What is Integration?
Integration at its core is all about getting the right information to the right person, at the right time in a scalable secure manner. Integration challenges are addressed by many different technologies because different tools are needed to extract, transfer and deliver the needed piece of information from a variety of sources to ensure the business user or end customer gets the information they need in a seamless manner.
For example, integration technologies include specialist tools for application, data, IOT, process and user-centric user cases. Integration capabilities have been designed to handle large chunks of information on a periodic basis, as well as smaller transactional pieces of data in real-time.
In emerging event-driven architectures, various systems, applications and components take a responsive approach by subscribing to event brokers to get notified in real-time when changes occur and respond accordingly.
It is common for organizations to have many legacy point-to-point integrations built between core applications. Examples include sharing transactional data between your company’s core CRM and ERP applications, or you may find an enterprise service hub approach where a central network element has been architected between many systems.
Ultimately, whatever the integration approach is, organizations commonly leverage a combination of different integration capabilities. For example, a customer facing portal that facilitates a consumer to place an order, or view their account, taps into a combination of using API management, database integration, application interfaces and invokes the related steps in a lead-to-cash process.
Another facet to consider is the increasing complexity and heterogeneity of many IT landscapes as companies increasingly leverage on-premise, cloud, best-of-breed applications and rely on third party capabilities (supply chain, partners, distributors, agents etc) to meet their modern digitalized business needs. Therefore, when integration platforms are leveraged by companies, they seek to cover the entire range of integration needs and support the widening range of underlying hybrid landscape elements that a business leverages on a day-to-day basis to be successful.
To help with this topic, SAP has developed a complementary Integration Solution Advisor Methodology (ISA-M) that currently has a community of over 1K participating companies. The SAP ISA-M helps you chart where your respective organization currently sits as it relates to Integration and provides you with the means to chart your plans in terms of optimizing your integration strategies and ultimately getting you to where you want to go.
Why Integration Matters
From informed customers I often hear that they “can’t live without Integration”. This is because in their modern organizations they have embraced and adopted software capabilities to such a degree that the smooth interconnected running of these key systems and applications is mission-critical to the daily operation of their company.
Companies are also more inter-connected with their supply-chain than ever before. The need for reliable, accurate and timely exchanges for B2B communications with suppliers and partners has never been more important than now.
Integration is only going to grow in importance due to a variety of factors. First there is the growth of micro-services (aka the modular enterprise) utilization that increases the number of items that need to be connected. There is also the growing use of new technologies such as ML/RPA/AI/Edge/5G (to name a few) that need to be seamlessly integrated with existing applications, systems and business processes for their full financial impact to be appreciated.
In addition, companies are being increasingly pushed by new market entrants (digital natives versus digital migrants) to adopt new business models in order to stay competitive. Frequently staying competitive involves moving faster, saving costs and providing customers with a seamless omni-channel experience that has accurate real-time data at its foundation.
At this point you may not have realized that solving your most pressing business problems begins with making sure you address your integration challenges first. You may have just seen it through the prism or vernacular of your own business problems/challenges that you face daily. It is very common for me to find different stakeholders across an organization, across lines of business such as finance, HR, sales etc that all need reliable real-time data that they can in turn put into action to solve a specific problem without ever mentioning the term Integration.
When leading companies understand that integration is strategic and fundamental to solving their business problems, they often seek to establish an Integration Center of Excellence (COE) within their organization to help scale and accelerate the solving of these common business needs for timely accurate access to key data.
By establishing an integration COE, these organizations move faster to achieve their business goals by leveraging COE supplied optimized integration assets and starting blocks, leveraging best practices for related integration performance and working pro-actively with line of business stakeholders to help them achieve their pressing business needs and priorities.
