According to a new IBRS study, integration is proving to be a challenge for the growing number of organisations where business units have procured cloud-based applications with only superficial IT involvement.

For example, IBRS has noted that human resources departments that procured Software as a Service (SaaS) based e-learning and human capital management solutions from cloud services without IT involvement are now struggling to obtain a consistent view of staffing.

For these organisations, SaaS has been both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it has enabled business units to easily acquire and run enterprise-grade business solutions that are specific to their needs, without significant input from IT. On the other hand, this ease of acquisition and deployment also means many organisations are creating silos of information and processes.

In short, the procurement and use of satellite SaaS solutions by individual business units is starting to drive fragmentation of information and processes. Often, IT is being asked to integrate multiple cloud and on-premise enterprise solutions long after these solutions are put in place – an unenviable and untenable situation. Frankly, it’s a bit of an old-fashioned conundrum.

TechnologyOne SaaS transition specialist, Julie Ember, says: “Enabling your business areas to access the applications they need to do business is important. However, without a level of governance you are at risk of a complex application architecture. You may end up with applications that overlap in functionality, are not easy to integrate or upgrade, or do not have the right level of actual ‘service’.”

Ember says this is where the IT team can add value, by providing the governance model that ensures a strategic approach to any application procurement decisions across the business. Having a company-wide procurement model allows IT team to ask questions like:

  • Is there already software that does this in the organisation?
  • Would other parts of the business want to use this new capability?
  • Should the broader organisation be asked for their input?
  • Does this fit into the IT strategy that has been agreed upon to deliver the business vision?

Integration = innovation

The IBRS study also found that integration is now recognised as a strategic imperative. Senior executives viewed the integration of core enterprise solutions as a necessary precursor to innovation initiatives.

However, many of them also said integration is not solely a technical issue: it is a strategic business issue. More specifically, the challenges of integration mirror the challenges of structuring a business and the processes that flow both externally and internally.

TechnologyOne’s Julie Ember says having clarity as to the business structure and process is essential to understanding how the integration challenge will be addressed, and how further operational innovations will be achieved.

“It starts with shifting from a pure ‘technical integration’ focus towards a business-led discussion focused on business processes and information sharing. It should be about how technology can help support your business strategy – not how your business strategy can work around your technological capability.

“From there, the technical discussion can look at what can and can’t be delivered and what might need changing to achieve what the business needs,” says Ember.

Ember adds that keeping integration simple should be the guiding principle.

“Most SaaS vendors will provide a list of integration options that have been tested and verified as scalable, robust and secure. So once the integration requirements are truly known, organisations need to ensure they choose software that is in line with their integration strategy.

“Ultimately, the decisions you make in regards to applications, interfaces, business processes, information sharing and how that all fits together is to support and enable the business to achieve its strategic business objectives.”

About this author

Mike Gee is a writer for the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit of which Technology One is a corporate member. Members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.

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