cloud computing with gusto. The efficiency gains are an obvious selling point for both IT and department heads, and the cost savings are a compelling point for CFOs. But for any enterprise that has committed to the cloud, no matter what point on that journey, the cost and productivity advantages do come with caveats. 

No IT project should be undertaken lightly. Trade journal ZDNet recently identified eight common obstacles encountered during IT transformation, including effects on the organization, security considerations, addressing legacy systems (and culture), and what that transformation means to different departments. Having a clear strategy and plan can address these areas to some extent, but because the cloud has made it easy to adopt powerful enterprise-ready tools, there has been a profusion of applications added to the corporate IT environment.   

Today’s enterprise has more than 1,400 cloud applications on average. I’ll leave it to your CIO to decide if that’s too many. However, the high number is indicative of how easy it can be for someone within an organization to gain access to a new tool with a few keystrokes and a credit card number.   

While it’s clear that the cloud and the many applications and services it has enabled have been of tremendous business value, the traditional “data silos” that have vexed organizations for more than two decades remain.   

What cloud applications make up for in accessibility and cost for organizations, they still haven’t been able to solve the lingering issue of how to break down data silos. The challenge to breaking down these data silos is partially due to the fact that few of these applications are designed to natively communicate with each other. Which means that the insights and efficiencies that could be available with a combination of data from various applications still requires tasking IT staff with manual integration.   

For example, the corporate marketing team may intuitively recognize there is an advantage to combining and analyzing Salesforce and Marketo data. The sales team may want easy access to the service ticket data in Zendesk, but it’s not connected to their Dynamics CRM. In both scenarios, they need to access pieces of data from different applications, but they don’t have an easy way to do so. When companies overcome the massive issue around data silos, teams and individuals can be empowered with quick access to the data they need to better do their jobs or serve the customer.    

For all the cloud’s promise, there are many gains yet to be made. Tearing down data silos and building data connectivity between the various mission-critical cloud applications is one area where gains can be achieved. 

Thanks to technology known as integration platform as a service (iPaaS), intuitive data integration is within reach. Organizations can deploy, manage, govern, and integrate applications and services with iPaaS, a set of cloud-based integration tools. iPaaS can integrate data by tying cloud applications together like Salesforce, NetSuite, Marketo, Sharepoint, Zendesk, ServiceNow and more. Even data integrations from social media to ERP are possible through iPaaS. Users can even create complex, event-driven processes to remove grueling manual integration work from the equation. 

By making data integration drag-and-drop simple, iPaaS eliminates the complexity of connecting applications, data and processes.   

The low-code usability of iPaaS is like giving your non-technical staff the equivalent of a digital version of the Swiss Army Knife. iPaaS provides organizations with the means of taking full advantage of their technology investments while still maintaining control and visibility over IT assets within the CIO’s required purview. 

Early indications for iPaaS adoption is pointing towards an upward trend. iPaaS is clearly catching on. Last year, the iPaaS market was estimated at $700 million, and it’s projected to grow at an annual rate between 14 and 20 percent. By 2020, the iPaaS market is expected to hit $1 billion. What’s more, three-fourths of organizations will be running more than 80 percent of their applications as cloud applications by 2020.   

Without a simple means of integrating data, silos and bottlenecks could hold organizations back and strain limited IT resources. 

The value of iPaaS technologies with drag-and-drop interfaces with a library of connections provide self-service capabilities for “citizen integrators” or tech-savvy business users. They have the knowledge of the data or systems they’re trying to integrate and the ultimate outcome in mind, but do not have the time or resources required to learn specialized coding languages or knowledge of system APIs, for example. That means even department heads are empowered to create, publish and automate data integration projects as quickly as needed. This is in stark contrast to status quo, where the average time for completing a similar data integration project is more than 14 months. That’s one year of lost potential productivity when compared to data integration with iPaaS. 

A common lament for many in business is that the simple, intuitive availability and usefulness of the tools they use as consumers are not yet manifested in their professional setting. In an enterprise setting, many IT approved technologies fall short on ease of use. iPaaS may be the catalyst for achieving that ideal. And because iPaaS allows IT to see and manage the influx of new applications within the parameters of their security and governance mandates, the proliferation of unauthorized applications—so-called “shadow IT”—can be stanched while enjoying three primary advantages: 

  • Rapid creation of complex integrations and connections to microservices and APIs that power mobile apps, customer experiences, internet of things, and project workflows. 
  • Centralized control of applications to break down silos between teams, synchronized data access across systems without sacrificing security, reliability and transparency. 
  • Adding greater technical agility into the enterprise by empowering business teams to create their own integrations and workflows without waiting in an IT backlog queue. 

Early reports show that iPaaS has demonstrated a great deal of value for its enterprise users. Using iPaaS, organizations are connecting to business applications and data with greater speed and accuracy. They are also further enabled to streamline their process and automate their most complex and repetitive workflows. They can effectively eliminate the time-consuming, error-prone, manual work. Whether it is automating the flow of leads generated by marketing to not only facilitate the sales process, but also support smooth on-boarding once a lead is converted to a customer. 

In this day and age, the cloud is entrenched in most organizations. While iPaaS is still a relatively new solution, it’s a logical next step when it comes to exploring how organizations can get the most out of their investments in cloud computing and organizational efficiency.   

Peter Merkulov, Vice President of Product Strategy and Technology Alliances at Globalscape 

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