Report: Cloud Adoption Challenged By Integration in Digital Enterprise

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Report: Cloud Adoption Challenged By Integration in Digital Enterprise – MSDynamicsWorld.com 

The cloud promises companies many benefits, from automatic updates to rapid scaling (of seats, storage, or computing) to advantageous pricing structures. But, it makes few promises about integration. A Microsoft Dynamics ERP customer may be assured of achieving solid integration with Dynamics CRM Online; less assured if it then adds third-party human resources, business intelligence (BI) or marketing automation solutions, especially ones outside the Microsoft partner ecosystem.

A good many cloud applications (like CRM, marketing automation and HR systems) never get integrated, because user companies can’t spare the time or expense. And with the pace of iterations in cloud-based software, they’d be crazy to try. Custom coding (still a preferred method of integration) simply isn’t agile enough to keep pace.

Data integration solution provider Scribe Software has unveiled a new industry report, Connectivity in the Enterprise: The Rise of Cloud and Its Integration Challenges [download required], in partnership with Spiceworks. The report examines current industry application deployment trends and data integration practices, uncovering key opportunities and challenges faced by almost 300 IT leaders adapting to new agile connectivity needs in enterprises shifting to cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) applications.

Most Organizations Only “Partly Cloudy”

Cloud-based CRM seems to get all the press (think Salesforce and Dynamics CRM Online). But CRM is not the only cloud application, and far from the most common any longer. It was – in 2013, found Scribe. Since then, cloud-based CRM bumped from 26 to 30%, while marketing automation and salesforce automation shot past to 62 and 60 percent of respondents respectively, using applications from market leaders as Marketo, HubSpot, and Salesforce. Scribe proposes that cloud is chosen when systems are due for replacement, and a high priority has been placed on the need to market, sell, and service customers in a more personal way.

Survey: Is your system deployed in the cloud

There’s considerable on-premise inertia; 83% of ERP installs are on-premise, as are:

  • 73% of data warehouse and data management
  • 70% of supply chain management/procurement/logistics
  • 67% of BI and analytics
  • 63% of customer service
  • and 60% of CRM.

So while a fraction of organizations live in the cloud today, most operate in hybrid environments.

Fully 59% of survey respondents are dissatisfied with their ability to sync data between cloud and on-premise systems – a hurtle for businesses seeking to move past integration fundamentals like reporting and basic analytics. The combination of on-premise and cloud applications increases the complexity, velocity and volume of data, causing businesses to struggle to achieve a 360 degree view of their customers.

The Old Standby: Custom Coding

Largely because it is familiar, custom coding to individual application programming interfaces (APIs) is still the most popular method of integration, with 54 percent of respondents using it as their primary choice for connecting applications.

But custom coding is notoriously slow and expensive – particularly in hybrid deployments when cloud applications are updated constantly. Survey respondents reported their top integration challenge is the time to develop a solution (45%), followed by the solution’s cost (36%).

However popular custom coding is, it doesn’t satisfy, says Scribe VP of Marketing John Joseph. “If you go down the custom code path, you need to commit to maintain, change, update, and staff it. Integrations are living, long-term entities that change with the business. We have worked with partners who took six months to write a solid integration between two applications, and it could cost more than $100,000 to do that.

“So you need to think about the long-term and ask, ‘Are there more agile ways to address this?'” There are, and fully 59% of respondents use third-party software, connectors and platforms to simplify the process.

The Need: Agile Integration and “Citizen Integrators”

Among those platforms is the emerging class of integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS), typically built in and deployed in the cloud. Scribe’s iPaaS solutions include Scribe Online and Scribe Insight, while others include Dell Boomi, Mulesoft, and Informatica. These systems have tools to create, manage, and monitor dozens of integrations through a single interface.

Along with the new class of platform is a new class of integrator, which Scribe describes as the “citizen integrator.” The citizen integrator is no novice – more typically in the business analyst class. But this integrator is neither a third-party integrator nor an IT professional. Thus, IT is no longer a bottleneck, and in some cases need not involve itself in integration. As Joseph describes Scribe’s platform, “We use technology from MIT [Scratch]designed to allow kids to write software programs, which allows people who aren’t programmers to write very sophisticated custom interfaces.”

“That’s all about agility too, and sometimes it’s a rogue effort – ‘I’m not waiting for IT, I think I can take this on.'” But over time, IT organizations are becoming more aware of the need to enable the business and not control it, so they need to find agile tools like iPaaS. Most companies don’t have the budget to do third-party [integration] every time; the more able companies are to do it themselves, the faster it’s done.”

About Dann Anthony Maurno

Dann Anthony Maurno is a seasoned business journalist who began his career as International Marketing Manager with Lilly Software, then moved on as a freelancer to write for such prestigious clients as CFO Magazine; Compliance Week;Manufacturing Business Technology; Decision Resources, Inc.; The Economist Intelligence Unit; and corporate clients such as Iron Mountain, Microsoft and SAP. He is the co-author of Thin Air: How Wireless Technology Supports Lean Initiatives(CRC/Productivity Press, 2010).

Dann can be reached at [email protected].