In today’s crowded integration software marketplace, companies seeking a solution can easily find a number of software vendors that are recognizable by name. These vendors, that I will call the “Usual Suspects”, are the first to be considered and many times the ONLY ones considered. This could be a mistake… a narrowly focused approach begs an important question:
“Are you truly getting the best solution for your investment if you are only considering a handful of vendors?”
There’s no doubt that sometimes the answer is ‘yes’. However, there can be some nagging doubts: “With all the options available in this space, is our vendor selection process inclusive enough, or is it too exclusive?” If you are starting or are engaged in this process now, I recommend that you look beyond the name brands and include companies that have experience and delivered strong results, but only lack name recognition.
What will you find by this inclusive approach? Better results are a strong possibility. For instance, there is a very experienced, but not so well-known, integration software vendor that has been quietly providing proven integration technology to thousands of global companies. This vendor is our “Un-Usual Suspect”. Its customers are now enjoying unmatched competitive advantages:
- Faster time-to-market for both simple and complex integration projects
- Substantial reduction in time and costs to deliver integration projects
- Enhanced revenues by quickly adding new digital sales channels
- Better workforce utilization by managing bimodal projects
- Optimized connections to the new digital economy
Some companies that aren’t customers of our Un-Usual Suspect don’t get to enjoy these. The cause can be attributed to: 1) poorly stated requirements, 2) poor implementation, or 3) simply believing that only the Usual Suspects can deliver them (which is not always the case). So barring implementation or requirements issues, perhaps is it time to look beyond the Usual Suspects and consider an experienced but unknown alternatives as a way to achieve better results and gain strategic and/or tactical advantages.
At this point, I will not provide the Un-Usual Suspect’s name just yet. Just like the television show “The Voice” where judges have their backs turned to potential singers (blind auditions) and only turn if they like what they are hearing, I’m going to share the advantages offered by the Un-Usual Suspect. Afterwards, you can decide if you want to engage based on the capabilities, experience, and results below.
The Three Major Drivers of Integration Projects Today – Defining the Landscape
- Mergers and Acquisitions Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) drive a significant amount of increased IT consolidation and modernization of integration projects. M&A activity crosses a wide range of industries including Consumer, Manufacturing, and Technology. As a result, business integration planning is paramount. Specifically, IT departments must restructure themselves quickly in order to support the newly combined organizations. From an application portfolio perspective, oftentimes restructuring either means consolidating multiple ERP or CRM applications or maintaining each one separately. Consolidation can be a multi-year effort and very costly capital investment. The good news is that the Un-Usual Suspect integration software vendor has assisted many companies in avoiding both the multi-year efforts and the multi-million dollar costs associated with M&A consolidation/ integration projects (See M&A snapshot below).
- Omni-channel Omni-Channel consumer purchasing has created a meteoric rise in the need to increase IT integration projects for many companies in the Retail, CPG and Logistics verticals. Omni-Channel is defined as a type of retail model that provides different, but unified shopping methods (e.g. mobile, web, store, phone or kiosk, etc.) and delivery options (e.g. in-store, home delivery, etc.) to consumers. According to a February 2015 Consumer Good Forum study, 81% of the executives believed that the current supply chains were not fit for the purpose of Omni-Channel. Omni-Channel purchasing requires real-time and seamless interconnections of front-end digital channels to back-end fulfillment systems (e.g. ERP, WMS SCM, etc.). Also, both CPG companies and Retailers must also work with non-structured files (e.g. spreadsheets, etc.) to improve and secure human-to-human collaboration and planning to best meet volatile consumer demands. While companies are racing to implement various point integration technologies to connect their digital consumers as well as partners, updating older legacy B2B fulfillment and the many Managed File Transfer collaboration systems fall further down the priority list which can cause troubles later on. The Un-Usual Suspect has assisted companies in reducing costs, speeding fulfillment, improving sales, securing collaboration and beating competition to the market place (See Retail B2B and Omni-Channel snapshot below).
- The Internet of Things A 2014 Gartner report indicated that “4.9 billion connected ‘things’ will be in use in 2015 and will reach 25 billion by 2020.” The Internet of Things (IoT) is a powerful and unstoppable force leading business transformation for all industries. While automated teller machines and airline check-in kiosks have existed for years, new and creative solutions will arrive in the marketplace with digital capabilities. Corporations are leveraging IoT for Service and Support in the area of product diagnostics. As a result, hundreds of variations on hybrid IoT integrations will more than likely add to the increasing number of corporate integration projects. Ultimately, IoT will become its own new classification of application – not just another integration project. The Un-Usual Suspect has assisted multiple verticals in leveraging the new digital economy (See Smartphone-IoT- snapshot below).
