Navigating application fragmentation

This is a guest blog post by Gert-Jan Wijman, VP of EMEA, Celigo.

Computer applications have done wonders for bringing people together. From the early days of chatrooms to the rapid rise of social media, geographical gaps have only shrunk over time, with users able to connect with anybody, anywhere, at any time.

In the case of businesses, however, the sheer number of applications available has quickly become a headache. While there are thousands of useful programmes on the market that can speed up processes and simplify operations, this same variety means not every platform can seamlessly integrate with the next. This fragmentation is the antithesis to a modern business strategy where speed and simplicity is often the goal.

And as automation rises on tech leaders’ priority lists, so too will finding ways to connect these disparate processes. Only then can leaders extract the full benefits that it brings – streamlining workflows and enjoying the cost savings that come with using resources more efficiently.

Knocking down silos

Foundational SaaS applications like those built by Salesforce and SAP have significantly streamlined how firms develop their tech stacks. Organisations can easily treat these programmes as central hubs, where new applications that fit neatly into the ecosystem of their central SaaS provider can be added like spokes on a wheel. But once businesses begin to grow and better understand their specific needs, they turn to alternative providers – and that’s where the problems begin.

Applications that fall outside of this network typically don’t integrate smoothly with those purpose-designed for it. This creates siloed processes that can’t communicate with each other effectively. The onus then usually falls on IT teams to close these gaps to make sure the tech stacks that underpin their businesses are aligned.

These silos cause a host of issues if allowed to persist. For example, data driven decision making becomes nearly impossible. Without standardisation, different platforms will have different sets of information depending on the last time it was manually updated. This hinders collaboration too, as teams may not have the same information as one another.

This disconnect can be particularly concerning when it regards customer information. Not only can inconsistencies lead to a poor user experience, they also pose a regulatory headache. Personal data that is not properly removed from systems can constitute a GDPR breach, for example. As long as processes remain separated and companies rely on workers to ensure compliance, they are putting their business at risk.

Geographical hurdles to traverse

This pursuit of growth often involves geographic expansion. Each new region or territory brings with it new systems and platforms that need to be connected to existing ones.

In Europe particularly, geographic differences greatly intensified existing fragmentation, especially in domains related to local laws, languages, and taxes. This has created a category of local SaaS champions in nearly every major European country – but that’s not all. For example, sales and distribution channels have also become more fragmented with the rise of different local marketplaces and fulfilment centres to connect to.

So, in addition to the siloing of processes that any business with a growing tech stack will inevitably have to contend with, multinationals in Europe face the added challenge of trying to bring together programmes built in entirely different countries and make them work as a unit.

Stitching it all together with iPaaS

This fragmentation is why integration platforms-as-a-service (iPaaS) are so critical to businesses – especially in Europe. For as long as processes remain disparate and disconnected, employees have little choice but to manage them separately. And when scaled across an organisation that could use hundreds – even thousands – of applications, across numerous regulatory jurisdictions and in multiple currencies, that’s a lot of gaps for workers to manage.

For businesses who want to thrive in this environment, automation and integration is essential, and the former cannot happen without the latter (not effectively or at scale, at least). By employing an iPaaS platform, companies can build connections across applications regardless of which SaaS they most easily connect to or where they have been built.

The SaaS sprawl will only continue as more businesses make the move to the cloud in the search for more flexibility in managing their operations. For companies who have not yet embarked on an automation strategy, it’s critical to start today in order to realise the benefits of improving speed and accuracy, easing workloads, reducing costs and boosting productivity.

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