Give the Power of Data to the People: Focus on Integration Strategy and Enablement

Why It’s Time to Move Beyond the Integration Factory to an Integration Strategy and Enablement Team (ISET)

What’s the right way to manage integration? It used to be that the answer was to build an “integration factory”— an in-house competency center with repeatable workflows and processes for data integration projects. But the factory model is changing, mainly due to a significant increase in demand. I was recently on the road having dinner with a customer. Her story offers some interesting insights for anyone involved in data integration.

The company Lisa works for is a large insurance agency. For the last decade, this enterprise has perfected the integration factory. They’ve gotten to the place where they have an extremely efficient approach. They work with best-in-class vendors for analytics, data warehousing, integration, and so on. They have a strong team of experts that know how to build integration, analytics, and more. And last but not least, they also have a robust set of best practices for engaging with the business, scoping projects, and using a chargeback model for the integration work they provide.

By all measures, the integration factory was very successful. But recently, Shadow IT integration and analytics work has grown significantly.

Why Was the Business Bypassing the Integration Factory?

During the last few years, the integration team noticed a change in the projects that were coming to their queue. Most of the projects didn’t start with requirements discovery. Instead, they involved re-implementing what were sometimes very naïve errors in work done by someone else.  The business often ignored the highly skilled and highly efficient factory and took a first stab at the task. After some investigation, the team discovered three common scenarios:

  • The business would reach out to the factory because there was a project that the business failed to deliver, and now they needed help
  • The business skipped working with the factory on a project initially, but now needed help to scale
  • The business felt the cost of working with an expert was too high, so they did the project; then they came to the factory asking for help when they realized it needed to be done right

“Too often the business prefers to do quick and dirty work with Shadow IT rather than do the right thing from the beginning,” my friend said. “Only when they get into trouble do they come back to us.”

The team was fully utilized and the queue for next jobs was full; looking back, however, Lisa saw many additional projects that her team could have been doing. But her team was too busy, and in many cases too expensive. Or maybe they weren’t agile enough to actually support the business?

Is Self-Service the Goal or the Competition?

At the question of agility, our dinner conversation took an interesting turn. Instead of fighting or competing with these initiatives from the business, I asked if her team could enable self-service.

By adopting a factory approach, my friend’s integration competency center increased productivity, achieved true reusability and repeatability, and developed very skilled resources focused at the task at hand. They have mastered the integration factory, but they haven’t enabled self-service at all. In fact, they saw self-service as the competition.

I suggested they consider a different mindset. Going beyond the factory approach, could Lisa’s team change their focus to become an integration strategy and enablement team (ISET)? Instead of fighting the business, why not empower it?

Why Organizations Are Adopting the ISET Model

Today, the most advanced organizations are looking into the ISET model. As data integration becomes more critical to business objectives, more users need integration services—and they don’t want to wait for IT. At the same time, we’re seeing the rise of the hybrid integration platform (HIP), which supports integration across any combination of cloud and on-premises data sources and platforms. The two trends go together.

According to Gartner, “To deploy a HIP successfully, you need to support it through an empowerment-oriented delivery model driven by an ISET or, especially in large organizations, perhaps multiple federated ISETs.”[1]

To support HIP deployment, the integration competency center needs to expand its role, so the team has a broader charter. The good news is that the integration competency center doesn’t have to choose between being a strategic partner and supporting self-service—as an ISET, they can do both.

I told Lisa that Informatica has been on the journey of supporting self-service for many years. And in fact, our integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is the right environment to enable self-service. She can take her existing investment in PowerCenter and classic integration and really expand that into a hybrid integration platform that can support the ISET concept. Evolving to become an ISET may involve a change of mindset, but it’s the way forward for today’s integration factories—and the businesses that depend on them.

Read more in the Gartner Innovation Insight report on Hybrid Integration Platforms.

[1] Gartner, “Innovation Insight for Hybrid Integration Platforms,” Massimo Pezzini, 23 April 2019