Many organizations realize how huge of an impact mobile solutions can have on their business. The return on investment of these solutions usually speaks for itself and mobility does have an impact on the whole organization. Whether the business need is about improving efficiency, creating an extraordinary customer experience, increasing sales or reducing costs, it is clear that enterprise mobility solutions have a strategic part to play. Still, concerns are often raised in regards to the integration of these solutions.
Lines of business managers, be it marketing, sales, finance or operations, appreciate the potential impact of the business intelligence mobilization. Yet it also raises an important question: How do you successfully integrate these paradigm-shifting solutions to the organization’s existing management software, ERP or master data.
Integrating with your backend systems
Backend systems usually do a great job at managing your organization’s processes and keeping operations running smoothly. An ERP System, for example, will usually bring benefits such as scalability, improved reporting, data quality, lower cost of operations, business analytics, better supply chain and regulatory compliance.
Be that as it may, sometimes the interconnectivity of these solution proves to be tedious and resource intensive. Usually the implementation and customization of these solutions requires very specialized resources that are rare and expensive. It is customary to make these resources focus on key business features. It is also common to see organizations try to keep the use of these resources to a minimum in order to control costs.
Using the middleware approach
By definition, middleware is software that connects software components or enterprise applications. It will make it easier to develop apps that read and/or write information to and from a backend. It can be described as "software glue".
In short, middleware is the infrastructure that facilitates creation of business applications, and provides core services being a foundation in your architecture applications strategy (think SOA). It also provides security and enables high availability functionality to the enterprise.
Concrete Middleware Integration Examples
JD Edwards integration
A leading Canadian retailer was looking into enterprise mobility solutions to enable their employees to take full advantage of their ERP system and be a key ingredient in the creation of an exceptional customer experience. One of the challenges was to integrate the business intelligence, contained in their ERP (JD Edwards), running on the AS/400 platform, with mobile apps.
In this specific case, a middleware was integrated to serve as a bridge between the JD Edwards platform and the mobile apps by providing a JSON rendering of the required business data. What is also of interest is that the middleware proved to be an excellent integration point not only for the mobile apps but also for other solutions.
Custom developed ERP
In another situation, a home fashion manufacturer that is also in direct retail was looking for a solution to enhance its custom developed ERP, running on AS/400, to change the way they work in their warehouse. With a very intense JIT (Just In Time) approach in the supply chain, they needed ways to integrate with their management platform and improve their real time actions.
The implementation of a middleware enabled the development of tightly integrated mobile apps with the ERP, while having minimum involvement from the ERP assigned developers. It also allowed the mobile solution to get instant JSON representation of business data.
The last example relates to an organization in field services that needed to mobilize some information for their technicians on the road. The mobile solution needed to integrate information from multiple sources, SAP being one of them.
The path of least resistance involved integrating a middleware with the appropriate connectors to consume existing SAP transactions and provide an XML rendering of the business data for the mobile apps to obtain and use.
Line of business leaders can usually identify many ways they could thrive and take things to the next level. Integrating the business intelligence that is available will prove to be a powerful tool to providing an extraordinary consumer experience for example.
There are many reasons to invest in backends and ERPs as they become the backbone of the business. The integration of multiple software solutions with your existing systems can seem complex and requiring a lot of effort and resources.
The integration of a middleware tier will not only break some of these barriers, they will act as an accelerator for your lines of business and enhance the organization’s ROI.
Can you relate to the business challenges portrayed in this article? Are you looking into mobilizing some of your processes? Please feel free to reach out to discuss.