“Change Enterprise” Part 4 – Always Integrate

Continuing with my series around becoming a “Change Enterprise”, the next part of my methodology – “Always Integrate”.

Looking back at the methodology diagram (shown here), you will notice that integration comes after the stages I have previously described: understanding technologies, tools, people, and business value. However, it can be argued that integration should be your first consideration.

While the circle is in order of execution steps, it is true that integration should always play a part in your choice of platform and/or technology. Working on the assumption that you have chosen Microsoft 365 / Azure then this is already, in part, baked in for you. However, looking at what and how to embrace change means we always need to keep this in focus.

I have worked with many organisations that have understood and adopted Microsoft 365 as a platform and but then have failed to leverage the integration it brings.

So, my message here is to Always Integrate – leverage integrated platforms with connectors and integrated services. As the Microsoft 365 and Azure platforms grow out and up, ALL the tools are focused on integration. Microsoft Teams is the ideal example with integration now coming online at a stunning pace. New features for voice calls and file integration are expected in the tool, the tie up with Dynamins 365, Power BI, Power Automate, Power Apps, Microsoft Lists and now DataFlex (formerly Common Data Services, there is now a new lighter, native Teams database functionality) which is launching soon.

But not all tools are Microsoft tools. Organisations need ERP, HR, accounting, and standard business tools that are industry specific or simply suit the organisation ethos (I am not advocating to use all Microsoft here). Additionally, you may be using another cloud provider and again that is just fine – the principle is the same: look first at connectivity and integration.

If a service, piece of software or code base fits with what your organisation needs then you should use it. What I am saying is that one of those needs MUST be integration, and if the service does not integrate then please, please move on.

For legacy software / tools, look to find intermediate service that can integrate or look to create custom connectors via bespoke development.

If you have a tool that does not integrate you will be replacing it. The change in technology in use by your organisation means that any services that are “stand alone” in this way, will become less and less valuable to you.  Regardless of their feature set, the providers of these tools will simply not survive. Do not tie yourself to a provider that does not have an API connector for use in Power Automate or Azure.

I realise this sounds really prescriptive, I could tell you all about the ways in which these technologies will become obsolete, and I realise that you will perhaps choose to disagree but let’s focus on empowerment and value in the organisation.

As I’ve said before a “Change Enterprise” needs to adopt this new way of working and thinking. The framework keeps us focused on key principles that change is happening “with or without you”.

The good news is that the business applications market is already massively entrenched in this way of thinking, you can simply hop on board, look at Power Automate for instance (formerly Microsoft Flow). With over 300 connectors already in this low code solution and growing as more and more SaaS providers add their connectors. https://flow.microsoft.com/enus/connectors/

In addition, the community of open connectors and open source code is again, very advanced and leading us to crowd source and leverage the development of connectors that we all need and can now share.

For example of flows and the connectors users can contribute to, download and use the Power Automate cookbook at: https://powerusers.microsoft.com/t5/Power-Automate-Cookbook/bd-p/MPA_Cookbook

GitHub is possibly the most likely place to find advice and help on getting a workload crowdsourced. This is worth a search before you get started to see if someone has already started a project you can contribute to or help to get developed with your own development team.

Competitive advantage is now the organisations using the tools well, not the ones with the technology under wraps. Open sourced projects mean that with literally no expense, competitors can better leverage the same technology you are using. If you are not at least aware of the integration potential and tools available to leverage for your software of choice, then you are already behind.

It is simply no longer the case that you need to keep a staff of developers to create forward thinking code to be better than everyone else, the world has moved on. Integration and continual development are the only ways to keep the organisation focused on business value, not technical features that everyone else will have by the time you have created them.

By adopting an Always Integrate mindset you can:

  • Always implement solutions that offer business insight from its data
  • Assume that “can I see the data in xxx” is a yes
  • Link services to team productivity with workflow tools
  • Surface cross platform data where it is needed
  • Combine information and action into single workloads for your users

If you are still aware of projects, development and technology change where integration is not on the MoSCoW as a must, then it’s time to rethink and take a step back and take another look at the big picture.

Thanks for listening – don’t forget to leave comments below or get in touch with me directly if you’d like to chat about the content posted here or anything to do with the Power Platform – I’m a Business Applications speaker and evangelist with a clear focus on delivering real business value from technology. I speak at least once a month so please find me at an event and #LetsGetCoffee

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