Closing the Business-to-IT Gap with Integration Technology

IT operations leveraging a variety of integration technologies to bridge the gap between business goals and what IT operations can deliver.

Welcome to this week’s Think Tank with Frank Kenney

With decades of analyst and integration industry experience, Frank Kenney is a fountain of knowledge on all things tech. Now, he aims to share that awareness with you. Come back every other Thursday for your biweekly dose of thought leadership in this blog from one of technology’s most insightful thinkers and gain perspective on a variety of topics ranging from what’s happening in integration today to what’s on the horizon, poised to disrupt the integration space going forward.

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So much of this IT game that we play is a delicate balance between what we’d like the world to look like and what the world actually is. Very often brilliant people sitting in very large conference rooms stand in front of whiteboards, draw on iPads, or even take a pencil to the back of an envelope, napkin, or some other handy blank space to come up with pithy little diagrams. Often, they end up looking something like this:

Drawing IT architecture

It’s diagrams of this ilk that take the shape of the next exciting architecture, the new innovative business process, or some hybridized bastardization of the two. In any event, the idea is the same. The foundation of how companies make money, how organizations grow, and how people prosper is rooted in the belief that IT will bend to the rules of the whiteboard or the PowerPoint presentation. I’ve lived it firsthand. Let me assure you, it just doesn’t happen that way. You had better believe there is a delta that falls squarely between what is imagined and what is possible. At least at first blush.

When the business analyst says jump, IT says …

I’ve talked to multiple personas through every level of hundreds (if not thousands) of organizations in my career. While, mainly the C-level business analyst, the developer, the admin, and the good-old IT manager, there isn’t a business or technical title I haven’t bumped into along the way. That said, one of the unsung heroes in the persona wars must be the IT operations team. These folks are charged with not only ensuring picture-perfect operation of architectures that were drawn up by other people in other rooms, they are tasked with managing the service levels that are critical to the success of the business. When a business analyst decides that an order-to-cash process should take five minutes end-to-end, it’s the IT operations team that must tune the existing systems to ensure that promise is feasible.  

Intelligently crossing the divide calls for tighter integration

Every once in a while, they’ll call on the integration team to tweak the integrations to:

  • Allow for larger file sizes to move more freely (i.e., get a file-based integration technology)
  • Allow more partners to exchange documents electronically (i.e., get a platform that supports EDI), and
  • Allow real-time access to applications (i.e., get a platform that supports API-based integration)

Getting it just right

Goldilocks got a bum rap. Sure, she broke a bunch of bear (and human) laws, but there is something to be said for putting in the effort, for eliminating the less-than-great options, for homing in on the ideal – the somewhat-elusive “just right.”

In technology, IT and business leaders need to keep shaping until they get it just right. Teams of professionals work in coordination to fine-tune a highly sophisticated integration and business process ecosystem until it’s humming along at peak performance.

So, even after the integration team comes and does what it does to bridge the gap and get everything closer to that idealistic state, there is a need to ensure that the VMs are tuned just right, the support team is dialed in to deal with any unforeseen issues, and more importantly, daily or even twice-daily reports are sent upstairs to the wing tips that can be used to validate their assumptions on the business model.

Time to build something … with Lego

If you know me, you know that I’m a big Lego fan. I enjoy building them in my off time. I don’t necessarily play with them, although I have been known to stage them and take pictures. If I wanted to have the playing-with-Lego toy-like experience, I would probably end up playing more Minecraft with my son. You see, the genius of Minecraft is you build – you create, like it’s Lego – an entire world of Lego. And then, you get to press play, and see what comes to life afterward.

Nothing better than spending a whole bunch of time building a house with an inordinate door just to find out when you press play the creepers and the zombies chasing you catch up because you can’t figure out how to open the ornate, nay, masterfully conceived and designed door to the perfectly constructed and beautiful house you just built. 

Architecture tends to be just that: exquisite to look at but its real usefulness isn’t determined until it’s built and running. Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about why it’s essential to get the IT operations team involved in integration decisions and how the operations team is armed with factual data that should be used to transform a business.

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About Frank Kenney

A former Gartner analyst and current market evangelist and strategy director, Frank Kenney is widely credited as the creator of the term managed file transfer (MFT) and was the first to write about and discuss its modern architecture, platform, and use cases. Previously, Frank served more than 10 years as a research director at Gartner, where he defined the MFT, B2B gateway, SOA governance, and cloud service brokerage (CSB) markets.