Every time a new year is around (or has just started), the web fills with various predictions for the coming year. This time we decided to pick up on the trend and share with you our own selection of predictions for application integration, based on what we have observed working with various clients within the past 2016.
Below you’ll find:
- How it will stand with API-led application integration,
- What’s new in the Retail industry on the technology side,
- Why CSPs will hardly benefit from pure application marketplaces, and more, so read on.
API-Driven Application Integration Will Continue Gaining Its Momentum
There is no need to state that APIs are everywhere, – this is already obvious anyhow. There is a large number of the so-called API-first solutions, where API is treated like a full-blown product, and this number is only going to grow. Mobile apps, cloud-based applications, wearables, – in all these areas APIs are standard means to share assets with other apps and systems.
What’s more interesting, though, is that developers not only increasingly use APIs to integrate new applications with the existing corporate IT ecosystem, but also create APIs themselves to use them within their respective organization and its partners. Such APIs are also called private APIs. They are usually used to create custom applications around internal assets for company use or customers, and connect these to the IT estate.
This is a clear indication that IT community is recognizing the value of APIs for application integration, and this trend will continue gaining importance in 2017. The reasons are many, and one of these is that the focus continues to be on the cloud, mobile and IoT as means for business development and digital transformation.2
Retail Will Double Its Efforts in Mobile and Real-Time Integration
Customers’ behaviour and expectations in the retail industry has changed immensely within a past few year. Nowadays customers expect to be able to buy things on the go and get them delivered fast. This means that the transition from eCommerce to the so-called mCommerce is picking up steam. For one, according to MarketTrack, mobile had the Number 1 effect on the completed holiday shopping season in the US. Unfortunately, many retailers still haven’t caught up with this change. Let me share a recent personal experience here.
Just a few days ago I tried several times to place an order with quite an established retailer via my mobile phone, and failed. Finally, I gave up and waited until I was home to order from my computer. The story doesn’t end there, though. For some reason, their system attached some data gained from failed attempts to my finally successful order. The result was that all order updates were sent to an email address that I use now only to register on Amazon, but for no other operations, and my mobile phone number received an extra “0” right after the country code.
Long story short, I had to pick up the phone to find out why I had received no order confirmation to the email address I’d actually registered with, followed by an email exchange with the Support team. It worked out well, but to be honest, if it were not for that rare item I found on the website coupled with an amazing discount, I would have been long gone, off to some other, better functioning online shop.
Bedtime stories put aside, application integration is no longer just about connecting various systems together to reduce manual work and get data from A to B. Just connecting your ERP solution with your CRM doesn’t count anymore. More importantly, it is about giving your customers what they want, when they want it.
So, we believe that 2017 specifically in the Retail industry will see considerably more of those complex application integration scenarios that we touched upon in our article “Four Business-Critical Issues in Retail to Solve with Application Integration Middleware”. Scenarios that enable seamless and real-time data synchronization between systems of record, various POS (physical, online and/or mobile) and all external systems such as provided by 3PL, ensuring superb buying experience. Two-way and one-to-many data synchronization, real-time integration, IoT-related data, chatbots and mobile are the keywords here.3
CSPs Are Going for Fully Integrated Application Marketplaces in 2017
The recent development in the telecoms industry shows that many telecommunication companies, especially such well-established as Deutsche Telecom, Swisscom or Orange, try to gain a competitive advantage by launching new products and services. Examples of such products are unified communications solutions, in-house developed web applications, cloud application marketplaces, to name just a few. But we want to specifically focus on the latter, as we see there some great potential most CSPs haven’t recognized yet.
To be precise, this potential lies in the interconnection of SaaS solutions that are offered on CSP’s cloud application marketplaces. This is exactly the trend in application integration that we think is worth close attention in 2017.
The experiment with establishing own SaaS marketplaces has been fairly successful for quite many CSPs. For example, the German Deutsche Telecom offers now around 60 applications from both premium and local brands, the French Orange offers around 30 applications, and the Australian Telstra – about 50 (Source: Gartner’s paper on Market Trends in CSP segment). Yet the integration question remains the same, whether the application is bought from a CSP provider of directly from the SaaS vendor: How to make the new application play nicely with the rest?
We’ve been talking with several CSPs within the last couple of months, and most of them, independently of one another, expressed to us their desire to add an application integration layer beneath their SaaS marketplaces. This way, every newly bought application from their marketplace can be easily and quickly integrated with any future “purchases” from the marketplace. This will undoubtedly deliver some massive value for CSPs customers, improving customer experience as well as customer retention.
