Employees and customers are
always online and connected, expecting more: Today
our lives are spent online, now even more since COVID-19, known as the New Norm.
With this push for digitization and transformation, the need for
data and integration has been increasing rapidly. This results in challenges
that business and IT professionals are struggling with:
Businesses understand the value of making data available but are
often confronted with complex change and IT projects, with some organizations
avoiding formal integration practices altogether
Exposing data requires a solid integration and services
architecture with specialized tools and skills when trying to oversee the
challenge, solutions are over-simplified
One-size-fits-all integration platforms are often implemented at
great expense while only delivering a subset of required functionality,
damaging team morale, and impacting productivity on the way
In this series of blog posts, I’ll go into our approach for
establishing an integration and services architecture and platform to counter
these challenges. This gives flexibility in implementation, and allows an
evolutionary approach allowing the organization to develop the integration
capabilities it needs based on modern principles and approach tackling the
aforementioned challenges. We will use Gartner’s pace-layered application
strategy, which is a methodology for categorizing, selecting, managing, and
governing applications. It defines three application categories, or
“layers,” to distinguish application types:
1. Systems of record —packaged applications or legacy homegrown
systems that support core transaction processing and manage the organization’s
critical master data. The rate of change is low because the processes are
well-established and common to most organizations.
2. Systems of differentiation — Applications that enable unique
company processes or industry-specific capabilities. They have a medium life
cycle (one to three years) but need to be reconfigured frequently to
accommodate changing business practices or customer requirements.
3. Systems of innovation — New applications that are built on an ad
hoc basis to address new business requirements or opportunities. These are
typically short life cycle projects (zero to 12 months) using departmental or
outside resources and consumer-grade technologies.
Let’s first define what we see as the integration and services layer and
platform, what purpose it serves, and where it sits in the landscape.
The integration and services layer should provide not just
ETL/ELT workloads or facilitate messaging. It should provide all 3 enterprise
integration patterns: file transfer, API, and messaging and should be
Integrations happen anywhere between the layers within the
systems in the landscape.
As integrations happen anywhere between layers, the platform
should also be available to accommodate the integrations. This means the
platform should have hybrid capabilities, be available on premises and in any
cloud to ensure that the platform itself does not become the bottleneck.
1. As defined on
2. I intentionally leave out the shared database pattern because
this should be avoided to prevent schema coupling, performance bottlenecks,
Expensive, long-running, big-bang transformation projects are a relic of the
past. Why risk time and money investing in a project that delivers the same old
features as before – while the competition races past?
So how to realize value with shorter engagements? If we take a
closer look to the Systems of Differentiation and Innovation, we see these
share characteristics. The systems are in these layers are becoming smaller and
are built on cloud platform services, often expose API’s, and share data
With this move from monolithic to more granular systems we are
introducing (micro)services that provide capabilities that are not delivered
OOTB in standard systems and allow us to differentiate and innovate. We choose
to build these services ourselves and with this create a layer of services that
is unique to the business domain.
These services in the new layer are either synchronous (API
based) or asynchronous (event-driven) or a mix of both. These new services
become integration points and can have considerable amounts of business logic.
With the event-driven services a new and 4th pattern evolved as
well. It is closely related to the 3rd (messaging) pattern but differs in the
point that events have producers and consumers which are loosely coupled.
The aforementioned patterns (primarily messaging/events and API’s) focus on
enabling the digitization and digital transformation and enable a gradual and
evolutionary approach. The collection of these 4 patterns and their related
principles, concepts, practices, governance, and platform services together is
what a platform should cover. In addition, it should enable industry specific
use cases. For example, for manufacturing it should enable use cases like
intelligent supply chain, predictive maintenance, and worker safety.
Within Fourpoint we combined the platform approach with the technical services that the Azure platform provides. This combination provides many benefits and is focused on enabling the digital transformation.