In short, integration projects are rapidly growing and becoming more complex – not only connecting more systems, but different types of systems. While ERP’s were designed to eliminate the need for connecting disparate systems, the growth of mergers and acquisitions, ubiquitous connections driven by M&A, and Omni-Channel and IoT has created the next tsunami of integration projects. In light of the many integration drivers – certainly not all are listed here – it is important to consider holistic solutions versus “point” solutions only. Let’s discuss the high level reasons ‘for or against’ holistic solutions and what criteria to follow if you are considering a holistic approach.
The Usual Suspects in Business Integration are not Truly Holistic
In light of the integration tsunami, companies will need to decide upon their integration strategy. Some companies will leverage their existing integration software; however, more than likely, many may need to purchase new integration software. If purchasing new integration software is the strategy, then a question should be asked “What integration software do you choose? A ‘point’ solution or a holistic solution?”
By definition, a point solution solves a very specific integration function (e.g. EAI or API, etc) whereas a holistic solution can address the following:
- Hybrid integration (e.g. on-premise and cloud)
- Bimodal IT (e.g. resources deployed to maintain current systems and others to innovate)
- Multiple integration patters (e.g. EAI, B2B, MFT-Managed File Transfer and API) from one platform
At a high level, deciding between point solutions and holistic solutions has less to do with right or wrong choices, and more about what is the best fit for the IT organization and the business requirements. Point solutions can provide great development tools and more customized integration, but the trade-off is more systems or servers to maintain, time to market, need for skilled developers and costs just to name a few. Holistic solutions, on the other hand, provide a significant savings, less need for developers or additional systems and servers and faster time-to-market. The tradeoff is: sophisticated development tools/good integration versus customized integration. In light of this quick comparison, if a company is seeking more value and decides to research holistic solutions, then are all holistic solutions pretty much the same?
The answer is no. Holistic solutions are born out of the convergence of B2B, MFT, EAI and API into one central platform. At the heart of the solution is a core of shared functionality such as: workflows, trading partner management, security, and visibility, etc. This shared functionality is designed to be utilized by all integrated B2B, EAI, MFT or API capabilities that are added – when needed – to the holistic platform. One of the many advantages of this tightly integrated holistic approach is the ability to efficiently manage all common tasks (e.g. trading partners, workflows, visibility etc.) in one place versus managing the same tasks across multiple disparate platforms. This approach empowers bimodal or multimodal IT as both teams leverage one standardized solution for different integration projects.
So the key criterion of a true holistic solution is having a core set of well-integrated functions that are shared by various integration applications (e.g. B2B, MFT, EAI, and API). If this is the case, then integration software vendors that acquire other software companies and patch together various pieces of differently designed software cannot be offering truly holistic solutions. Why? The integration is an afterthought and thus more heterogeneous versus homogenous. As a result, the platform is a “quasi”-holistic solution and can fall short in many areas. The final delivered results can be underwhelming.
In short, there are a number of strong viable integration solution vendors in the marketplace – providing either point or holistic integration software products. If holistic software is being seriously considered, then perhaps the key is to look beyond those Usual Suspects that are offering quasi-holistic integration software, and towards vendors offering integration software that is designed to BE integration software, built from the ground up and not just a bunch of bolted-on patchwork parts…in other words: true holistic Integration software.
True Holistic Integration: SEEBURGER…the Best Kept Integration Software Secret
As mentioned earlier, the usual integration vendors are most often considered first and foremost; however, one true holistic solution has been an integration “workhorse” and the best kept secret for more than fifteen years. So why has it been a secret? First, this company believes in building and delivering superior German-engineered integration products and less in marketing hype. Next, its customers aren’t out shouting from the rooftops because they’re too busy getting a strong leg-up on their respective industry competitors by leveraging a better integration mousetrap!
Who is SEEBURGER?
SEEBURGER AG has over thirty years of proven experience in business integration. It is a German software development company founded in 1986; it prides itself on superior engineered integration software built from the ground up and not through acquisitions. It understands and has solved the vast array of simple to complex of integration projects for close to ten thousand global customers.
SEEBURGER’s integration roots are derived from various integration projects ranging from modernization and consolidation in response to M&A activity, to emerging trends like Omni-Channel and through to the IoT projects, just to name a few. The company is well-known and respected by analysts such as Gartner and Ovum. SEEBURGER is known by its customers for “powering all connections” that ensures seamless “inter and intra” integration for its small, midsize and large global customer base.
Business Integration Suite (BIS) is SEEBURGER’s signature holistic integration product, and is a dynamic, configuration-based, multi-purpose integration platform that provides the ‘true’ holistic integration services companies are seeking. The software has no third party bolt-on components. All components are purpose-built by SEEBURGER to ensure frictionless flows of data and much needed and requested visibility from “end to end.”
