3 Truths About How Integration Delivers Greater Business Agility

“Wait and see is not an option; it’s a death sentence.”

This powerful and all-too-true quote comes from a McKinsey & Co. article titled “Organizing for the age of urgency,” and it refers to how often an average large company reorganizes its business (every two to three years) and how it usually takes more than 18 months to implement that process.

The piece in the most recent McKinsey Quarterly then goes on to make a great case for increased speed and adaptability in today’s digital business economy. Companies are increasingly embracing digital transformation, the article notes, and such efforts mean the organization’s ability to adapt with changing market forces – and adapt quickly – is becoming a KPI all its own.

While the McKinsey report centers on best practices for organizing a business to make quicker, more informed decisions, the underlying trend is how companies must brace for when a variety of forces, including technology initiatives, inevitably change how a company does business. Conversely, we feel that organizations’ technology and IT initiatives also must be able to adapt to significant – and inevitable – business changes.

Some of the advice in the McKinsey article, then, extends beyond the notion of “right people, right places” and is just as useful when considering an integration strategy that delivers similar operational and organizational agility.

Here are three truths, culled from “Organizing for the age of urgency,” that help explain how integration technology enables greater urgency, greater business agility, and greater business value.

  1. “The more interconnected your organization … the easier it will be to sustain high performance in a world of uncertainty, speed, and disruption.”

While this specific sentence in the article was about decision making and leadership structure, it speaks to the processes that drive a business. When one component in your supply chain suddenly changes (new steel/aluminum tariffs or a weather-related supply shortage, for instance), companies with visibility into that change can quickly react and limit its effects downstream.

Integration technology connects disparate systems, applications, cloud services, and other solutions, which helps deliver a more comprehensive view of critical data flows powering a business. It also automates, orchestrates, and optimizes external B2B communications with trading partners, vendors, suppliers, and customers, as well as the internal application-to-application data flows.

By integrating your business-critical technologies, companies gain the visibility required to be more proactive and decisive, improve business agility and performance, and mitigate business risk.

  1. “In order to operate with urgency and pursue the agility that makes high performance possible, you’re likely going to have to fill some serious capability gaps along the way.”

Most companies, regardless of industry, can’t fully predict their future growth and needs, and they’ll continue to adopt systems and applications to gain capabilities as needed. Consider how a small manufacturing company might need additional technology as it grows:

  • Those spreadsheets with ever-increasing customer contact information and order records (you know, the ones that take forever to open) will likely be replaced by a CRM tool like Salesforce.
  • The company’s web-based email ordering system eventually becomes so unwieldy that the business may upgrade to an e-commerce gateway like Magento.
  • A big-box retailer like Walmart might take notice and decide to sell the product(s) in stores around the world, and the manufacturer will need to do EDI over AS2 and also meet various GDPR compliance mandates.
  • It might eventually leverage APIs to improve inventory, look-up, connect to cloud services, and deliver mobile applications.

Companies typically plug in point solutions to gain new capabilities as needed, but they typically demand the capability without knowing whether the technology fits into the IT stack. Can you easily integrate Magento? Do you have Salesforce integration capabilities?

Without integration, IT departments have a tough time managing and tracking data flows from each new disparate application. A B2B-led integration technology platform handles integration of any cloud-based or on-premise solution the business side can throw at it, enabling a faster time-to-value on the technology investment and more streamlined infrastructure approach.

  1. “If you conceive of your organization as more than just a collection of roles and processes, you’ll be far more prepared for the uncertainty ahead.”

What happens if EDI systems consistently throw errors, or purchase orders or invoices don’t get sent on time? Business might not grind to a halt (though it could), but a company’s ability to make money will certainly be hindered through late-shipment fines or other shortfalls. B2B-led integration technology powers revenue-driving business processes and is a key factor in a successful enterprise.

That’s why the business and IT sides of the house can no longer be viewed as separate entities. An overall strategy that marries technology and business philosophies enables technology to drive business processes and deliver valuable business outcomes. Technology helps keep companies in step with business goals, but it’s an ongoing conversation.

When business and IT sides of the house are in lockstep, business agility happens, and enterprises can move faster than the competition.

Everything is Changing

One final point from the McKinsey article is that “technology is changing everything.” Digitization is reshaping so many aspects of modern business, and the need for agility and adaptability will continue to grow. If technology changes the way you do business, the way you do business invariably affects what technology you use.

Businesses will need to be re-architected for speed for companies to win in this new era of urgency, and integration technology will play a massive role in enabling business agility. When it comes to executing the important business processes that drive revenue and understanding the file-based transfers powering those processes, a comprehensive view of critical business data flows is essential. That’s why savvy organizations deploy proven technology to integrate systems and applications in order to deliver mission-critical capabilities and drive overall business strategy.

Enterprises will get what they’re designed for, but, ultimately, a company built to last will be one that prioritizes greater business agility. After all, “wait and see” isn’t an option.

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