Additionally, this will allow CSPs to have a stronger proposition as opposed to software vendors. Just imagine you need to buy a Microsoft Office 365. Who would you buy it from: directly from Microsoft considering you’ll have to integrate it with other applications like Microsoft Dynamics and Navision on your own, or from your CSP who has Office 365 already bundled by default with Dynamics and Navision, and a dozen of other mainstream applications?
Bottom line is, we strongly believe that in 2017, more and more CSPs will be looking for most effective ways to create seamless interconnectivity between applications that are offered on their SaaS marketplaces.4
Integration Specialists Will Productize Their Experience in the Form of Self-Service Integration Marketplaces for SMBs
Yes, we have already mentioned this a couple of times in our previous articles, especially going into the detail in “The Impact of Digitization on Traditional System Integrators’ Business Model”. However, it is such a huge trend, and I mean ‘huge’ in its relevance, that it deserves being pointed out again and again.
In 2015, in one of our papers, we predicted that system integrators will increasingly focus on creating the so-called integration marketplaces in order to address the SMB sector. In 2016, we have been working with a few digital agencies and system integrators on exactly such projects, one of which is at such an advanced stage that we can finally show it off.
Based on this, we believe that 2017 will definitely see much more of such integration marketplaces. What’s more interesting is that now it is not only system integrators who are looking into this, as we had initially assumed. It is also ISV implementation partners, eCommerce agencies, and other services providers who have profound experience in integrating certain systems according to customers’ specific business tasks, and who now want to turn this experience into a separate product that can be additionally monetized.5
ISVs (and Not Only) Will Seek Partnerships with iPaaS Providers to Build New or Improve Existing Products
This is another quite curious trend we picked up on in 2016, and we strongly believe that it will grow only stronger in 2017. By now most software application providers have understood that no product, however good it is, can deliver enough value on its own to bind customers. This realization has made them look for options to extend their product’s integration capabilities. More and more ISVs open their APIs to external developers and build platforms for them to share integration plugins for other systems.
Yet more efficient way is to embed an integration platform as a service via API into one’s own product or white-label an integration platform to build on it, much like it already did Sage in partnership with Cloud Elements, or Star2Star Communications in partnership with elastic.io (i.e. us). iPaaS offers a uniform infrastructure, standardized tools to build and modify integration workflows, a comprehensive monitoring and logging system. Simple integration plugins do not offer all that, they just allow to connect two applications somewhat faster and with less hustle, but they provide, for example, no easy way to fix errors, as there are usually no logging files provided.
Last year we initiated two such projects, which we described in our webinar recap “Communication Platform as a Service: Leveraging Its Integration Capabilities” and in the article “Interview with Telco Provider: How Integration Middleware Added Value to Our Communication Tool”, and have a few others planned for this year. The fact that not only our clients but also other ISV providers like Sage or Sw!ftpage are involved in such projects is a strong indication for us that the understanding of the value of embedded integration platform as a service will gradually grow throughout 2017.6
Retailers Will Explore How to Integrate Chatbots with the Mobile to Support mCommerce
Last but not least. Of course, any tech-oriented prediction would be incomplete without mentioning chatbots. Chatbots were THE topic of the year 2016, and I personally can hardly stand seeing this word anymore:) But the truth is – chatbots will continue to be a big thing in 2017.
It is, though, to expect that the hype will ebb a bit in the following months. More companies will consider chatbots implementation from a place of careful and sober consideration, instead of going for it because everyone is talking about them. Most chatbots are not yet as sophisticated as some would like the world to think, but they are on the right track to become such.
We have already seen how chatbots can be successfully used in the food and beverages industry (think Pizza Hut or Burger King). Retail has also started moving in this direction, and since chatbots are an ideal complementation to mobile, it is only natural to expect that retailers will continue heavily exploring chatbots (together with the mobile) in 2017. Of course, chatbots need to be integrated into the existing IT ecosystem just like any other new application. Additionally, chatbots require real-time data update to ensure, among other things, their adoption by the customer. Tackling these new challenges is what many retailers, in our opinion, will set their minds on in 2017.
Another interesting chatbot-related trend to watch in 2017 is their implementation for internal corporate usage, which often means even more sophisticated integration scenarios with the existing IT estate, both on-premise and cloud-based. We have already covered this trend and suggested several business scenarios in our article “From private chat rooms to corporate world: How chatbots are conquering the enterprise space“. German speakers can get even more business scenarios and expert opinion from chatbots providers and analysts in my article “KI macht die Chatbots schlauer“. We will definitely keep a close eye on how things are developing in this area.