SEEBURGER’s Unique Approach Delivers Better Results
Over the past ten years, SEEBURGER’s BIS has provided cost-effective savings, improved revenue and enhanced productivity for many of the most well-known brands in the world by consolidating and modernizing a wide span of simple to complex integration scenarios. These companies from SMB to large global players did consider the “Usual Suspects”, but then evaluated SEEBURGER’s BIS. They selected SEEBURGER because it simply delivered more immediate and long term value.
Take a look at this quick M&A story…
A major manufacturing company grew, as many do these days, inorganically through multiple mergers and acquisitions. As a result, it ended up with a wide range of acquired IT systems (e.g., ERP’s, CRM’s, and Accounting systems, etc.). Instead of launching a multi-year and multimillion dollar ERP consolidation project which would have been very risky and costly, SEEBURGER’s BIS platform was selected over point solutions and utilized as the versatile EAI integration platform to connect a wide variety of disparate system using various purpose-built BIS adapters (e.g. Web services, FTP, SAP and SFTP, etc.). This way, each newly-acquired company could maintain its own systems and thus its operational identity. This approach saved the company years of effort and millions of dollars and future projects will now include using BIS for its B2B partner integration.
Here’s another snapshot around POS
A major Retailer with over 400 stores and using FTP technology was having difficulty ensuring that Headquarters was consistently receiving inventory updates from each store. They also needed assurances that each store was receiving updated pricing and promotional data. To ensure consistency, the company now leverages the BIS integrated MFT endpoint technology to ensure the successful flow of information to and from the respective 400 retail stores without fail. This helps drive better customer satisfaction through correct pricing and promotion information, as well as better inventory visibility. Future projects include leveraging BIS for EAI and B2B projects.
One more powerful story aligned with B2B and Omni-Channel
A CPG Art Supply company that leveraging BIS for traditional B2B order-to-cash processing with retailers was going to purchase a separate EAI XML point solution to integrate its new e-commerce Omni-Channel platform to a fulfillment system. The new e-commerce platform was a major corporate initiative to sell directly to online consumers. Instead of adding a new point system to the infrastructure, the IT team recommended leveraging SEEBURGER BIS’ EAI and XML capabilities — favorably rated by Gartner. Management agreed and the results were a 5-month implementation, no need for custom development, and the project exceeded the line-of-business’ timeframe expectations. Future plans include utilizing BIS for upcoming MFT projects.
An amazing story concerning smartphone location services (IoT)
A large retail marketing intelligence firm aligned with several major retail chains and finance companies. The retail companies share the purchasing habits of their customers with the marketing firm and if location services are enabled on the consumer’s smartphone, the marketing firm would track the consumer’s location. If the consumer is near the Retailer, then the marketing intelligence firm would send a time-sensitive text to the consumer about items of interest or promotions based on what credit card was used and if the purchase was made in a prescribed window of time. To assist this IoT business process, SEEBURGER BIS is utilized to translate and orchestrate the exchange of the large volumes of internal disparate messages (e.g. XML, flat file) between systems to ensure real-time accurate data is communicated to the end consumer to drive sales.
Ok one more just for good measure…B2B and MFT
Finally, a major electronics retailer had a highly customized legacy of B2B EDI systems and multiple MFT platforms. With Omni-Channel initiatives driving the need for change, the retailer launched a bimodal initiative. It needed a multipurpose, holistic platform that had rich EDI history, EAI strengths and versatile MFT options. They selected SEEBURGER BIS and were able to reduce costs by consolidating the three major MFT products as well as drive improved supplier fulfillment by delivering cross-platform integration (e.g. OMS, WMS, PIM etc.) to meet front-end mobile sales demands. The new B2B system and MFT consolidation was achieved in only seven months – just prior to the holiday season!
In summary, integration projects will continue to grow and become more complex. The usual integration suspects are a good fit for some companies wanting point solutions; however, for companies wanting a ‘true’ holistic solution, SEEBURGER should also be considered as a potential vendor to evaluate.
Brent Tisdale is a Vice President of OmniChannel Sales at SEEBURGER Inc, a global market leader in business integration software. He has more than 30 years’ experience working for luminary companies like IBM and General Electric where he has streamlined complex business processes for many industries including Retail, CPG and Discrete Manufacturing. He has a Six Sigma Greenbelt earned from his years with GE which he utilizes to gain a deep understanding of business process challenges and the suggested integration options. He was the Co-captain of the 1979 Holiday Bowl Champions. The first Bowl game ever won by Indiana University (Bloomington) Football team.
For more information about SEEBURGER go to www.seeburger.com