The saying, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” can apply to digital integration as the business value resulting from enabling integration efforts is often lost to focusing on too many trees and not enough of the broader forest. I.e. focusing on too many tactics and not enough of the broader context and “why” strategy.
To enable the delivery of products that deliver business value and high customer satisfaction, you need to go beyond just integrating your systems and processes. Companies typically seek help in enabling their products by using what the industry refers to as System Integrators (SIs). SIs specialize in inventorying the interfaces to build, then designing and building them – essentially integrating the related systems.
If you want to develop leading products, you need to go beyond just connecting the dots between systems. You need someone you can collaborate with that takes into account both the customer experience and the product’s goals, and who can align the strategy to meet both objectives.
This requires a digital integrator (DI) – someone to collaborate with that understands and provides you with support from “concept to cash”. DIs go beyond order taking; they provide strategy through execution capabilities and even operational services.
Digital integrators are a must-have for any business
Great products – digital and physical – that generate significant business and customer value are underpinned by durable, flexible, and cost effective integration capabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how critical digital integration is when it comes to suppliers across the globe and having a durable and flexible supply chain.
Digital products’ supply chain is the broader ecosystem of services and infrastructure needed to keep them running. Outages can quickly kill the product. Having your integration platform and capabilities spread across cloud providers or your own data centers (on-prem) provides a basis for durability, flexibility, and cost effectiveness.
What is a digital integrator? 4 characteristics of a DI
A digital integrator has four primary characteristics that differentiate it from an SI:
- Industry expertise
- Multidisciplinary teams
- Business + experience + technology agile approach
- Delivery of strategy through execution services
These characteristics are critical in assembling a team of practitioners who can quickly understand the product concept and vision, and more importantly your broader corporate product direction. This is important as it gives the team purpose and context when developing not only the product integration solution, but also the larger integration capabilities for your company.
The team also consists of members that have experience and knowledge in using agile approaches to design, build, deploy and operate your large scale integration platform that enables multiple products. This aligns well with companies that are trying to be a platform company of their own vs. focusing on a single product.
PwC and MuleSoft: Digital integration coming together
PwC prides itself on being a digital integrator, and often leverages technology alliances like MuleSoft to deliver strategy through architecture and design for clients. With PwC’s recent acquisition of certain assets of Netrovert, they’ve expanded strategic capabilities when it comes to delivery and execution of large scale integration and iPaaS-related efforts.
Let’s use an analogy to think about this in real-life terms. We’ve all seen a movie where a company brings in a SI to solve a problem or enable a product before. It ends with a train off the tracks with unhappy passengers. Why? Because the team was focused on just making sure the systems inside the locomotive were connected and didn’t consider the other train cars, their purpose, or who was in each car and why.
The parallel here is where companies bring in a SI to solve for one set of integration issues or to enable one product and end up doing just that, but at the same time contribute to a weak, rigid, and expensive overall solution. This can result in unhappy customers and lower overall company performance.
Finding a capable and trusted digital integrator
If you discover you can benefit from a digital integrator, be sure to evaluate each candidate by asking specific questions about their approach to your particular issues and opportunities. An ideal DI will help explore the broader context with you and offer recommendations that demonstrate that they can go beyond to bring additional value.
They should be able to outline a framework and priorities for identified and potential solutions without additional fees. DIs do this efficiently as they have a better handle on where you’re headed next. While DIs aren’t the most cost effective partners to engage with when looking at a dollars per hour comparison, they can be much more affordable in the end when compared to SIs because of the higher business and customer value they deliver.
PwC has a bet big on being a strategic digital integrator, and PwC believes in underpinning that bet by working with MuleSoft, leader in integration and API platforms. This is the new equation for digital transformation at work: a human-led, tech-powered strategy to untangle businesses’ most complex problems and deliver consistent outcomes every step of the way.