The ROI of Integration
The ROI of an integration initiative is going to be directly tied to the business problem(s) being addressed. According to a Gartner 2019 Integration survey the top five integration scenarios include integration with:
- Analytical/BI environments (mentioned by 86% of respondents)
- Legacy systems (79%)
- Partners and ecosystems (68%)
- Single source of truth data (65%)
- HCM applications (63%)
Gartner 2019 Business Application Integration Survey
Typically, I see customer integration projects that are up and running and delivering a positive ROI within 12 months. Depending on the complexity of the implementation, integration platforms can be up and running within a single quarter or a bit longer for the more comprehensive implementations. Regardless of the scope, business results can clearly be tied to the rapid implementation of a modern, cloud-based, multi-cloud Integration platform.
Integration benefits can be achieved for all scoped aspects of a business. Companies have experienced employee productivity gains (15% for connected digital experiences), related improvements in development project delivery (50% faster, 40% cheaper) increases in online user counts (30-40%), more efficient account openings and order processing (33%), growth in associated revenue (10%) and improvements in financial postings (20%) to name a few.
The ubiquity of Integration’s benefit to an organization means that virtually any company stands to gain from implementing a near-term Integration initiative that can rapidly deliver tangible business benefits to their organization.
Why SAP for Integration?
There are many choices when it comes to selecting your Integration vendor, you need to select one that takes modern approach to integration that will save you time and money in quicker implementations futureproof your investment in a platform with comprehensive integration capabilities.
SAP is independently recognized by Gartner as a leader in the integration market. SAP Integration Suite offers a robust library of pre-packaged integration content that covers both SAP and third-party applications because SAP recognizes the need for quick implementation time and low maintenance of integrations between applications.
With managed pre-packaged content provided by SAP, customers consistently save time and money with customer improvements of 60-80% as cited by our customers. Companies are able to allocate their resources to more valuable activities while building and maintaining integration content is managed by SAP.
SAP leadership in the Integration space is also due to enterprise-grade comprehensive capabilities. SAP provides integration capabilities that cover all the major categories of integration. SAP provides capabilities that span application, B2B, data, event, IOT and process Integration. SAP specialist tooling has helped SAP customers save 30% in developer time savings. Other Integration capabilities include integration testing and monitoring, low code features, ML based recommendations, specialist capabilities relating to blockchain and more which ultimately accelerates Integration tasks from days to hours
SAP makes the customer journey as seamless as possible when it comes to Integration through easy-to-use tooling, multi-cloud deployment flexibility and a focus on developer enablement and onboarding. This includes an extensive library of assets developed with customers including architectural blueprints, online enablement courses, step-by-step guidance for specific use cases, the previously mentioned Integration methodology with supporting customer forum and a customer advisory program.
SAP has been independently recognized as a market leader for multiple years. SAP’s has been strong in the integration space going back decades, which ultimately contributes to our ability to execute and is why over 15,000 customers have selected SAP for their integration needs globally.
To help get you started, SAP has a host of complementary resources available to you.
- The SAP Integration Solution Advisory Methodology and complementary forum will give you the chance to document where your organization stands with regards to Integration and therefore how you might start benefiting from an optimized approach to Integration.
- SAP Discovery Center provides you with step-by-step guides on how to get started with parts of SAP’s Business Technology Platform (in this case Integration). You can even work with an assigned coach to help you compete the chosen mission which leverages licensed or trial components of SAP Business Technology Platform.
- SAP’s API Business Hub has a wealth of information and assets relating to pre-built integration content that has been built for commonly used application integration patterns. Pre-packaged integration content includes Process, Events, Workflow and API-based categories. There are also customer-based “blueprints” available that illustrate how integration components are typically leveraged with other parts of your enterprise landscape to make designing your own architecture easier and optimized.
SAP Integration Suite Book
- Read “SAP Integration Suite” an integration book I recently co-authored with Piyush Gakhar and Shilpa Vij, based on our years of experience helping customers solve their business problems with integration. It offers a holistic starting point for the integration topic. This book is a comprehensive guide to all the integration capabilities that SAP Integration Suite offers and provides guidance in terms of getting started with various aspects of SAP Integration Suite.
So good luck with your Integration journey, it would be great to hear how you are approaching this aspect of your business as we kick-off another year and if you are aware of additional considerations I missed that should be factored in for an integration platform project.