5 Tips for Achieving Maximum ROI from Your Middleware

July 14, 2020
HILAL KHAN
5 Tips for Achieving Maximum ROI from Your Middleware

For companies everywhere, the pressure is on. Markets are being disrupted. Supply chains are being reorganized. Some competitors are falling away. Others are growing dramatically thanks to new business models or mergers and acquisitions.

To win in this hectic economic environment, companies need to make the most of the middleware and other IT assets they have, pick their new IT investments carefully, and execute IT and business strategies to achieve the maximum return on investment (ROI).

In my role at OSI Digital leading application integration projects for customers in a wide range of markets, I’ve seen the difference the right middleware or integration platform can make in transforming companies into more dynamic, agile, and profitable organizations.

In an earlier Boomi blog post, I wrote about questions that IT organizations should ask in a shifting economy. Now I’d like to present five tips for making the most of middleware platforms to drive growth and achieve the highest possible ROI.

1. Assess the middleware platforms you already have

Many companies have purchased a variety of middleware platforms over the last decade or so. They know they have the platforms, but they are no longer sure what each platform is capable of. It’s hard to marshal a platform for digital transformation if you don’t know how the platform can help you.

So my first piece of advice is, figure out what your existing middleware platforms can and cannot do. If you find that your internal IT team lacks the expertise to make this assessment, bring in a consultant. The ROI benefits of this analysis can be enormous. After all, you don’t want to buy new middleware for a special capability if it turns out your existing applications have that capability already.

Through this analysis, you’ll likely discover that there are gaps in your existing middleware. By identifying these gaps as soon as possible, you’ll know what to look for in new middleware to help you achieve your business goals. You may also get a sense of capabilities that you can build yourself with an integration platform without requiring the purchase and deployment of a whole new business application.

2. Build the foundation you need for modernization

Now that you’ve assessed your existing middleware, you can decide what additions or changes to you need, so that you have a firm foundation for modernizing your business for speed and efficiency.

Most likely you'll need to integrate existing applications and data sources with new ones, such as software as a service (SaaS) apps. When selecting new applications and the integration platform you’re going to use to connect them, think in terms of time-to-value and skill requirements.

By time-to-value, I mean how quickly can you use the platform to build the thing you need. Will every project require senior developers to hand-code software over several months, or can you take advantage of new low-code development environments and ready-to-use components to build integrations and custom features very quickly?

The other criterion is skills requirement. Does a platform or application require you to use highly skilled programmers for most or all of your development? Would you need to hire and train senior developers, even while you’re trying to respond to rapid changes in the marketplace and lower your costs? Or can you work with a range of skill sets and even put tech-savvy business users to work as “citizen integrators?”

If you’re trying to move quickly and reduce costs, selecting a platform with a low-code development environment can give you the speed and efficiency you need. Simply put, low-code development helps you address both time-to-value and skills requirements.

For integration work, selecting a low-code, cloud-native integration platform as a service (iPaaS) like Boomi AtomSphere makes sense. Using Boomi’s drag-and-drop development environment, ready-to-use connectors, and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered configuration suggestions, IT organizations can build integrations and workflows 5X faster than with traditional, hand-coded techniques.

Want help making the most of your middleware platform? Contact the experts at OSI Digital and Boomi today.

3. Invest in platforms that support modernization

There’s a tremendous amount of IT innovation taking place today. Think about all the progress being made in fields such as AI, big data, blockchain and distributed ledgers, cloud storage, the Internet of Things (IoT), and robotic process automation (RPA). Any of these technologies could be key to your company as it modernizes its operations and develops new products and services.

Make sure any middleware platform you invest in supports these technologies. You don’t want to be stuck with a decades-old, on-premises platform that can’t apply AI to streamline work or that can’t support thousands of IoT devices deployed at the network edge.

