In my 20+ years in the tech space, I’ve noticed that many businesses face the same challenges when it comes to integration. Most notably, they’re increasingly dissatisfied with the traditional approach. It’s too technical, not agile enough, and can’t properly address emerging use cases like IoT or AI.
Now, integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) tools have emerged to help businesses connect their cloud apps in addition to ground apps, but it’s not always enough. Modern businesses need something that is agile and digital-native, easy enough for business users, and feature-rich to allow for AI and other advanced workflows. What’s causing this need? Here are five key trends that I believe are playing a role in the demand for change in the integration space.
Related: The top benefits of integration
1) The number of apps used by the average enterprise has ballooned.
We all know that digital transformation is becoming widely popular. Case in point: IDC estimates that business will spend $2.3 trillion on transformation projects in 2023.
But it’s more than just a fad; businesses are committing to becoming more digital, and they’re starting with the fundamentals, like best-of-breed SaaS apps. In 2021, no matter what process you’re looking to improve, chances are there’s an app for it—or a few.
In fact, according to a study, the average enterprise uses nearly 300 SaaS apps!
The explosive rate of app adoption means that the number of integrations needed is much greater, but it also means that the apps a business uses can change in the blink of an eye. That’s creating a new challenge for companies looking to be more digital: they need to connect more apps, across more departments, while still leaving room for those apps and workflows to change.
Related: A guide on integrating SaaS apps
2) IT responsibilities are growing, but their budgets are shrinking.
As companies adopt more and more tools due to ease-of-use, quick implementation, and the cloud, IT teams have more on their plate.
Keeping pace with basic service level requirements is already challenging, but when IT must also support new initiatives, it’s no surprise that over 75% of IT professionals say that pressure on their processes is increasing, according to a Freeform Dynamics study.
At the same time, IT spending is slowing down. In 2020, spending declined by 5%, and though there may be a post-pandemic pickup, the recovery is expected to be slow.
In short, IT teams just don’t have the resources to execute and collaborate on digital initiatives, especially on ambitious timelines. Projects that involve hours of manual work—such as custom coding an integration, for example—are unlikely to be completed quickly, if at all. Even dealing with traditional integration platforms can require a lot of time and effort!
This seemingly endless “To Do” list of integrations is forcing IT to reconsider what’s important in an integration platform. Most notably, they’re looking for a more flexible tool that can handle a wide variety of use cases, from data integration to IoT and beyond.
3) Non-technical employees are playing an active role in tech decisions—especially informal ones.
Traditionally, technological decisions—like what integration tool to use or how to automate a particular workflow—were left up to the most technically-literate team: IT.
But the push for digital transformation doesn’t just affect IT; it affects everyone. And with IT teams busier than ever, there can be a serious backlog when it comes to getting them to sign off on and implement useful tools.
The rest of the business can’t wait, however. Ordinary employees like business analysts, marketing leads, and sales managers are more digitally literate than ever, and they’re constantly looking for ways to work smarter, not harder.
With or without IT’s help, they are adopting user-friendly tools—from apps to bots and beyond—that can help streamline their workflows. In fact, a Cisco survey found that, on average, CIOs estimated that they had 51 cloud services running in their organization. The actual average was over 700!
The process of non-technical employees selecting and investing in technology is often known as shadow IT, and it’s more prevalent than you may think. According to Gartner, shadow IT accounts for 30-40% of all IT spending at large enterprises.
While it’s great that employees are enabling themselves to work more intelligently, shadow IT definitely poses a potential threat to security, governance, and compliance. But instead of trying to squash shadow IT, companies need to find a middle ground: tools that empower citizen integrators to construct smarter workflows that are completely governable by IT.
4. Both BT and lines of business want to build integrations and automations across key processes.
The time and cost savings that integrations and automations provide can benefit just about any business process.
Based on the results of our study, BT professionals and lines of business both appear to agree.
According to our research, lines of business want to automate approval and hire-to-retire workflows the most, but several other processes are also in demand.
Likewise, BT wants to automate a number of workflows, though their preferences over which get automated vary slightly from lines of business.
Automating each process often requires integrating several systems (e.g. hire-to-retire includes connecting apps like Greenhouse, Workday, Zendesk, Okta, Slack). Therefore, to scale automations at a level that meets internal demand, organizations will need to ramp up their capacity in building integrations.
How can you scale your organization’s integration-building efforts? The next data integration trend provides a solution.
5. The low-code/no-code approach is gaining momentum.
BT teams are struggling to meet lines of business’ integration and automation demands.
According to our study, more than 4 in 5 BT professionals are experiencing backlogs, and the most common frustration among the group lies in their inability to deliver integrations and automations fast enough (a frustration cited by 62% of BT respondents).
Lines of business want to take more control over their automation destiny. They themselves are closest to their processes and, as a result, are best suited to transform them via automation.
This has led to the rise of a low-code/no-code (LCNC) approach, where business users can build automations through an intuitive interface that doesn’t require an understanding of technical concepts.
That said, there’s obviously a lot more that goes into building a LCNC automation platform that’s valuable for lines of business. This includes out-of-the-box connectivity to 1000s of SaaS apps, a community of ready-to-use automations, and a comprehensive and centralized governance model. For the full list of requirements, you can review this article.
Hungry for more trends? We surveyed 100 IT leaders to better understand the automations they’ve implemented—and how they’ve implemented them. You can uncover all of our key findings by downloading the full report.