App Integration Should Not Be an Afterthought
Though a QuinStreet Enterprise survey shows that integration with existing solutions is a key criteria for buying enterprise apps, too often it is an afterthought.
Thanks to the consumerization of IT, enterprise software has gotten a lot sexier. Folks bring their personal software preferences for attractive and intuitive user interfaces with them to work. As a result, it's the rare enterprise software vendor that does not offer drag-and-drop functionality and other ideas "borrowed" from Apple and other consumer-centric companies.
In fact, as Chris Preimesberger writes on eWEEK, a QuinStreet Enterprise survey of IT and business professionals released this week found that ease of use is the top criteria for selecting enterprise software, mentioned by 83 percent of survey respondents.
Few things will shred a project's ROI faster than enterprise software that becomes "shelfware" – which is frequently the fate of applications that are cumbersome to use.
But nice-looking apps that do not meet enterprise criteria for security or do not integrate well with other enterprise apps can cause just as many problems as apps that go unused.
Enterprise Application Afterthoughts
That was the main point I tried to get across when editors from several QuinStreet Enterprise sites, including Baseline, Datamation and eWEEK, got together during a Google Hangout, which you can watch here, to discuss the survey, titled "2015 Enterprise Outlook: To SaaS, or Not to SaaS." (Registration is required.)
IT and business pros recognize that things like security and integration are important. Those issues were numbers four and five, respectively, on the list of buying criteria in the survey. But because they are not as "sexy" as mobile capabilities or snazzy UIs, they tend to be an afterthought.
During the Hangout, I compared it to shopping for a sports car. It's not that you don't recognize that mileage is an important consideration. But by the time it occurs to you to ask about it, you've already seen yourself behind the wheel of that Porsche and there is no turning back. Hopefully the added fuel expenditures won't completely wreck your budget.
I've written about this before, in regard to CRM software. Integration is a particularly important consideration for CRM, given that companies are seeking a more holistic view of their customers so they can offer superior customer experiences. This means that sales, marketing, customer service and other teams must work together more closely than they have in the past – and they must be able to more easily share customer data.
Integrating Cloud Apps
One of the promises of cloud computing is easier integration of applications, because cloud apps are architected from the ground up to more easily communicate with each other. In the meantime, however, enterprise integration looks more complicated than ever, because cloud apps must integrate not only with other cloud apps but with legacy on-premise apps. Ensuring that apps in private clouds can play nicely with those in public clouds and hybrid clouds adds even more complexity.
As the QuinStreet Enterprise survey shows, relatively few enterprises use cloud for human resources and finance and accounting applications, perhaps because these kinds of apps tend to contain lots of historical data and may present especially tough integration challenges.
Fortunately, new approaches like integration-as-a-service (IaaS), which Gartner defines as "integration functionality (secure B2B communications, data and message translation, and adapters for applications, data and cloud APIs) delivered as a service," are emerging to help organizations meet these kinds of integration challenges. Vendors offering these kinds of services include Mulesoft, Informatica, SnapLogic, IBM (Cast Iron) and Dell (Boomi).
For more on the QuinStreet Enterprise survey, check out Baseline's slideshow featuring the highlights.
Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.