Inovus Intelligence - Insights on IT Alignment                   September 2015

Using Middleware to Gain a Competitive Edge

When an organization is able give its employees and customers fast, convenient and appropriate access to the information they need or want, it enables efficiencies that give it a decided competitive edge.

Tying an organization’s core enterprise applications together to realize a timely and fluid exchange of data can be difficult, particularly if different technologies are being interconnected via custom integration. This time-consuming process requires substantial technical expertise, an extensive IT team commitment, a sizable budget, and it limits the organization’s ability to remain nimble in adapting its applications to its changing business needs.

Middleware technology solves these problems, using standardized protocols, integrations, and constructs to enable a seamless exchange of data between the core enterprise applications supporting a business, such as human resources (HCM) to finance or procurement and e-commerce systems. By eliminating the need for custom integration, it can dramatically reduce the time and resources required to select, deploy, maintain and replace any of those core enterprise applications. Middleware creates a layer of abstraction, consolidates data from these different applications and presents it to authorized data consumers in a meaningful and useful format that is more easily adapted to changing business needs.

Middleware deployments often depend on a service-oriented architecture (SOA) to enable elements of different applications on a shared network to provide services for one another. Even if these applications are highly diverging technologies, SOA gives them a common framework for connecting with middleware technologies. This enables an organization’s IT department to create a small group of specialists who need only the expertise to work with the middleware technology, rather than with each and every application linked to it. Consequently, even an organization with limited technical expertise or resources can use middleware to integrate a large variety of applications quite quickly.

The key to using this architecture effectively lies in ensuring that it ties major systems together while providing an appropriate level of abstraction for data consumers or other applications. If organizations pursue a thoughtful migration to SOA-compatible applications, and take steps to optimize their architectures, they can leverage middleware to realize powerful new data access and management capabilities that fuel more responsive customer service, more effective sales operations, and increased employee productivity.

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