Chapter 1: Lost in the Big Apple
It was early Monday morning as John walked towards his office building in midtown Manhattan. Looking at his phone while carefully avoiding the hoards of people coming from the opposite direction was an art he had mastered over the years. Yet, reading through an email that had just popped up in his inbox made him lose his concentration and he almost hit the person in front of him. “Dammit!” he exclaimed loud enough for others to hear on the street as he hastened his steps towards the office.
John could feel the uneasiness everyone was feeling in the room he entered. Greg, their CEO, was sitting at the head of an oblong table with department heads from finance, marketing and sales sitting around. John pulled a chair and thought to himself this is not going to be a good meeting. Everyone was staring at him, waiting on their CTO to offer an explanation.
The email John had read earlier was from Greg with one short message directed at his leadership team: “How much money do we have to burn before we get Project Hermes completed? Meet me in 10 minutes in the Oval conference room.”
John had joined the company as the CTO almost a year ago after a long career in running R&D teams at a Fortune 100 company. This was a step up role for him with a bigger budget, bigger team, and the opportunity to prove himself by delivering on the Digital Transformation strategy Greg was eager to execute on. The goal was clear, Greg wanted all critical applications associated with Project Hermes to seamlessly integrate and share clean data between them. Project Hermes was the game changer project that was to open up new opportunities for marketing and sales teams to better understand their customers, and backed with that customer 360 understanding they could pivot to new marketing campaigns and sales plays. It was something their competition had pioneered within the last year and had seen sales grow by 10x.
John took a deep breath and began offering his explanation. “Greg, as you know, eight months ago we selected our iPaaS after a thorough RFP process. The vendors we selected for the RFP were handpicked by us after looking at Gartner’s Enterprise iPaaS Magic Quadrant. We were very confident in our technology selection at the time and all stakeholders signed off on it. We decided to invest in a professional services engagement with the vendor to augment our team and kick off Project Hermes while we could buy time to hire and train our own staff to work on the platform. Unfortunately, we didn’t understand the complexity of the integration problems at the time and under-scoped our PS engagement budget. The requirements from the Marketing and Sales team kept coming and the original scope of our PS engagement didn’t cover those. In order to meet Project Hermes timelines, we’re now looking at an additional PS contract with the vendor in order to complete the work.”
“What about our own people building on the platform? We have smart people in the company, don’t we?” Greg asked with a bewildered look on his face.
John promptly answered, “Unfortunately, we have had a hard time hiring and training people to work on the iPaaS platform we selected. The platform toolset is propriety, and for building any integrations that are not OOTB we’ve found the learning curve to be huge. Most of our integrations, as we’ve come to find out, are complex.”
Greg raised his voice as he asked, “Remind me again why we selected this iPaaS shit in the 1st place? I was under the impression that by selecting a leading vendor in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant and paying an exorbitant amount of money for the iPaaS platform, we were to finish this in 6 months. Now we’re 2 months over without anything to show for it. The board wants an update next week.”
While John was listening to Greg, his mind started recalling the conversations he had while going through the RFP process. How even in the Gartner report there were indications that tooling from vendors for citizen integrators were substandard, right skills and resources were difficult to find, and Enterprise iPaaS for complex integrations was not the strength of the vendors. Other things were ignored by him and his team, such as not going deeper to inspect and investigate the true cost of ownership of an iPaaS platform. How he and his team were not able to scope the project requirements initially, not being able to determine timelines because requirements kept changing, and not recognizing they would be at the mercy of developers they had to hire and train for the bulk of upcoming work. John thought about how he had ignored all of that because getting this iPaaS platform was what everyone else was doing. It felt like a home run at the time and it felt safe. It was a good sell to the board when they selected a leading vendor in the Gartner report. Now he was gut-wrenchingly regretting the choice. He felt duped by Gartner and the vendor on painting a picture that was more magic than reality.
Greg carried on, “John, what can I tell the board on when Project Hermes will be launched?”
As John was about to respond, Lisa, Head of Marketing, interjected, “Greg, in our last status meeting John and his team gave us a timeline that it will take another 4 weeks to complete the integration between Salesforce and our homegrown customer database. And that is 4 weeks after we sign up for this newer PS contract. In eight months, we have only been able to complete 3 out of 10 integrations we had asked for. I think we should communicate to the board that we need more time and money.”
The look on their CEO’s face teetered between helpless and shocked. Greg stood up from his chair and said, “I don’t have to explain again to anyone here how important Hermes is to our company’s bottom line. Setting up a center of excellence for data integration was a key deliverable to the success of this project. I want all of you to focus your attention on being creative and figuring out how we can complete and launch the customer 360 portal within the next 4 weeks. You are all capable and intelligent people. I trust that you’ll be able to figure this out and give me a progress report for the board meeting next week.”
John, Lisa, Michael (Head of Sales), and Andy (CFO) nodded their heads and glanced at each other as if trying to communicate we have no clue how to fix this.
After Greg left the room, the group started to discuss and evaluate the path forward. It was clear that spending more money for the PS engagement was out of the question. They had already spent 30% more than the allocated budget for the iPaaS platform and spending more was just not acceptable given the track record so far. The group was able to identify 4 major integrations out of the remaining 7 that were key. John was also able to confirm that, with the help of the in-house developers, they could build some point-to-point integrations to launch Phase 1 of Hermes and wouldn’t have to rely on the iPaaS platform to do it. Maybe at a later stage they could do the work to port those integrations over but for now it was clear they’d be wise to use the expertise on hand.
After four months had passed, John was starting a new CTO position at another company. Thinking back to his experience at the previous company, he could not help but realize that it was a fatal career choice to go with an iPaaS solution. The hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the iPaaS subscription, training and hiring of resources, and professional services resources yielded so little. John was adamant on not making this mistake again. He made a choice not to pay any heed to Gartner’s Magic Quadrants for iPaaS going forward. In his new role, he was already evaluating vendors that offered their integration platforms as a managed service with security, compliance and custom SLA’s on response times built in so he could predict accurate timelines and hold them accountable. He vowed to never again be in a position where he would take on a key data integration deliverable and not be able to come through on the promise.
At Liaison Technologies, we uncover cases like these all the time where choices made by selecting an iPaaS vendor (as Gartner qualifies it) never pan out. Many of our customers have tried the iPaaS approach and realized it was not a cost effective or a scalable model. We at Liaison are the data experts with a combined experience of hundreds of years. We can be your trusted partner to scope and solve all your data integration challenges with the ALLOY® Platform, the premium integration and data management platform on the market. Just ask any of our 7000+ customers globally.
Say no to iPaaS and don’t do it yourself!
Call in the experts at Liaison Technologies. We will gladly help.