Businesses are embracing digital transformation to enable a step-change improvement in their services while improving operational efficiency and reducing the cost of doing business. According to IDG, 89% of enterprises have plans to adopt or have already adopted a digital-first strategy, which includes weaving data analytics, mobile technology, and private cloud into their operations. The most innovative companies go the extra mile by exploring and trying out machine learning, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
But let’s face it: digital transformation can be a consuming and risky undertaking. According to a Forbes report, businesses are spending up to a quarter of their total budget on digital transformation efforts. Balancing digital innovation and security is a major sore point for industry leaders, with many organizations citing security as their top data transformation worry. On top of that, cultural resistance and skills gaps can also impede change. Traditional organizations — those that were established 50 years ago or more — tend to have calcified practices, outdated processes, and talents that are still stuck in an industrial revolution mindset. They lack the capabilities required to support digital transformation, along with the skills needed to successfully integrate legacy systems.
Integration: A catalyst or a drag on digital transformation?
The success of any digital transformation project hinges on a successful integration. Digital transformation is achieved not just by simply replacing legacy systems with modern technologies, but by weaving heterogeneous technologies, data, business processes, applications, and other systems across the organization into a synergetic body — one that is agile and flexible enough to take on sudden changes in the market.
Integration, however, can also be a drag on digital transformation. According to IDG, integration complexities are one of the primary reasons why traditional companies are lagging far behind startups when it comes to digital transformation. They usually have to contend with cultural resistance and the complexities that come with wiring disparate technologies, while accommodating and managing the overwhelming amounts of data being generated on a daily basis.
To Replace or Not to Replace?
Traditional companies often rely on legacy on-premises integration and middleware technologies such as Enterprise Application Integration Platform (EAI), Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), and Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS), which cannot cater to today’s more sophisticated integration requirements. ESBs, for one, are too unwieldy to keep pace with the forces that are disrupting integration today, including the tsunami of unstructured data, the rise of the cloud, the deconstruction of ERP, increased risks and compliance, and the widening skills gap. iPaaS, on the other hand, can facilitate modern integrations but does not support pure on-premises integration scenarios and complex choreographies and orchestrations.
It can be counterproductive to push forward with digital transformation using legacy integration technologies and middleware. But it is similarly impractical to completely abandon all legacy systems for the sake of digital transformation. Doing so can result in undesirable consequences such as demonstrated in the following scenarios.
Sticky Situation #1: Duct-taped networks
Digital transformation involves wiring disparate business entities, endpoints, systems, and processes horizontally and vertically to enable the seamless flow of data and insights across the entire value web. Enterprises that are reliant on legacy integration solutions may try to hold these disparate systems together with “duct tape” solutions, thereby exposing their organization to various risks including legacy debt and poor alignment of old and new platforms. They may also run the risk of having to repeat the integration process each time a new asset has to be weaved into their organizational fabric. Simply put, the duct tape approach can lead to recurring and unpredicatable integration costs and a constant need for integration expertise.
This scenario can be avoided by using an integration strategy that leverages unified integration capabilities such as managed services, thus addressing all aspects of the integration process including cost issues, skills gaps, and other related risks.
Sticky Situation #2: Integrated systems, diverse security
Integration involves interlocking applications with individual mechanisms for enterprise data security and compliance with multiple complex data security and privacy regulations. Each mechanism can have its own way of securing and protecting data. Yet, data remains prone to compromise and distortion during the integration process.
Traditional middleware solutions were basically designed to facilitate integration. But they often lack the capability to ensure data security, regulatory compliance, and quality during the integration process. This is the reason why it is critical to leverage a solution that offers more than just seamless, rapid, and scalable integration but also unified data security, PaaS functionalities at the data layer, and built-in, end-to-end security and compliance.
Sticky Situation #3: Cloud incarnations of siloed legacy systems
Cloud migration is an essential step in digital transformation. But this initiative can result in a cloud incarnation of siloed legacy systems, which happens when organizations invest in different cloud platforms and applications, creating hybrid cloud and multi-cloud architectures that are difficult to consolidate and amalgamate with on-premises systems. Integration will be difficult, if not impossible, and ESBs and iPaaS may not be up to the task.
According to a Liaison white paper, “enterprises that rely heavily on ESB middleware will have to find alternate ways of accessing and integrating data in the cloud” because of its “inherent cloud weaknesses.” In addition, customizing ESBs or complementing them with “more advanced” middleware solutions or fixes can only result in further complexities and inefficient multi-vendor hybrid integration environments.
Is iPaaS a better alternative? Partly yes, because it offers capabilities to support cloud integration. But iPaaS is simply another incarnation of middleware, touting pre-built connectors and productivity tools designed to maximize the efficiency of do-it-yourself integration.
Migrating to the cloud using legacy middleware is similar to creating a cloud version of legacy on-premises systems that cannot fully harness the potential of data due to its still siloed nature. But organizations that have already invested in ESBs and iPaaS do not have to abandon them completely. What they need is a more sustainable approach to cloud integration that allows them to gradually retire their legacy systems and middleware solutions, extract as much value from them before doing so, and ultimately migrate all the way to the cloud while ensuring that they preserve data quality, security, and protection during and after the migration.
Solution: The Liaison Embrace & Replace Program
Liaison has created the Embrace & Replace Program to address common integration pain points that can be a drag on digital transformation.
Designed for enterprises with existing legacy solutions and a desire to move to a modern cloud-based architecture (but lack the manpower to facilitate such a transition), the Embrace & Replace Program allows organizations to untangle their integration operations from deeply embedded on-premises integration technologies with minimal disruption and maximum value, all while working toward a future-proof solution built for flexibility, extensibility, and scalability.
The Liaison Embrace & Replace Program has a two-pronged approach:
- Assume management of your existing B2B/EDI, MFT, A2A, or middleware environment.
- Alleviate the significant overhead of maintaining a legacy integration solution.
- Concurrently maximize the potential value obtained from existing significant investments.
- Experience a seamless migration of your current environment to a more modern architecture with minimal risk and disruption.
- Move support of legacy solutions under Liaison’s managed services umbrella, while seamlessly migrating you over the next 6 to 18 months to your desired modern architecture.
- Ultimately migrate all data operations to the advanced, cloud-based Liaison ALLOY® Platform, freeing your enterprise from the constraints of legacy integration technology and future-proofing your integration operations.
Contact a data expert to learn more about how the Embrace & Replace Program can help your enterprise get unstuck and achieve true digital transformation without abruptly turning away from your current investments.