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Applying the external perspective when integrating

Integration between systems in large organisations is an area in need of drastic improvements and these improvements needs to happen yesterday. In this blogpost we try to present a perspective that we think can be used to enable such a drastic improvement. We recommend that you apply the external perspective on all your system integrations.

When a business offers data (the producer) to several external parties (the consumers) the producing party will hopefully sooner than later realise that it is cheaper for them to let the consumer adapt to the way that the producer offers data than having to build and maintain a unique integration into every consumers solutions.

At the same time it is in the producing parties interest in making consumption as easy as possible for the consumer.

Unthinkable ineffectiveness

Just imagine the unthinkable ineffectiveness if Google offered the Google Maps service as a custom integration for every consumers solutions. This would mean that every time a consumer wanted to consume maps data Google would have to involve integration developers that needed to know the Google side of the system as well as learning the consumers solutions.

Even if over time a limited set of patterns representing the most frequent consumers solutions where to evolve Google would still need to maintain every integration for every consumer. Then just add the complexity of versioning new requirements and new solutions on top of that and I hope everyone understands that that is a terrible way for Google to provide their maps.

This approach is at the extreme when it comes to making consumption as easy as possible for the consumer, the consumer does not actually have to do anything but wait for Google to have time to help them.

Which considering the scale of the service would take a very long time, and then when Google allocated resources for the integration the consuming party would be completely dependent on Google competence to get their solution working.

Does the fact that business needs to wait for a central IT team to do an integration sound familiar? Does being totally dependent on IT staff to get an integration into place sound familiar? This is the way we have done internal integrations for quite some time now.

Enabling consumers to connect

Instead while applying the external perspective, Google decided to offer the Google Maps service in one way only and let every consumer be responsible for potential required integrations from their solutions themselves. This means that Google does not offer integration but instead offers connectivity.

We can imagine that Google took quite some care in evaluating their options for how to expose the service and choose something that probably doesn't fit any consumer perfectly but simple enough for every consumer to be able to adapt to. Everything besides the choice of outlet and the effort of keeping one well documented way of consuming data open to consumers everything else required to consume lies solely on the consumer.

The better Google is at providing accurate documentation and keeping the agreed quality and SLAs for data delivery the less work this connectivity causes Google. The more "self service" Google can offer for the Google Maps service the higher the efficiency and profitability is for Google.

Even on-boarding of a new consumer is completely self managed by the consumer and does not affect Google in any other way than making a business decision to allow the new consumer to become a customer or not.

Is this the way a large organisation does internal integrations today? Why isn't this the way large organisations does integrations today? How can we afford to keep doing integrations in any other way than this?

5 reasons for poor result

Well the answers to why we aren't doing this is different for different organisations but we can see that there are several reasons for why this approach isn't having the impact it should have. Some of the more common reasons that we have come across are

  1. This approach requires decentralisation of IT responsibilities away from a central IT department directly to the business units.
  2. This approach impacts heavily the way large organisations finance its departments and units including IT.
  3. Integration is thought of being only an IT problem and within IT the horizon for problem-solving is different than the business horizon.
  4. IT is perceived as complex and difficult, a viewpoint that is plain wrong and IT specialists seldom tries to remedy.
  5. We have so much IT legacy and technical debt that we never get enough maneuver space (resources and time) to tackle the large scale change required to get to applying the external perspective on internal integration.

7 noticeable changes

But if we imagine a business that have been able to somehow overcome these problems and have adopted the external perspective for all integrations, we would probably see these noticeable changes in the way that organisation does business

  1. The integration team offers a connectivity platform that the business units are utilising directly themselves to act as producers (offering data for consumption) as well as being consumers of data. What data is offered and in what format that data appears is totally controlled and regulated by the business units. This means that only the data that actually provides business value is available.
  2. The connectivity platform is standardised and simplified with the goal of elimination IT complexity it is not a complex thing to offer data for consumption or to consume offered data.
  3. The central integration team now works as advisors to the business and business is in complete control in choosing solutions.
  4. The solutions that the business units uses are easy to integrate into the central connectivity platform and great care are taken to enable this when business units acquires systems.
  5. The central integration team works actively in eliminating existing/old integrations in direct cooperation with the business.
  6. Each business unit is responsible for offering required data and the central integration team is responsible to offer the connectivity platform that the business uses.
  7. The business is never waiting for central IT bottlenecks but are instead themselves in total control of service quality, innovation and time to market.

The Digital Ready Model

Redpill Linpro have developed a model to assist large organisations in their journey to understanding and adopting the external perspective on integration called "Digital ready".

You can find more information on our model and how we can assist you in adopting the external perspective for all integrations here. Or just contact us and let us explain what and how we can help you.

Written by Benneth Christ…