Gartner: Better collaboration for new era of application integration

Diverse teams must come together to create a successful application integration as complexity goes up. Warning: Cloud integration is no cure-all.

LAS VEGAS -- More business-to-business partnerships, burgeoning application portfolios, mobile and cloud computing are among the trends making application integration increasingly complex today. That complexity calls for new integration strategies, according to Benoit Lheureux, a research vice president at Gartner Inc.

If application integration does not become a true area of expertise, Lheureux indicated, companies will find themselves at a serious competitive disadvantage within the next few years. IT team members representing diverse interests will have to communicate and collaborate much more effectively to succeed, he and others assert.

Our architectures are obsolete; the way we approach integration is obsolete; and the way we think about integration development is increasingly obsolete.

Jeff Schulman,
group vice president and team manager, Gartner Inc.

At Gartner's Application Architecture, Development & Integration (AADI) Summit in Las Vegas this week, Lheureux told a crowd of enterprise architects and application managers that their organizations will spend 33% more on application integration in 2016 than they will in 2013. The reason is simple, he said: "You will all be doing more integration."

The stakeholders involved in application integration now go beyond in-house IT departments, and communications can be challenging. Collaboration -- among business-to-business, or B2B, and data partners, analytics teams, information services, e-commerce, suppliers and even customers -- is said to be crucial to integration strategies for new era application environments. Open communication among those groups can enable better application portfolio management, and make it easier to pinpoint specific application requirements and business goals.

"We tend to have subject matter experts that don't really share their knowledge," said AADI conference attendee Raymond Holston, advisory analyst at a large health insurance company. "We're siloed. The subject matter should be freely available, and that's the whole collaboration issue."

In addition to advising more collaboration, Lheureux pointed to five main components of a successful modernized integration strategy. Calling it a "roadmap," he told his audience: "Complexity demands that you have the right kinds of skills in integration, and you can prepare yourselves for the application integration environment that includes mobile and cloud."

Mastering the following five integration competencies, Lheureux said, will help put companies at a competitive advantage over the next few years:

  1. Basic integration skills: Basic integration capabilities should be delivered for all required IT projects.
  2. Advanced integration skills: IT should take advantage of innovative integration capabilities.
  3. Rationalized infrastructure: Infrastructure should be consolidated for all integration.
  4. Integration competency center: IT should be organized so that it can effectively manage and leverage integration, delivering an "integration shared service" to all IT projects.
  5. Sourcing strategy: IT should be able to deliver integration via any delivery model, based on changing business requirements.

According to Lheureux, the main goal of this integration strategy is to connect applications and exchange master data across end-to-end, multi-enterprise processes.

The nexus comes to app integration

The means of integration going forward will differ from what we know today. During the summit's keynote address, Jeff Schulman, Gartner group vice president and team manager, said integration will continue to increase in cost and complexity as a "nexus of forces" -- social, mobile, cloud and information -- continue to disrupt traditional IT activities.

"More than 50% of the cost of implementing new systems will be spent on integration in the next five years," Schulman said. "Our architectures are obsolete; the way we approach integration is obsolete; and the way we think about integration development is increasingly obsolete."

Many businesses have recently looked to such technologies as cloud application programming interfaces and representational state transfer (REST) services to ease integration challenges; Lheureux said they fall short.

"What you want me to say is that cloud APIs [application programming interfaces] are solving your problems, and that REST is the answer," Lheureux told his audience. "But we're not just automating the process and sending messages. We're looking at actually collaborating more at the process-execution level."

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