Are You in Danger of Being Stranded on Islands of Automation? (Part II)
In our previous blog, we discussed scenarios where complex & unconnected IT systems create Islands of Automation within an organization. The scenarios and misaligned processes lead to data disruptions, poor communication, frequent breakdown, and increased operational cost. Conventional integration methods are time-consuming, expensive, and require specialized skill sets to create connections between systems. The challenge of “islands of automation” can be solved by addressing the following three scenarios.
1. Aggregate Data for Reports and Analytics
To create report and dashboards, organizations need to first collect the relevant information into one database or data warehouse before analytics can be performed on that data. For example, to identify average selling price of a SKU in last quarter, all the sales information related to that product needs to be aggregated in one place. To address this use case of aggregating data, a specific type of Data Integration technology is required which is called Extract, Transform and Load (ETL). As the name implies, it means that data first needs to be “extracted” from multiple source systems and applications, then it needs to be “transformed” into one structure and then that data needs to be “loaded” into the database.
A modern Data integration or ETL solution provides ability to:
- Connect with and extract data from multitude of systems and file formats
- It provides rich data-mapping capabilities to transform and validate the data and
- Supports connectivity with all the different databases and applications
- Schedule jobs to run automatically hourly, daily or weekly
- Allows business users to do self-service integration with a web-browser based, visual user interface
This Data integration or ETL solution helps remove “islands of automation”:
- On-demand access for business users to critical business data
- Simplify ability to create reports and dashboards
- Improve data quality and consistency by enabling data profiling, validation and enrichment
- Simplify data migration and one-time ore recurring data transfers
2. Synchronize Information Between Applications
A key problem of “islands of automation” is that separate copies of same business information resides in each island that is a separate application or system or database. For example, the customer profile for a client may have up-to-date contact and address information in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application but it may be outdated in the Order Management system. To address this use case of synchronizing information between applications a specific type of integration technology is required called Application Integration or Enterprise Service Bus (ESB).
A state-of-the-art Application integration or ESB solution provides ability to:
- Connect with and read or insert data from multiple applications and systems
- Real-time triggers that can execute jobs based on events such as automatically send customer profile information to order management system when it is updated in CRM application
- Publish and consume web services and APIs
- Orchestrate sequence of tasks into process flows with decision nodes and ability to route data
- Send automated alerts and notifications
This Application integration or ESB solution helps eliminate “islands of automation” in many ways:
- Connect HR systems together to share information
- Synchronize CRM and ERP systems
- Connect e-commerce website with order fulfillment
- Single place for order entry and processing
- Backup data from cloud application to on-premises system
- Remove need to maintain copies of business information
- Remove need to manually type-in and enter data
3. Exchange Business Information with Customers and Partners
The most difficult challenge in removing “islands of automation” is related to interactions with external organizations because there is large degree of variations in data and less control. For example, a distributor can get order information of product, pricing and quantity from its retailers in various formats and it needs to enter this information into its ERP system correctly and accurately. To address this use case of exchanging data between companies, a specific type of integration technology is required called business-to-business (B2B) integration.
An innovative B2B integration solution provides:
- Pre-built support for latest industry standards and data formats such as EDI X12, HIPAA, ACORD, etc.
- Trading Partner Management to manage profiles
- Secure and encrypted exchange of data
- Centrally manage, track and monitor all data exchanges with all partners in one place
- Self-service capability to operations staff and partners to collaborate without involving IT
- Compliance and audit trails to see what happened when and by whom
This B2B integration solution helps reduce “islands of automation” related to:
- Customer data onboarding
- Improving order-to-cash process with integration between CRM, ERP, warehousing, and financial systems
- POs, shipping notices, and payments with suppliers
- Automating procure-to-pay process
- Integrating applications associated with mergers and acquisitions
To solve these three scenarios, businesses had no choice but to invest in purchasing three separate integration products to address the challenges listed above. A modern approach is to leverage a comprehensive, citizen-integrator enabled integration platform that combines these three different integration capabilities into a single solution. That removes the need to purchase, learn and maintain three distinct technologies and vendors. Adeptia Connect is a platform that combines ETL, ESB and B2B in one single self-service solution that provides a collaborative environment for IT staff, operations people and partner users.