Cloud Computing has promised so much! No more data centers to manage, no colocation sites to visit, and no installed software updates to schedule and execute (to the pain and consternation of your users). Everything would appear, fully-formed, on users’ browsers, irrespective of hardware or operating system, in its most up-to-date and luxurious form.
The reality, as we’ve all learned, is quite different, not least because applications do not — indeed should not — live in glorious isolation. In fact, to support the sorts of continuous innovation that the modern marketplace makes mandatory, organizations must connect their business processes.
And connecting business processes, as often as not, requires connecting different cloud packages, through integrations of varying quality and durability.
Thankfully, the integrations tide is turning, as Cloud providers are working with Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) providers, such as Salesforce.com, to offer readily-available options that eliminate the need to include fragile integrations (and their associated potential breakpoints) in core processes. A PaaS combines all the elements necessary to build integrated systems, from infrastructure to networking to APIs, development environments, and shared data storage. Removing these irritants from your environment is perfectly do-able, but you need a plan to get there.
Here are the five vital steps to building a business application environment with no integrations.
1 – Map your critical path
Nobody can eliminate all integrations from their environment — there are always going to be third party touch points that add advanced features. It is, however, possible to eliminate integrations from your core processes — the critical path through which all of your transactions must pass. For a services-based business this means ensuring data remains intact the whole time as it passes from sales cycle through execution and billing, through to customer support and success, and back around to opportunity and renewal, as well as future sales cycles. Understanding your critical paths sets the parameters for where you can eliminate integrations.
2 – Evaluate your current environment
You can’t work out where you’re headed without knowing where you are. Take a critical look at your current environment and infrastructure – is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) approach, which will connect many business processes together, appropriate to your needs? Or are you looking to build out a set of bespoke composable business applications that you link together yourself on cloud infrastructure, or even build your own applications from the ground up on bare-metal servers? PaaS simplifies the journey to an environment with no integrations.
3 – Categorize your core processes
Every organization has its own process prioritization — it’s part of what makes each one unique! As a result you’ll need to identify the pieces that are most vital to connect most closely — whether it be ensuring your services delivery team has direct access to current sales opportunities, your talent acquisition team has direct access to unmet needs in current and upcoming projects, your finance team has broad access to project and subscription burndown, or any other cross-departmental activity.
4 – Identify an appropriate foundation provider
Knowing what you want to connect, and the priorities of the process connections, you can now narrow down the list of providers who can help you achieve your goals. When building your short list, ensure you’re looking at a real PaaS, as opposed to a vendor of similarly-labeled but technologically-distinct standalone solutions — there’s nothing more frustrating than finding yourself with a slew of applications that come from the same source and don’t easily integrate.
5 – Select a partner for the journey
The PaaS you select acts as your foundation — now you need an independent partner who shares your vision of continuous innovation, driven by business systems that have no integrations. FinancialForce, for instance, has built a suite of integrated business processes on the Salesforce platform that will help you deliver full 360 degree visibility across your entire customer journey, from sales to execution to support, and beyond.
With your goals, your platform, and your partner selected, now it’s time to get to work! Building a business system framework with no integrations is not a sudden or immediate shift. Rather, it is a path to simplifying your environment, a blueprint for expanding the value you get from your systems, and a framework for delivering exceptional, customer-centric experiences.