During the past month, we asked over 100 IT executives about their application connection priorities now and in the future. I’ve been fascinated as I dig into all this data to see how much has changed in recent years ? and what hasn’t. Two key areas were especially enlightening: what companies saw as their biggest roadblocks to fully harnessing data, and the types of applications they?re focused on integrating.
When we asked about what?s in the way of gaining more business value from business applications and data, the number one answer we got was lack of integration (45% of responders). I highly doubt this number would be so high 10 or 15 years ago when massive application stacks were king in enterprise IT. But now that companies are turning to a wider variety of best-of-breed technology solutions to build a collection of services that’s custom-fit for their business, it’s clear that the integration challenge is mounting.
During a recent Webinar we held with InformationWeek, we found that 40% of attendees were using at least three SaaS or Web-based applications in their company. And the research we released today found that the number of companies who will implement at least four SaaS or cloud applications will double in the next two years. Of course, that?s all in addition to the legacy systems these companies still use, as well as the increasing use of external data sources like social media.
Which brings us to the second and third biggest roadblocks: data quality (40%) and performance (35%). It?s not surprising that with more data and more types of data, comes more work in cleansing and parsing that information. These challenges were relatively minor when the data was residing in on-premise relational databases, but now that IT folks are dealing with such diverse data ecosystems, they?re facing an uphill battle.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ve actually seen many companies successfully break through these barricades by abstracting away the complexity of integration using intuitive application connectors accessed from a drag and drop desginer. Technical and business users alike can now do complex data filtering and data cleansing without any coding whatsover. They can even incorporate data enrichment as part of their integration workflows by utilizing third party services such as Trillium. This approach makes it easy for companies to address data quality right at the earliest point of entry into the IT ecosystem. And companies that exploit Web standards like REST and HTTPS benefit from location transparency, which helps them automatically route connections across the fastest paths, manage bandwidth shrewdly, and mitigate impact from network outages.
Now, to what hasn’t changed so much not surprisingly, Business Intelligence/Analytics was top of the list of applications companies want to integrate, both over the coming year and in the 1-3 years that follow. Interestingly, Productivity/Collaboration tools like Goggle Apps, Box.net and Slideshare was the next most popular priority for application integration, while traditionally important Sales and Financial applications were only the fourth and sixth (respectively) most popular categories in the 1-3 year time horizon.
To me, this indicates an interesting shift beyond the major enterprise data sources of the last century to emerging sources of valuable data. In fact, our research found that approximately a quarter of all companies want to integrate Social Media or Mobile/Logistics/Location data in 1-3 years (28% and 23%, respectively). And looking down the road, over twice as many companies plan to integrate Offers/Advertising applications (Groupon, anyone?) or Big Data services (i.e. Hadoop) in 1-3 years versus the next 12 months.
That tells me that when you look beyond the obvious candidates for application integration, things are changing. I’d love to know what you think, do your company’s priorities for application integration reflect or differ from these findings?