Ben Demaree, Director of Product Management, SMA Technologies
The goal of creating an effective enterprise application integration (EAI) is to ensure all the information created, received, and used by your business is correctly stored, transmitted, and reflected by all its applications. If this is something your organization needs to do, then read on.
The first thing we need to look at is your needs. There are three main roles EAI plays for most organizations, big or small. Let’s break them down:
- Data management and integration: This is sometimes known as enterprise information integration, and the role here of EAI is to ensure data from different applications and databases across your enterprise is kept consistent.
- Unified access interface: This is where an EAI system provides a single access point for an end user so they can utilize multiple applications and databases without needing to make individual requests. An important aspect of this is that it reduces the need to train users how to interface with multiple applications, which makes them more efficient and saves your organization money.
- Vendor independence: Enterprises typically consist of a multitude of applications from different vendors, and an EAI system can be used to set up business rules and workflows so that if they decide to switch out individual applications, they can do so with a minimum amount of configuration. Of course, depending on how embedded that application is to your enterprise, the time required to fully replace it can still be lengthy.
How do you feel about your organization’s competencies in those three areas? Our clients have told us a lot about the first one, because data management is rightfully considered to be a business-critical activity and getting it wrong can cause a lot of harm to your business’s ability to operate effectively. Having unified access interfaces available to end users is key to achieving business efficiency and providing quality of life for your users and IT staff. Vendor independence is key to business flexibility. Sometimes an application just isn’t meeting your evolving business needs and having the capability to replace it with something that addresses the challenge means you can be more agile.
Automation is the backbone of any EAI solution
There’s a word I love to use, because it is often the root solution to a lot of business challenges for IT leaders, and EAI is no exception. That word is automation. This is going to be the foundation for setting up and scaling your EAI, as well as adding robustness. With so many employees needing to work from home right now, it's critical that you make it easier to administrate the applications in your enterprise. To implement a good EAI, you have to link your applications together so that you can simplify and automate business processes to the furthest extent you can, while also creating rules and institutional knowledge within your system so it can be robust both from a technological perspective, but also a human resources perspective. Having institutional knowledge tied to an individual rather than your system is a vulnerability and has become an outright liability for some companies - especially those using legacy systems that have long been out of date.
Your system needs to be able link applications via backend APIs and have a variety of connectors available to common operating systems and core programs. Your total enterprise may consist of a mix of mainframes, on-premises servers, and cloud-based applications and databases, all of which need to communicate with each other according to your requirements. It’s very important that you approach this with a structured plan and think of it as a system, rather than a collection of individual solutions. By creating a framework or fabric that everything else operates on, you create a robust system that’s easier to maintain, scale and add additional servers and applications to.
What do you need to bring order from chaos and improve your EAI system? A great start is to make sure you’ve invested in a topnotch workload automation (WLA) platform. With a good workload automation platform in place, you’ll have the core tool you need to start building a better EAI system for your organization. All the API calls, file transfers, cross-platform dependencies, and event-driven decisions can be turned into tasks that become integral parts of workflows. The result is an automated framework that enables flexibility and scaling for your enterprise. A good WLA platform should be flexible (with a wide variety of connectors), stable, highly configurable, and should be able to scale to 100,000+ jobs per day. It may take your organization some time to reach that number, but the more you automate the more areas of your business you’ll discover can benefit from automation.
Your WLA platform needs to be able to handle all your data flows and be the workhorse for the applications you use for your database management needs. It must be able to facilitate the transfer of data between applications across your distributed enterprise regardless of where those apps are hosted. Your WLA program should have the capability for operators to set up shells for end users allowing them to run data queries and utilize multiple apps from a single, easy to use interface that doesn’t require additional training.
I think we’ve covered the basics here, and now I’m going to conclude this blog by saying that SMA Technologies has a workload automation platform called OpCon that meets these requirements and can definitely help your organization’s EAI implementation and refinement initiatives. We also have an addon called Self Service that functions as the unified access interface I discussed and is exceptionally helpful for employees working remotely. We’d love to teach you more about it.
Client Success Story
I mentioned that your WLA needs to be flexible, and one of our clients switched to OpCon explicitly for that reason. Open Technology Solutions provides technology services to credit unions in the US with over $14.5 billion in assets, and their previous WLA platform was inflexible and required a lot of manual intervention. By switching to OpCon they were able to go from 15 operational staff members to just 4 focused on automation. Now the other staff members are pursuing other valuable IT initiatives.
About the author: Ben Demaree is Director of Product Management for SMA Technologies, where he bridges the gap between the clients and the development team to make sure our clients have the best tools possible to meet their automation demands. When he's not at work, Ben spends his free time with his wife and four children and an interesting variety of pets.