Salesforce's MuleSoft business unit released its 2023 Connectivity Benchmark Report on Feb. 1, revealing the ongoing challenges IT operations teams face managing application delivery and interoperability.
Among the high-level findings in the report is that integration challenges are slowing digital transformation efforts. Eighty percent of respondents to the MuleSoft survey reported that integration issues lead to data silos. The report also found that organizations use an average of 1,061 different applications, with up to 70% of them not being properly integrated with other applications used by the business.
That lack of integration is proving to be costly, with organizations spending an average of $4.7 million building out custom integrations.
Despite the challenges organizations are facing, progress is being made. A year ago, 74% of respondents said their infrastructure was making it difficult to make application or system changes. This year's survey is reporting a dramatic reduction — only 54% say it's difficult to make changes.
"This could be a latent impact of the pandemic, where organizations had to rethink their technology change management processes in order to respond rapidly to changing market demands," Matt McLarty, global field CTO at MuleSoft, told ITPro Today. "This is one of the most positive signs in the report and should serve as a signal to all organizations that digital success is achievable for anyone."
Integration Issues Outlined in MuleSoft 2023 Connectivity Benchmark Report
A number of issues are causing integration challenges.
A lot of applications — especially legacy applications or large, packaged applications — lack openness, and so it takes engineering work, McLarty said. Some of that work includes what he referred to as "digital archeology" — creating the right programmable access points.
Other challenges include understanding what data is being exchanged and whether that data means the same thing to both sides of the integration.
Issues with ownership and security are also concerns that can impede integration.
"If you have to tackle these same questions with every connection, it can be overwhelming," McLarty said.
The use of APIs may be one way to help ease integration. APIs are used by 99% of surveyed organizations in some capacity. In general, the more composable applications can be made, the more effectively they will be able to plug and play with other applications in the enterprise, according to McLarty.
"The reason why microservice architecture has become so popular is that application functionality is made to be interchangeable in such an approach," he said.
Increasing Automation to Improve IT Operations
The MuleSoft report also looked at the role of automation in modern IT operations and found that 33% of organizations are investing in robotic process automation (RPA), commonly referred to as "bots."
"Bots play a fundamental role in business automation but don't provide the whole picture," McLarty said. "The most exciting automations we're seeing are ones that harness the power of business intelligence, time-and-grunt-work-saving bots, along with human interaction."
Looking forward, McLarty said there's no question there will be impact from the macroeconomic climate on the tech industry this year. That said, he still expects organizations to look to improve application integration efforts.
"Organizations may go into cost-cutting mode in the short term, but the only way they can stay ahead of their competitors and grow with efficiency is to improve their digital muscle," he said. "Being able to automate the business and integrate digital assets easily will continue to be competitive advantages for organizations through 2023 and beyond."
About the authorSean Michael Kerner is an IT consultant, technology enthusiast and tinkerer. He consults to industry and media organizations on technology issues.