Is Integration the Ultimate Productivity Tool?

I started my career as a developer when I was about 14 years old and the very first piece of software I built was a management system for a computer repair shop.

At the time, software was on-premise, monolithic and self-centred. The piece of software I built using Borland C++ was designed to solve the simple problem of tracking the status of a customer’s repair.

The system was installed on a terminal and a receptionist or technician would key in the data from the customer when the repair order was received and would then print out two copies of the repair order. One was taped to the PC and the other was handed to the customer. The customer would then use this piece of paper to pick up his PC when it had been repaired, and the invoice was then generated on a completely different system.

 

What’s Changed?

Now many of you may relate to the story above because, in the back of your heads, you are thinking… well how is that any different to what happens when I take my car to my local mechanic?

Well the reason we still can relate to the story above is that many businesses have still not evolved past this kind of software and – even though years have passed – they probably can’t find a compelling reason to do so. So as developers, architects and members of the IT ecosystem in general we should be asking ourselves: why? Why is it that these legacy systems (legacy in terms of both thinking and technology) remain in place?

 

The Case for Investing in Technology

It is my belief that the users of these pieces of software just don’t see the benefit of changing anything. There are many reasons a business chooses to invest in technology, but I think one of the key drivers (and one that we hear about on a regular basis) is ROI. Translating the business jargon we are basically saying: "Fine, if I buy this will it cost me money or make me money?". If the answer is, "make me money" then chances are you go ahead with the purchase.

Now, if we take this back a step and we analyse what has happened, we can assume that these "micro businesses" don’t think that changing to more modern technology will make them more money than it will cost them. I love to look at the decision making trends of small businesses because I feel that the problems they have are microcosms of what large enterprises also face.

For a small business, the main barrier is the consumption of time. Resource is quite limited and often it is not possible to scale human capital quickly because of the higher exposure to risk. This leaves a small business two options: scale through innovation, or simply remain the same and accept the status quo. I argue that there must be a gap which is making these organisations choose the later.

 

Innovation Opportunities through Integration

As a technologist I am a keen observer of patterns of inefficiency because in every inefficiency resides an opportunity to innovate. Since I have been at Cloudreach I have noticed that many businesses actually integrate systems by scaling human capital.

Now the pattern of scalability through human resources has both positives and negatives but, if we look at things through two key metrics – time to market and employee productivity – then we notice that it is largely unsustainable.

In the modern age of enterprise computing almost all of our systems expose some kind of API or are backed by a relational database of some sort, which means that in most cases integration is always feasible. I think it is also safe to say that if we were to replace human application integration with automated integration, we would achieve a massive productivity increase because (as we all know) computers a quite good at executing well defined tasks quickly.

What I find fascinating is how much more of the former and less of the latter we actually encounter in businesses today.  To the best of my ability I was unable to understand why any business would choose to scale and integrate manually as opposed to choosing the route of automation with all of its obvious benefits.

 

Why Not Automate?

For this reason I did what any curious person would do, I just asked why? The answers I came up with were quite interesting and I’ll list a few below in anonymous format.

  • I needed it done quickly so I did what I knew how to do. It turned out it was a function we needed and just evolved into part of the way we operate.
  • Our business systems are managed by xxx who were adamant there was no other way.
  • We have attempted to automate a few times but after numerous project failures we have just given up on it as we can’t just keep investing without results.

Looking to readers who hold management roles here, I am wondering how many of the statements above resonate with some of the systems that you currently use to run your business.

In my time working on enterprise systems I have also found that different enterprise system vendors who I will leave unnamed also tend to use the reasons I have listed above as part of an ROI case to make you believe their software will increase your productivity.

I think what we should really be asking ourselves is: how true are the statements above? Is a complete enterprise system transformation really the only way to avoid being trapped in the above scenarios? Well I personally believe there is a better way.

 

Integration Nirvana

At Cloudreach we listen closely to the problems our customers face and use those problems as the basis for the products we develop.

The Cloudreach Connect product is designed to solve the "productivity puzzle" in a sensible way. We have built a product that adapts to any system, can consume any API, can automate any workload and on which we guarantee success.

I hope you all enjoyed my trip down memory lane and, if you are keen to see what is possible with Connect, let us know. I personally believe that integration is the ultimate productivity tool. With our Connect product, we can help deliver productivity through integration at a cost that will make you think differently about what it means to integrate systems.