Finding the ‘Initial Need’ to Deploy an iPaaS

iPaaSApplication landscapes are changing rapidly. Whilst almost every business I talk to has a stable on-premises integration solution to connect core platforms together, many have yet to deploy a solution for the burgeoning number of cloud applications that have sprouted across their business.

For those without an iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service), determining how to connect cloud applications (to cloud applications, cloud analytics, cloud data warehouses) – and cloud back to core infrastructure (e.g. on-premises applications, data warehouse and such investments) is a headache. I regularly meet with businesses of all shapes and sizes (from the very largest Fortune 500 incumbents to the rapidly scaling mid-market organizations) to discuss how they might tackle their challenge of connecting cloud applications and platforms. One key piece of advice is to concentrate on the initial need – the business requirement that will enable them to deploy a cloud integration platform as part of their information architecture.

Finding the ‘initial need’….

The whole area of cloud integration is exceptionally hot right now with a variety of customer roles (ranging from IT Directors, Enterprise Architects, Integration Architects, Cloud admins, etc) seeking a solution to connect cloud data sources together or back to their existing architecture.

My experience is that nobody buys a comprehensive iPaaS platform solution on day one. Although lots of companies have a view of where they want to go (e.g. they know that cloud is here to stay and that their respective businesses are buying new applications at an increasing pace), they have no way of knowing what the landscape is going to look like in year two onwards. Trying to buy all the capabilities available as part of an end-to-end iPaaS platform in its entirety for a need that is not yet defined is just a challenge too far – meaning that gaining adequate funding is nigh-on impossible to achieve.

My recommendation is to always look to find the initial need. Fund it. Deploy it. Make it wildly successful! What I mean by this is that there is almost always some requirement that comes first. Maybe you need to connect Salesforce to your ERP platform, or maybe you have a new cloud-based analytics tool that needs to connect to multiple data sources. That project has a need today – and it almost certainly has a corresponding budget allocated to it. By finding the initial need, you can solve a whole host of common challenges:

  • The investment case is quite clear – without the integration environment the project cannot proceed.
  • There is an immediate need to use the tool – to train resources and to get them using the integration platform in anger.
  • There is a quick win to demonstrate the value of the technology – a project from which to shout from the rooftops and to bring new requirements to the table.
  • You can easily add more connections to the platform in the future.

It is also important to grasp the first need quickly. Requirements tend to come along thick and fast but by not taking that first need or responding slowly, you can run the risk of your application landscape getting muddled. To follow this ‘start small, deliver value, then grow approach’ – you need a modular, microservices-driven iPaaS solution that allows you to take your journey to cloud following your path, and at your pace. I would advise that you be wary of the limited use licenses for particular integration tools that are shipped with some cloud applications. Leveraging these utilities would quickly result in a rat’s nest of integration technologies pervading your infrastructure without any defined logic or approach. Even worse – if you fail to fulfil this initial need, you may also find a log-jam of applications backing-up and swamping your IT team further downstream.

But keep one eye on what’s coming next….

However, this doesn’t mean that you should get totally distracted by the initial use case. I met a customer recently that almost bet the farm on an obscure application that their business partners required they support. Buying a strategic platform based on a niche requirement, without the vision of where the platform might be heading, is extremely risky. The initial need is just that – it is the first toe in the water but at some point, you are going to want and need to jump in and scale to support more of the business!

Once the platform is in, it will be used for many more projects. In almost every customer case that I can remember, the success of the initial project led to a series of further use cases. In many cases at least the first one of those cases was already in the queue – but it wasn’t funded or capable of leading the fight for valuable investment dollars. One of my customers went from a standing start to processing over 1 billion records per month in 18 months – not from the initial need, but from another ten or so projects that found a need for the iPaaS platform once the wider business noticed it was available. Fortunately, this customer built the initial deployment with the future in mind. They architected the infrastructure and the commercial construct of the contract such that they could grow without friction.

My takeaway

An agile, cost effective, scalable Integration Platform as a Service is one of the most desirable and useful new additions to a modern enterprise architecture. However, it can also be a challenge to persuade the business why it must take precedence over other business areas and IT projects that are competing for that all-important investment. Focusing on an important IT project that carries the need for an integration platform – the initial need – whilst keeping an eye on the future is a great bit of advice. It’s been proven time and time again – so what’s your Initial Need?