A thoughtful integration strategy to soothe cloud growing pains

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Thoughtful integration strategy

Kevin Craine

If you’re in the business of technology or in the technology of business, words such as “cloud” and “big data” can feel like this century’s biggest industry buzz terms thanks to the cost saving and tech-intensive advantages they provide. While cloud applications promise flexibility and lower cost, data integration is a common hurdle.

To describe integration as complicated, painful and failure prone wouldn’t be a stretch, especially if there’s no thoughtful approach to cloud and data management that reconciles both the need for data flexibility and security.

Thoughts on Cloud spoke with technology analyst, writer and podcast producer Kevin Craine on avoiding the hot mess of data and cloud integration with an approach that takes more into consideration than just the technology.

Thoughts on Cloud (ToC): Why is integration now the biggest growing pain with cloud?

Kevin Craine (KC): Because of the increasing number of vendors on the market and the ease of obtaining cloud services. So now, we get excited about the cloud and go forth for good reasons. But then data integration can become much more challenging without a well thought-out strategy.

ToC: What is the main integration problem enterprises need to solve?

KC: With information, you need do three things. You have to collect it. You have to secure it. You have leverage it. Without all those three working well, you’re missing an opportunity and, as a consequence, suffering process problems you may not be aware of.

ToC: Security is still a big cloud issue right now with big hacks taking place almost weekly. How do you balance security needs with data integration?

KC:  We have to consider the worst case scenario and ask, with everything we’re doing with the cloud, where are the pockets of insecurity? There has to be a way of connecting to the cloud without compromising security. Nothing demands C-Level attention as high as any other things we do in the organization.

We must think about how solutions and applications are capable of authenticating access to resources that are both on cloud and on premises. We have to be sure we can encrypt and store data in a multi-tenant environment in ways that comply with different regulations and best practices.

At the same time, we want to avoid the cloud silos if we’re really going to have an open and flexible platform that allows us to do things that improve the performance of our organization.

ToC: Some cloud vendors have started to offer out-of-box connectors to address these integration challenges, but using an integration solution from an application vendor can potentially limit your ability to choose freely.

KC: Ideally, the approaches we’re taking should be using open platforms that allow enterprises to seamlessly integrate data. We need an integration approach that is open and flexible, yet secure.

ToC: Can the needs for open and flexible data integration and security be reconciled?

KC: The enthusiasm to move to cloud is fueled by benefits but sometimes is pursued in isolation from information and security. One way to ameliorate the problem is to watch the hand-off. Suppose your CRM and ERP systems are secure, but what happens if you pass information back and forth between those two? If you don’t govern the hand off appropriately your data is still at risk. The deeper we go into cloud era, the more we important that we view integration and security as two sides of same coin and give it that C-Level attention it deserves.

ToC: We’ve read that half of attempted integration projects fail. You’ve talked about bringing thoughtful design into cloud integration as one way forward. Can you elaborate?

KC: To fully capitalize on the cloud, your data needs to be secure, your data needs to be flexible and needs to enable organizational performance improvement through better alignment of people, process and data. Our process is what drives organizational performance. Our people is what makes process happens and our data fuels all of that. All three have to be working together.

ToC: So you’re saying when it comes to cloud integration, it’s not just about the technology anymore?

KC: We have the technology to address all these problems, even the difficult ones. So then it comes to our process and asking, “Is our governance sound?” from that perspective, the organizations that are successful have that strategic mindset to focus on the big picture. They need to have that awareness that things can run off the rails if there’s not a holistic focus and C-Level attention.


To connect with Kevin Craine, go to Everyday-MBA.com or Crainegroup.com.

Feeling the pain? Get the IDC White Paper to get your questions answered about the need for hybrid integration.

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