Why Integration Matters for Creating Productivity Hubs with Exceptional Worker Experiences

The trends in productivity tools,
improved connectivity, changing work culture and worker expectations have led many organizations to rethink their technology investments. Most enterprises, even those in highly regulated industries (financial and life sciences sectors), have reduced their data center footprint. They’ve moved workloads to the cloud, virtualized desktops, adopted SaaS-based solutions, increased BYOD support and provided flexibility for their workforce to work from anywhere. So, what’s missing? A connected worker experience across enterprise applications – one that’s worker obsessed and totally focused on workforce productivity and sentiment.

Bring Enterprise Applications Together Into a Cohesive Worker Experience

Enterprise applications aren’t going away, they’re at the heart of the business and will remain so. That doesn’t mean they should operate in silos. Organizations have a variety of business applications and IT solutions that all too often fall short on worker experience.  Examples of these apps and solutions include:

Typical enterprise apps used by business workers:

  • Payroll apps such as ADP or Paychex
  • HR services powered by Workday, Kronos or Oracle ERP Cloud
  • CRM by Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics
  • Travel & Expense via SAP Concur
  • ITSM is delivered through ServiceNow or BMC Remedy
  • Collaboration/productivity apps by Microsoft O365, Slack or Google G-Suite

Enterprise platforms used by IT departments:

  • Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure hosting servers and custom apps
  • VMware or Hyper-V for virtualization and cloud infrastructure
  • VMware AirWatch or Citrix XenMobile for device management and mobile apps
  • Pivotal Cloud Foundry, Docker, Kubernetes, and others for modernizing legacy apps using microservices architectures

Once enterprise workloads have been containerized, deployed in the cloud and workers are able to use any device and work from anywhere, is this the end game? Of course not, the journey never ends. Adopting purpose-built SaaS solutions have led to newer challenges around business process automation, workflow and integration. It’s resulted in multiple interfaces, security requirements and disconnected worker experiences.

Many corporate intranets and portals either provide a collection of links to other applications or embed content from external sources – neither of which provide an engaging worker experience. Why is that so? The problem is that links take the workers to other locations rather than allowing them to have a cohesive experience within a single portal. Given that content often lives in multiple repositories managed by different vendors, searching or even browsing seamlessly to access the right information is a challenge. It becomes a spaghetti space that is frustrating and time consuming for the workforce. The solution is a unified Digital Workplace that collates information from multiple enterprise applications and provides the ability to perform actions without having to switch context.  This is the difference between a productive, engaging experience and one that simply frustrates the workforce.

Adopting purpose-built SaaS solutions have resulted in multiple interfaces, security requirements and disconnected worker experiences.

iPaaS Becomes the Enabler for Delivering More Productive Worker Experiences

Traditional EAI platforms such as WebSphere, Tibco, BizTalk etc., focused on integration and process automation at the data level and the emphasis wasn’t on the worker experience. The emphasis was on batch processing, message queuing and transforming data between sending and receiving parties or systems. However, these integrations were often complex and expensive deployments requiring specialized skillsets and infrastructure. Depending on the systems, often additional adapters and/or scripting were required for full-scale integration.

The changing landscape of integration in the cloud-first world is no longer about batch processing, ETL jobs, EDI or XML formats. Modern enterprise systems support REST APIs and JSON for data interchange. Major vendors have realized the change – IBM Integration Bus, Microsoft Integration Services and Azure Logic Apps aim to address the integration needs in the cloud. However, the complexities of deployment and challenges around worker experience still exists.

While holistic transaction-focused middleware might still make sense for certain scenarios, the new breed of integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) solutions offer lightweight, plug and play, low code/no code integration that is quick to deploy and easy to manage. Many provide graphical interfaces for orchestrating process automation that empowers knowledge workers with business acumen to create and manage workflows and automation. Dell Boomi has been the leader in the iPaaS space and other players such as Informatica, MuleSoft, SnapLogic etc., offer varying degrees of flexibility and niche feature sets. There’s a lot of consolidation happening in this area with major cloud solution providers such as Salesforce acquiring MuleSoft and Google taking over Apigee to bolster their iPaaS offering.

iPaaS solutions effectively tackle the cloud-to-cloud and on-premises integrations and enable drag-n-drop process automation. However, there is still a void in terms of a seamless, integrated worker experience. A combination of dashboard/portal framework, search engine and cloud-based collaboration tools – working in conjunction with an iPaaS solution forms the foundation to a comprehensive digital workplace and addresses the worker experience issue.

