I was pinged the other day by Scribe (more about them here) – the company is delivering a new take on data integration, making it quicker and easier for non technical folks. Anyway, Scribe has just done a “State of Customer Data Integration” survey. These surveys can generally be taken with a grain of salt, but recent discussions that I’ve had with people about the broader data integration space have got me thinking more broadly about what integration will mean going forwards.

Before I go off on a tangent, some of the more interesting findings from the survey were:

  • Although IT continues to own a sizeable portion of the core systems budget, sales, operations and marketing departments together are responsible for 48 percent of the planned systems investments in 2013
  • While almost half of business respondents (44 percent) plan to invest more in their business systems in 2013, the majority (60 percent) plan to take a cautious approach – increasing their customer-facing systems investment by no more than 20% compared to 2012
  • 26 percent of businesses report a pure cloud environment for CRM, while ERP and BI systems are still predominantly on-premise (with only six percent and five percent respectively reporting cloud adoption)
  • The growing importance of hybrid environment support for customer data is clear as 47 percent of businesses and 73 percent of third-party systems integrators point to hybrid environment support as either a top priority or important for their CRM strategy
  • With the majority of respondents noting integration between CRM and business intelligence (74 percent), CRM and customer support systems (73 percent), and CRM and marketing automation (71 percent) as a top priority, only 16 percent of business respondents report full integration among their various business systems

Many of these findings point directly to a theme I’ve been thinking about recently, that integration plays are leaving significant value on the table and should be far broader in their view of what “integration” actually means.

Leaving the Value on the Table – Integration is about UX as Much as Data

This will come across as heresy to many in the integration field but the real opportunity and problem space for data integration lies not in tying those data streams together, but in a far deeper consistent and contextual UX play. The rise of APIs as the common lingua franca for applications and the increasing acceptance that organizations will be using multiple solutions that by definition need to be able to be readily integrated is changing the landscape. Integration, while still undeniably important, is both becoming a base expectation, and a generally accepted approach.

So what comes next? Something I’ve been banging on about for years now is the fact that when using multiple discrete systems, end users suffer a real pain point in terms of context shifting between different applications. In my own situation I use a dozen or more different systems of record (job tracker, accounting, CRM, email etc) – while SSO and integration are critical to allowing that to occur, once that barrier is overcome (and major authentication plays by Twitter, Google Facebook and others are helping with this) the next bastion is the actual user experience I spend my time in.

The reason I was so excited about the launch of Tylr Mobile a few months ago (and, full disclosure, I was so excited that I went and invested in the company) was that this is exactly the problem they’re looking to solve. First cab off the rank is bringing a logical UX, data and business process integration between email and Salesforce data. No doubt there are more areas the company is looking to bring together.

But more generally, my view is that API providers, data integration plays and even data management vendors need to look at a much broader view of what “integration” needs to mean going forwards. It’s not about the data – well OK, it is about the data but this is a base level requirement – moving up through the hierarchy of needs and you soon get to a place where the real problem to be solves is content and context – that’s where integration will head in the years ahead in my opinion.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

1 Comment
  • It’s no surprise to those at the coal face – the ones doing the business. The infatuation with all things cloud perpetuated by self appointed advisors banging on about the latest technology is actually not the business reality. It is about the everyday application intelligent business process and that includes a mix of platforms.

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