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Pattern-based approach to integration

Al Liubinskas

Integration is the backbone of digital business. It’s how organizations connect data to applications and access that data instantaneously. Integration is what enables real-time, insight-driven decision making and powers today’s next-generation digital customer experiences. For example, when you receive personalized recommendations while entering an online order at your favorite restaurant, that experience is powered by integration. Dozens of applications are connecting behind the scenes to share the data that makes that personalization possible.

Today, when we talk about integration, the focus tends to be on API-led connectivity, and for good reason. With API-led connectivity, assets are connected through APIs. This means organizations are able to thread a set of APIs to establish an end-point to end-point integration. API-led integration is a natural approach for today’s born-in-the-cloud companies like Uber or Netflix that generally create their own business applications and have an API-driven culture and ethos.

But that approach may not work effectively for every organization. Many companies rely on SaaS and COTS applications for much of their core business functionality and don’t leverage APIs as much as their cloud-native counterparts. They’re not likely to easily adopt an API-led connectivity approach to integration. A common integration scenario for these organizations involves connecting SAP to Salesforce to make it possible to access customer data. In this case, rather than taking a bottom-up approach to integration at the API level, an organization should take a top-down approach where business and leadership relate to integrations at an application level.

Taking a framework-based approach

There is currently a lot of focus on embracing API-led connectivity for the cost and time savings it enables. But this methodology isn’t the only modern, efficient approach to integration. SaaS and COTS-oriented organizations that don’t rely as heavily on APIs can still realize the same benefits by leveraging what we call an integration pattern-based approach. While it may not generate the same buzz as API-led connectivity, the integration pattern-based approach can be just as transformative for businesses that are currently leveraging more traditional integration methods. This approach is a stepping stone for an organization to transform to an API-driven, product-oriented mindset.

In many organizations, custom integrations are created for each and every scenario, which is time-consuming and expensive. An integration pattern-based model, on the other hand, ensures that integration efforts are industrialized and scalable across programs – or, even better, the company. An integration pattern-based approach considers all possible scenarios, identifies a common set of attributes for each, and then creates a set of implementation patterns that can be reused repeatedly across these integrations. These patterns are composed of APIs which can be used repeatedly in any integration project across a program or company. Where API-led connectivity approaches try to re-leverage existing APIs, in an integration pattern-based approach, APIs are actually built or re-leveraged for the purposes of integration.

This means that rather than building hundreds of custom integrations from scratch, an organization can focus on building a small set of patterns that then serve as the building blocks of all future integrations. For example, by enabling a pattern-based approach, we helped a national retailer that required 450 integrations to leverage just 12 patterns to build them. A typical integration that may take 100 hours may only consume 60 hours with an integration pattern-based approach, a time savings of 40 percent. When you multiply that by hundreds of integration projects, it’s easy to understand the savings.

The benefits of an integration pattern-based approach extend well beyond the initial development phase. Pattern-based integration creates a level of standardization that provides efficiencies down the line, reduces inconsistencies, and eliminates guesswork. Importantly, it also allows teams to spend less time on technical considerations and more on focusing on business need and requirements.

Embracing an integration pattern-based approach

Taking a pattern-based approach to integration requires teams to get out of a siloed, project-oriented mindset and think about the big picture. That means this approach represents a major shift in both processes and culture, and organizations must plan for this. Lasting success requires strong leadership and a governance model to ensure compliance across the ecosystem over the long-term.

Capgemini leverages its team of nearly 20,000 integration practitioners to help organizations of all types maximize the effectiveness of their integration efforts. For more information, feel free to reach out to me or visit our website to learn more about our integration capabilities.