Today’s workplace demands the use of several business applications and SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions from employee onboarding, to collaborating on projects, right up to employee exit. All these various applications are part of the organization’s technology ecosystem and are sources of valuable but disconnected data. This demands an innovative approach by software services providers and developers that focuses on building and integrating an ecosystem to handle the rapidly evolving needs of modern business.

A new paradigm for a changing environment

The ecosystem integration approach requires an external-in paradigm that is different from the traditional IT department approach, which is to keep internal data behind a wall from external technologies. The business environment has been evolving with the growing popularity of Android, iOS, IoT (internet of things), Microsoft, and Salesforce ecosystems. These external ecosystems offer companies access to their networks which can provide them more sources of data and potentially more customers.

Reports show that small and medium-sized enterprises were likely to use more than 30 applications and software tools, products, and platforms, many of them cloud-based, in the running of the business. These software solutions are not connected to each other, which means that they each have their own isolated pools of data, which fail to provide the complete big picture that is essential for decision-making. Integrating these software solutions is the new challenge that companies now face.

The business environment is now a world of several ecosystems. Companies will need to adapt their technology architecture to capitalize on the opportunities that this world of ecosystems offers. Hence, they will need to rethink the traditional IT role to bring in external technologies while maintaining the security of their internal data and processes.

Approaches to integrating ecosystems

Depending upon what your business needs are, you could think about a variety of approaches to integrating the external ecosystems with your internal IT. This could be achieved by building connections between applications via open APIs and native integration or through data/process integration. Further, and more importantly, CIOs and IT leads will need to clearly define their high-level strategy for integrated ecosystems and this too can be achieved through multiple ways.

Externalizing internal IT

Lowered technology costs and a dynamic business technology environment have led to quick adoption and integration of ecosystems by the big players in any industry. One way to integrate is by plugging internal capabilities to external systems. This makes companies interact with external partners for a range of functions. An example of this can be seen in some airline apps.

Both United Airlines and Delta Airlines have integrated into the ecosystem of ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber which enables the customer to easily order a car when they disembark from the flight. This creates a superior and seamless travel experience for the customer from booking a ticket to reaching their destination.

Internalizing external IT

This approach integrates external systems within the company’s internal IT processes. This means that it is not just about buying any premade software package but really thinking through the end-to-end customer experience to choose an option that synchronizes with the in-house IT options. Third-party payment solutions that are integrated with retail websites are an example. Clothing retailer J Crew’s website provides customers the additional option of paying in installments through Afterpay, an external fintech company. This is how the retailer can go beyond just a payment process to thinking more deeply about the customer who may prefer to make a purchase without having to pay the full price upfront.

Integrated ecosystems are a great way for companies to generate new opportunities, better business processes, and deliver superior customer experiences. This requires a rethink of how companies strategize their IT, but the rewards are long-lasting.