Do You Know the Lay of the Land?

By Mark Erickson posted 07-07-2017 08:27 AM


This is the third in a series of blog articles to be published by the HEUG Board of Directors, Integrations Work Group.  We hope that these articles inspire and encourage member institutions to think carefully about integrations and the necessary practices and disciplines needed to manage them effectively. If you missed the series introduction or other blog entries, you can find them here. Comments, questions and healthy debate are all welcomed.

 Gartner Says Through 2018, 90 Percent of Organizations Will Lack a Postmodern Application Integration Strategy

STAMFORD, Conn., March 2, 2016

The increasing complexity of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) application portfolio is driving the need for a defined postmodern application integration strategy, according to Gartner, Inc. Without addressing the integration concerns in a strategic manner, cost and complexity will begin to spiral out of control and any benefit will be quickly eroded. Gartner predicts that through 2018, 90 percent of organizations will lack a postmodern application integration strategy and execution ability, resulting in integration disorder, greater complexity and cost.

"Postmodern ERP represents a fundamental shift away from a single vendor megasuite toward a more loosely coupled and federated ERP environment," said Carol Hardcastle, research vice president at Gartner. "This new environment promises more business agility, but only if the increased complexity is recognized and addressed."

The shift to the postmodern world continues unabated. The majority of organizations now operate in a hybrid reality, leading to greater complexities in the application portfolio with new integration, analytics and governance challenges that can increase the risk of failure. There is a dawning recognition among end-user organizations that postmodern ERP is no quick nirvana. Many organizations moving from an on-premises monolithic state acknowledge they have little or no skills to support postmodern application integration. They have no postmodern application integration strategy, naively assuming the vendors will take care of it. Vendors are not doing this, which has left many organizations scrambling to integrate applications when they finally realize this grim reality

 If Gartner’s assessment is an accurate reflection of the state of play at our institutions, then many of us have a lot of work ahead of us!  The trend away from homogenous application suites to a more ‘federated’ approach to finding the best solution for each of our specific business needs, regardless of vendor and platform, means mapping our integration needs is more important than ever.

For organizations as complex as ours with so many diverse demands on our applications, and the need to move data across them, it can be useful to think of it as a rugged, far-ranging landscape that needs to be mapped.  We need to know where all those ‘hills’, ‘valleys’, ‘cliff faces’ and ‘rivers’ and yes, even ‘clouds’ are across our campus and beyond in order for data to efficiently traverse this landscape and successfully create business solutions.

Another way to think of it is as a technology ecosystem, described by the Financial Times as ‘product platforms defined by core components made by the platform owner and complemented by applications made by autonomous companies in the periphery’.  The Financial Times goes on to say that ‘In successful technology ecosystems it is easy to connect to or build upon the core solution in order to expand the system of use and allow new and even unanticipated end uses’.  More commonly used to describe smart phone and social media platforms it’s a helpful way to think about the infrastructure many of us have built up around our Oracle applications to ‘fill the gaps’ as our demands on our campus ecosystems have become more sophisticated.

Much of what we have developed over time to fill those functional ‘crevasses’ –  installing complementary solutions to add value for our students and staff – has been done incrementally and organically, and often with little thought given to the broader landscape.  This often results in single point-to-point integrations with core systems that have created layers of integration that have added complexity and inefficiencies.  Our institutions are likely navigating the same ‘hill’ a dozen different ways!  Surfacing all of those isolated integrations may help identify a shared and therefore more efficient way to move our data.  With the transition to a ‘hybrid reality’ of cloud and on premise solutions, as Gartner predicts, the need to better understand how your data needs to move across our landscape is critical to informing our integration strategies in this new reality.  There are important questions that should be asked and answered as part of this mapping exercise:

What are your sources of truth in terms of data?  What applications set your baseline in terms of what you know about something or someone?

How do you govern your data – in terms of defining it, securing it and managing its use?

What complementary applications need access to what data from your sources of truth, and what do they do with it once they have it?  What problems are they solving for the business?

  • How often do they need it?  And in what format?
  • Is it a two-way street with new data being returned to update your source of truth?
  • How much commonality is there across these data needs?
  • And critically, what is the experience you are trying to create for your stakeholders?

 Mapping or ‘architecting’ these needs hopefully gives your institution a much clearer understanding of what your integrations needs are now and into the future.  It is likely to identify ways for more efficient data transference.  And it is also likely to help deliver on that ‘seamless’ user experience we all strive for, rather than leaving them to blunder through the wilderness without a map.