Look for platforms that both:

  • Enable you to integrate with standard industry offerings for these technologies, so that if you want to, for example, work with IoT devices or cloud-native databases, you can.
  • Apply these technologies directly, so that their own features take advantage of the speed, efficiency, and scale these technologies deliver.

The Boomi Platform meets both these requirements. For example, customers can deploy Boomi Atoms as runtime engines at the network edge, so operations can take advantage of IoT devices running at scale. And Boomi applies AI in its own platform to automatically recommend configurations and data mappings for popular applications, based on patterns detected in over 30 TB of anonymized customer data.

4. Abstract your customizations

If you’re customizing your applications to support business processes, we suggest you build those customizations outside the applications themselves. That way, if you decide to replace your applications later, the software with your business logic and workflow automation can remain in place. For example, you won’t have to build a whole new customer onboarding workflow simply because you decided to replace your legacy CRM application with Salesforce Sales Cloud.

At OSI, we often recommend that our clients build their customizations and workflow automations in a vendor-neutral platform like Boomi Flow, which will work with whatever applications a company decides to adopt. And Boomi Flow has the advantage of working easily with other Boomi services, such as integration and master data hub for data governance, so that customers can easily deliver accurate data wherever it’s needed.

5. When possible, adopt a self-service model for interactions

Maybe you’ve had to cut your staff in response to market disruptions. But even if you haven’t, you certainly want to make the most of the staff you have. In a disrupted economy, efficiency is more important than ever.

One way to promote efficiency to build self-service features and portals. By making it possible for users to help themselves and by automating as many user interactions as possible, you make processes more efficient. You also make them more consistent. You can design a fast, straightforward interaction and make that the default way of getting things done.

Look for self-service capabilities in your integration platform, as well. For example, many of our customers appreciate the convenience of the Flex portal available with Boomi Master Data Hub. The Flex portal makes it easy for data stewards and other stakeholders to build workflows for managing data quality tasks. Flex puts stakeholders in charge of their own data without requiring the IT organization to build lots of custom forms and workflows from scratch.

Self-service operations improve ROI by delivering faster results in a consistent, repeatable way without the expense that comes from manual interventions. And building those interactions in an integration platform like Boomi AtomSphere, rather than in business applications themselves, makes them more manageable and consistent over time.

Smart Investments Lead to Big Returns

These are challenging times, but we’re seeing that companies that use middleware applications strategically can even now make dramatic improvements to their agility, efficiency, and profitability. The key to achieving the best possible returns on investments in middleware is following the advice I’ve outlined in this blog post.

Start by assessing the middleware you have. Then augment or replace that middleware as needed so you have the foundation you need for digital transformation.

As you assess middleware offerings, take a hard look at what each platform requires in terms of development skills and promises in terms of time to value. Be sure to select platforms that will let you take advantage of AI, big data, IoT, and other new technologies. When building custom features and workflows, keep your core business logic and other customizations in vendor-neutral platforms like Boomi AtomSphere, rather than embedding them in a particular application, such as your CRM application.

Finally, the best way to help your users is often to let them help themselves. Build self-service features on top of your middleware to reduce your employees’ workloads and to deliver fast, consistent experiences to your customers, partners, and employees.

With the right strategy and the right middleware platform, you can maximize your ROI and achieve profits you might not have thought possible before today’s economic disruptions. Some things never change, though. A smart IT strategy always delivers a better ROI.

Want help making the most of your middleware platform? Contact the experts at OSI Digital and Boomi today.

About the Author

Hilal Khan is the global director, application integration at OSI Digital. OSI Digital provides purpose-built business and technology solutions that optimize performance to enable data-driven outcomes for our customers. With extensive experience in data modeling, developing data warehouses and SOA-based enterprise integrations, Hilal is responsible for the architecture and delivery of robust and scalable solutions for OSI Digital's customers. His expertise also includes ERP technology and implementation, with specialization in human resources, payroll, finance, inventory, insurance, and other office automation systems.