"We have the specification." "We need the specification." "Is it XML?" "Is it JSON?"
These are the typical comments and questions that we hear at the beginning of any project. They're also a sign that a team is looking in the wrong direction.
In 2019, it's (relatively) easy to build an integration. With an advanced cloud-based platform, near-infinite computing power and the benefit of decades of integration experience, we can make an XML file into an EDI. We can turn an FTP upload into an API call.
The hard part is making sure that the integration we're building is going to deliver business value. Most of that work happens long before anyone touches our app.
How do we do it?
The first step is guiding our customers towards best-practice based integrations. Often our customers come to us with wildly complex projects. They're filled with jargon from their legacy systems, their customers' requirements documents, and the latest buzzwords they picked up at the last trade show. Our solutions team immediately begins deconstructing the problem into manageable bits and finding the patterns that are common across our industry.
Many times, a 30-minute call can turn a rats' nest of requirements into a series of common business processes. The result of this might be that once we pull the layers of individual jargon and nuance away, we're left with "I need to issue a purchase order, get a shipment notification from my supplier, a status update from my forwarder, and a receipt from my warehouse." Once we've established that skeleton, we can layer the details of a unique set of systems and scenarios back on top.
What are the benefits of this approach?
By breaking down into these best practice integrations, our customers benefit from the reusable components built into our cloud platform. This saves immeasurable cost and time within the scope of the integrations.
More importantly, it gives us a common language. Many of the issues in the global supply chain come from people talking past each other. People use simple words to describe complex concepts and complex words to describe the simplest of things. Without a common framework, integration teams can spend months building components that won't come together properly at go live. When we use our best-practice integrations, we're able to ask the right questions to make sure we're all talking about the same thing.
We ask questions like, "When you said you need the arrival date, did you mean at the final port or the warehouse?" "When you said you need real-time updates does that mean within an hour, a minute, a second? Is that the same for all modes?"
Within the context of these best-practices, we can make sure that we're all talking about the same thing at the beginning of an integration, which means we'll deliver the right thing at the end.