The benefits of building a more connected business

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UK banking giant TSB made the headlines in April when its online banking services were disrupted for a number of days as a result of its attempts to move more than 1.3bn customer records from its former parent, Lloyds Banking Group, to a new platform.  The botched migration also caused the bank’s mobile applications to crash, leaving millions of angry customers locked out of their accounts, and unable to make payments or transfers.

TSB’s recent experience wasn’t the first example of the impact a failed IT migration can have on a bank’s customers, though. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) was fined £56m by regulators in 2014 after an IT meltdown two years previously left more than 6.5m customers without access to their accounts.

Large-scale migrations such as those undertaken by TSB and RBS are indicative of a wider move across all industries towards digital transformation, and a growing understanding of the importance of a connected business, in which everything is connected for greater business agility, data-driven decision-making and customer focus.

These particular examples also highlight the potential perils of poor integration; the connection of applications to other applications, for example, or of on-premise data to cloud-based data.

Taking a cloud-first approach

Integration projects were once the domain of back-end IT operations, in which a small team would focus on bringing data into business applications such as Oracle or SAP.  With little interest in exposing that data across the wider business, customers, or outside organisations, the integration was essentially viewed as plumbing and, while important, would tend to be kept hidden.

Now, however, the growing importance of integration has led to a dramatic change in this situation. 

With a growing number of connections to a range of different devices, for example, businesses are now exposing data that was previously hidden away in the back office, such as that concerned with sales and logistics, making it available for an ever more mobile workforce. 

What’s more, all businesses must now be part of a wider ecosystem if they are to succeed. It’s important for many organisations to integrate with partners and suppliers, and for their products to integrate with those created by other organisations.

And of course, with most businesses looking for ways to reduce operational expenses, there’s often an economic incentive for adopting cloud-based technologies such as SaaS and integration platform-as-a-service, or iPaaS, and integrating these with their legacy systems.

It’s little surprise, therefore that, in recognising the efficiency and cost benefits it offers, forward-looking CIOs are increasingly recommending taking a cloud-first approach, investing heavily in private clouds and SaaS applications. For this approach to be successful, however, will require these applications to be fully integrated with each other, as well as with an organisation’s legacy systems.

Looking to the cloud

Many organisations will turn to the cloud as a means of bridging the gap between their existing on-premise systems and an ever-growing range of powerful cloud-based enterprise services and applications. But migrating, or integrating, an organisation’s legacy systems into the cloud can fall down when a mission-critical legacy application is unable to communicate with a modern cloud application.

Gartner suggests that many CIOs don’t recognise that traditional methods of integration are no longer able to cope with the rate of innovation and digital change today, however, and that cloud-based integration now represents the best means of addressing challenges to their application migration strategies.

The optimum method for connecting any and all data and applications is the deployment of an integration cloud. Ideally open and vendor-neutral, to support any applications used by a business – Microsoft, SAP, Oracle or otherwise – it is also essential that a modern integration cloud is low code for greater agility and productivity.

iPaaS, for example, is an ideal way of integrating both cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-on-premise scenarios, providing the native cloud connectors lacking in on-premise tools, and enabling the seamless connection of mobile and IoT data, applications and devices, many of which will live outside an organisation’s firewalls. Within a unified iPaaS solution, an organisation is able to rapidly and hyper-efficiently build out integrations through a low-code, drag-and-drop development environment.

Ultimately, the aim of any cloud migration is to allow a business to unlock its data to improve its operational efficiencies, automate its workflows, and drive a digital transformation that will enable it to survive and thrive in a new era dominated by cloud computing. It’s becoming clear to businesses that an effective integration cloud is not only a strategic tool that will help to aid agility and productivity, but a critical technology for remaining competitive in today’s business environment.

Establishing and maintaining connections

There are many benefits to being a connected business. According to our own research, it’s widely acknowledged that improved integration of an organisation’s data and applications can result in improved productivity and data accessibility, more efficient workflows, increased profitability, and faster, more accurate decision-making. Indeed, nearly all respondents said their businesses would enjoy greater benefits if they were able to improve integration and become more connected.

Most admitted that their organisation had experienced drawbacks because of poor integration, however, with three in five claiming that their organisation was struggling in its efforts to become more connected.

To overcome these issues, and to avoid potentially costly situations such as those faced by RBS and TSB, a solution such as integration cloud is vital in helping to establish and maintain connections between new applications, data sources and business functions, whether on-site or in the cloud. As businesses become ever more connected, and undertake ever more ambitious migration initiatives, it’s never been more important to ensure that all systems and applications are communicating with each other, regardless of where they’re located.

Steve Wood, Chief Product Officer, Dell Boomi
Image Credit: MK photograp55 / Shutterstock