Digital Workplace Platforms Bring Together Enterprise Applications and Solutions for a Cohesive Personalized Experience

Platforms such as ServiceNow provide a flexible layout, navigation scheme, built-in search engine and widgets-based rendering of external content. SharePoint and Office 365 provide all the above stated capabilities, along with additional collaboration, document management, social features, AI/ML based suggestions and native integration with the Office Suite. These platforms, combined with personas and robust worker profiles as key enablers, can be leveraged to integrate with other enterprise systems either via point-to-point integration or through an iPaaS platform to deliver an integrated digital workplace solution.

Productivity Hubs in the Real-world

See Digital Workplace Infographic

Slack is another notable example that has combined the collaboration and communication needs into a single chat-based interface. Slack has pioneered the use of bot frameworks to enable integration and submitting actions to other applications without having to leave the Slack channels. For example, it allows workers to schedule a WebEx meeting, book flights or submit expenses in Concur, track projects issues in Jira etc., all within the Slack interface. There’s a bot for everything and the catalog keeps growing.

For organizations already invested in Microsoft technologies, Microsoft Teams offer similar advantages as Slack by providing a consistent worker experience by natively integrating with Exchange, SharePoint Online, OneDrive, Yammer, Office etc. Workers can leverage persistent chat to connect with colleagues, schedule meetings, share screens and collaborate on documents – all within a modern interface. With PowerApps and Flow integration and new features such as support for application pages, rendering SharePoint web parts etc., Teams is truly becoming the productivity hub of choice. Bots and apps frameworks also enable integration with virtual assistants such as Alexa or Cortana for voice-based command execution and will likely support IoT integrations soon.

While bots are great for point-to-point integrations and for performing micro actions within Slack or Teams, advanced workflow automation involving transactions on multiple enterprise applications and decision tree algorithms, can be implemented by leveraging an iPaaS solution such as Dell Boomi. To the right is a conceptual architecture for a digital workplace implementation leveraging industry leading enterprise solutions.

Help the Workforce Realize Their Full Potential

Dell EMC Consulting is a thought leader in Digital Workplace.  We’ve helped organizations transform their worker experiences with modern intranets and collaboration tools by integrating with enterprise applications to deliver consumer grade, personalized hubs and experiences.

We start by engaging with workers and IT stakeholders to:

  • Understand needs and current pain points
  • Identify key personas, journeys and required capabilities
  • Assess the current IT landscape and existing investments
  • Conduct workshops with sponsors and stakeholders to establish a vision
  • Present the technical approach and roadmap to realize the vision
  • Prioritize use cases and formalize program workstreams
  • Design and implement projects to modernize applications and integrate enterprise systems
  • Collaborate with corporate communications on adoption and change management for driving adoption of modern digital workplaces

Looking to modernize your workers’ experiences? Comment below to start the conversation, or contact Dell EMC Sales to learn how our Consulting Services can help.

About the Author: Matthew Roberts

Matt Roberts has been with Consulting Services since 2006. Collaborating with customers for so many years to enable their employees to just get work done, he has a unique perspective on how best to leverage technology that spans Dell’s strategically aligned businesses, the Microsoft ecosystem, and other third party software to achieve real workforce transformations for clients. Matt is passionate about digital transformation, modernizing digital app experiences and developing solutions that make the digital workplace as productive, engaged, and connected as possible. With 20+ years of software and consulting experience, his career has focused on Digital and Web/App Development. He has broad digital strategy, solution and technology architecture expertise; with specific depth in portal, collaboration, digital/web, content mgmt., search, and ITSM solutions.
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