Welcome to the Tuesday 2¢ . It’s Tuesday, the weekend is a distant memory and it’s time to let off some steam and give our 2 cents on a hot industry topic. This week Ian Truscott expresses his joy at the fact that the topic of silo busting has come to the fore at last.
It seems that industry analysts are waking up to the integration headache which they have created with their encouragement of silo’d thinking in the marketing technology industry. They seem to be finally addressing the integration pains and restrictions which this has created for organizations who, in order to remain competitive, are either in the process of digital transformation or wishing to make use of new technologies such as the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence.
In particular I was drawn to this article from Gartner . It’s a little thin on detail, as you would expect for something accessible outside of the significant Gartner pay wall, but it seems to be a new direction for the firm. It discusses the integration challenge, how this topic should be considered in the software procurement process and by logical conclusion, suggests maybe a move away from some of the niche point solutions.
This quote in particular stood out for me:
"Through 2020, integration work will account for 50% of the time and cost of building a digital platform” , says Massimo Pezzini , research vice president and Gartner fellow. “Moreover, the complex challenges posed by digital business transformation require a radical change in the integration technology platform and in the way organizations deal with integration" .
50% of the budget for a digital platform is a significant estimate, but I’m kinda split on my opinion of that.
On the one hand, wow! This is a considerable amount of time and cost, and I can superficially go along with the article, subscribing to the idea that this is something new which requires a fresh approach and an all new acronym (Hybrid Integration Platform - HIP). Woo hoo! A HIP new acronym.
But on the other hand, well, it’s About. Bloody. Time.
I started my commercial career working as a supply chain technology consultant. Our software optimized product lines, warehouses, distribution, and all that good stuff. I worked for a pretty damn good point solution in an age when SAP was consuming every function of a business that could be automated (this was two decades ago).
Our role as technology consultants back then was 90% integration (not 50%). The team had to become proficient in the best practices and tools of EAI (Enterprise Application Integration), ETL (Enter, Transform, Load) and any number of programmatic ways in which one could pull data out of ERP and all manner of legacy systems which used to litter the path as a product went from being raw material to the shelf.
At the time, SAP and JDEdwards were becoming the dominant ERP vendors in our market, so we developed tools and skills specifically for the integration of these platforms, so my first product management job was in this area.
I share this with you, as in the industry of optimizing the supply chain with the objective of driving down costs and improving the service to the consumer, integration was considered at every moment in what you could argue was the first wave of digital transformation and this caused two things:
The first being that the topic of integration was make or break if you wanted your solution to be considered in an organization’s supply chain technology stack.
The second was a recognition in software procurement that solutions (like SAP) which were (*cough*, in theory) integrated out of the box, was a good thing, perhaps outweighing some of the features and functions which were in the edge cases of competing point solutions. But, most importantly, it was essential that a single system held the master record and that everything else integrated to that because that was simply more efficient.
In this wave of digital transformation, instead of optimizing how we make, store and distribute stuff, we are optimizing how we manage, store and share information in a content marketing driven world where content publishing is becoming every organization’s second business .
We are doing it for the same reasons, to reduce the cost of doing it and to provide a competitive consumer experience. We are optimizing the content supply chain.
So, it is about bloody time that integration and the consideration of a master content record and central repository is getting some attention from the analysts. Perhaps this is just a sign of maturity that the digital experience software market has just been slow to arrive at.
To refer back to the Gartner article:
"Undergoing a digital transformation is like upgrading to a dream car. Attention falls on the sleek new looks, improved efficiency and higher speeds. But we often fail to look under the hood, although that’s where we’ll find the engine that powers the car."
Of course, at this point, I should point out the virtues of having a Universal, Smart Content Management solution under the hood of your shiny new digital transformation automobile, instead of a bunch of content silos, but I shall resist.
Yes, I know that the Gartner article was focused on integration platforms, not integrated solutions, but I love the acronym, so I’m just I’m going to say I’m happy that it’s finally HIP to talk about silo busting!