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In the cloud, tools for data integration gain importance

Integration software has become a necessary tool for companies that use cloud-based software.

Over the past several years, cloud-based software has become the industry standard for licensing technology. But, with multiple cloud-based products, getting the platforms or applications to work together could be a difficult task for some companies' IT departments.

As SaaS has infiltrated the software market, so too has iPaaS, or integration platform as a service. The tools for data integration that iPaaS offers have become essential for companies that use multiple SaaS providers.

"As companies move to the cloud and use more cloud solutions, they create an integration problem," said Holger Mueller, a principal analyst at Constellation Research. "Companies like Workato [Inc.] and others are trying to leverage that problem and make it easier for customers. The middleware is still there, it's just also running in the cloud."

Connecting apps hampering IT

The unintended problem stemming from SaaS platforms is, if different departments within a company use different software, how can a company tie those insights together to provide a more holistic view of a customer?

"This is a huge business problem to solve that, when done well, creates a multiplier effect of value," said Karl Becker, president of The Carruthers Group, a marketing and sales programs consultancy based in Arvada, Colo. "We see this type of challenge when marketing uses HubSpot and sales uses Salesforce. It can be a challenge to track and score leads across the two platforms -- as well as have a seamless, cohesive and aligned experience for each company."

As companies move to the cloud and use more cloud solutions, they create an integration problem.
Holger Muellerprincipal analyst, Constellation Research

To get applications to interact, sometimes vendors will take it upon themselves to provide an integration if enough customers have expressed interest. If the vendors don't have an existing integration, tools for data integration become essential -- and there's a growing market of choices, including Workato, Jitterbit, Scribe Online, Dell Boomi AtomSphere and IBM's WebSphere Cast Iron Live.

"The iPaaS market is growing because more [enterprise architect] professionals see dynamic integration as the best solution to integrate cloud-based systems of engagement -- like Marketo or Salesforce -- with their cloud or on-premises system of records," wrote Henry Peyret, a principal analyst at Forrester who penned "The Forrester Wave: iPaaS for Dynamic Integration, Q3 2016."

One of the market leaders noted in Forrester's report was Workato, which earlier this year implemented machine learning into its tools for data integration, taking from what other customers have done to automate Workato's tools for data integration and creating templates that enable new customers to quickly automate integration between applications.

"A key part of what [iPaaS vendors] need to do is enable business users -- and not the technical users -- to be able to connect their own applications without having to queue IT," said Vijay Tella, founder and CEO of Workato. "If someone wants to automate their quote-to-cash or onboarding process, we can use machine learning to help guide [them] through that process so they don't have to think about how to design it."

This user-friendly approach is important, as the majority of integrations are needed for the business teams and not necessarily for the IT department.

"The use of the tools has gotten easier, with more end-user enablement," Mueller said. "IT departments can do it themselves, but they would be overwhelmed by too many end users and too many different solutions."

Keeping up with changing infrastructure

According to the Forrester Wave report, the following three drivers are propelling the adoption of tools for data integration:

1. Most systems of engagement -- like Salesforce and Marketo -- require dynamic integrations. As the platform evolves and changes, those integrations need to evolve and change with them. It would be overwhelming for an IT department to handle the abundance of software updates and changes from SaaS providers.

2. The overlap of data and applications requires tools for data integration.

"[Companies] need to ease integration with cloud-based solutions, avoid custom code and improve agility, while reducing the need for specialized integration skills," Peyret wrote in the report.

3. Enterprise-size companies need tools for data integration that can help with cloud integrations. While most enterprise-size companies have a method to work with on-premises integration, for cloud applications, it's often easier and more efficient for enterprises to look at iPaaS offerings, according to the Forrester report.

"With the cloud, updates to core technologies are instantly deployed, and often," Becker said. "The conductivity of platforms to other platforms is highly dynamic. To be competitive and relevant with your technology platforms, a third-party integration partner is essential to keep up with the dynamically changing technical infrastructure."

This was last published in December 2017

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When did you know it was time for your company to adopt tools for data integration?
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I totally agree about the need for data integration - and certainly the worlds of data integration tools and application integration tools are converging. I think the key part missing in this discussion however is the reliance people have on point-to-point integrations patterns, that - for all intents and purposes - totally ignore the data you're moving around. Ask your iPaaS vendor which integration workflows interact with invoice data for example - they can't do it! There's zero governance and zero audit-ability. Moreover, with so many applications to integrate, without a "lingua franca" for the data you care about it's impossible to know how to map from one app to another.
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@rossgarrett excellent point. Governance and auditability have to go hand-in-hand with ease of use to really enable business users to use an iPaaS. In fact, that's the very reason why customers choose Workato, which on one hand enables business users to easily build and run integrations while ensuring IT has complete governance and auditability. 

Also, it is an enterprise workflow platform and a number of our customers have used it to build workflow automations involving invoice data, e.g. order to cash workflows, etc. 


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