SIs in a World Gone Cloud: Evaluating iPaaS and Its Killer (Re)Use Cases

Systems integrators need not fear SaaS. It's an opportunity.

Channel Partners

January 5, 2016

5 Min Read
SIs in a World Gone Cloud: Evaluating iPaaS and Its Killer (Re)Use Cases

Brendan PetersonBy Brendan Peterson

In today’s SaaS-dominated market, systems integrators really need to focus on that second word: integration. Many enterprise cloud applications can now be bought with a click, and that has empowered line-of-business users to select whatever best fits their needs — leaving the burden on IT and partners to connect the dots between those applications and the rest of the enterprise. With SaaS applications replacing traditional on-premises infrastructure projects, SIs must now establish their worth to customers by excelling in cloud connectivity, providing critical, agile integration points between whatever apps happen to exist in the business ecosystem quickly and within budget.

SI’s immediate reaction to this shift from on-prem to SaaS, generally, is trepidation or outright fear. But I challenge you to view it from another angle. When has there ever been a riper market for integration? Every user of every app out there expects these systems to be able to trade data, and they expect it to be easy. The truth is, it’s still difficult to tie these apps together, especially when left to an overworked IT department that’s already fighting shadow IT. In fact, in a recent survey from Scribe and Spiceworks, 61 percent of IT professionals reported that they weren’t satisfied with their cloud-to-cloud integration capabilities, and 59 percent expressed dissatisfaction with their cloud-to on-premises integration capabilities.

As an SI, if you can stitch these apps together in short order, in a scalable fashion, you can be on the leading curve of the new capabilities people are looking for — rather than seeing your competitors moving to this model and attempting to follow suit.

So how do you equip your teams to tackle these new challenges? The first step is to standardize on an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) – which Gartner defines as a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on-premises and cloud-based processes/services/apps/data — and stick with it.

It’s easy to just pick up whatever tools are on hand or write custom code for each job, but that increases the time it takes to deliver these integrations, and can therefore eat into your bottom line as well as hurt your standing with the customer. By finding an iPaaS that can accommodate your integration needs, you can teach your teams how to use one tool, and you can start to build IP around common integration scenarios using that same tool. Isn’t it more appealing to build something one time, then re-use your work over and over? You’ll also more quickly help your customers realize value in the integration you are building.

Strategic Use Cases for iPaaS: Building an Integration Library

That re-use of work is a key component that bears repeating. After selecting the right iPaaS, you can build an integration for a specific customer and re-use that same work when the opportunity arises for another customer, getting twice the “bang for your buck” out of the discovery and creation of these integration use-cases. The more solutions you create on a standardized integration platform, the larger your library of known and vetted integrations gets, allowing you to focus on the customization end of the design phase versus the initial knitting together of these apps.

As you leverage an iPaaS to build your integration library, you can allow your junior team members to tackle the task of setting up the baseline integration, freeing up your more senior team members to do the interesting “value-added” work. If you can keep the low complexity/high volume work out of your advanced team members’ hands, you can bill them out at what they are worth as well as keep them more engaged and stave off the boredom of doing the same menial tasks customer after customer.

So how do you pick an iPaaS tool? In addition to finding a system that allows you to reuse your work, keep in mind that there are still plenty of customers who have critical data on premises, and they require a solution that can tie all that data together. When you are looking at an iPaaS to standardize on, it’s well and good to have a cloud integration solution, but it absolutely has to meet these additional criteria:

  • The platform needs to make it easy to keep on-premises apps connected and in the mix. An iPaaS should make it as easy to tie legacy systems together with cloud apps as it makes the cloud-to cloud scenario.

  • In the cloud and hybrid world, integration still needs to occur behind the firewall to make the IT conversation easier, while also allowing a cloud-controlled interface to make your consultants’ jobs easier by giving them the control they need while still adhering to IT security policies.

  • The more common integration connections you create on a standardized platform, the larger your library becomes, making each new customer onboarding process smoother and faster, so look for plenty of connection points.

By leveraging iPaaS, you can not only get that initial integration process completed quickly, but you now have a tool in place that makes the ongoing care and feeding of that integration simple and straightforward for your entire team. This wave of integration opportunity won’t be here forever, so analyze your needs and standardize on an iPaaS to help you ride it.

As product marketing manager at Scribe Software, Brendan Peterson draws on expertise in integration, ERP, SaaS-based apps (including, as well as databases and data migration. Brendan works with sales, product and marketing to ensure a consistent company message is delivered, and to create tools that help Scribe’s teams drive the company’s products successfully into market. Follow Brendan on Twitter at @Brendan603.

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