With the proliferation of data sources, all businesses want is to analyze them in order to deduce trends or relevant information. It’s a revolution that has been favored by the digital transformation of businesses, the integration of solutions within the cloud and the API economy. This revolution has led to the emergence of a new category of profiles, the Citizen Integrator and new tools (iSaaS).
Traditionally, data integration is a task reserved for IT. This service ensures the connection of the applications and information integration between systems. The tools used to build integration solutions are more or less complex applications such as enterprise service bus (ESB) or enterprise application integration (EAI). They require, amongst other things, programming knowledge and costly maintenance.
But businesses have entered a new era. Data is everywhere. Omnipresent. Under the leadership of heavyweights such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, all departments in a company can store, process, and explore data.
Unfortunately, the IT department is not always able to manage the growing number of data sources and the increasing number of employee requests. This service appears, whether right or wrong, as a bottleneck. As a result, it can take days or even weeks to access the data needed to prepare a project.
Hence the reason that many businesses have decided to manage their own integration and data processing. They are assuming the function of the Citizen Integrator. The Gartner analyst firm defines them as a user operating outside the traditional computing and governance framework.
This trend is expected to increase in the coming years. As digitalization accelerates the transformation of businesses, users are increasingly running self-service tas
ks in order to integrate data and applications by using the Integration Software as a Service (iSaaS). These are online automation softwares, the most recognizable being IFTTT and Zapier. By offering API’s through self-service, or via paid subscriptions for Zapier, they can offer the widest range of flow management functions, which have long been the prerequisite for large businesses.
These solutions make it possible to adopt a DIY approach (do-it-yourself). Citizen Integrators build new integration streams by configuring them rather than building them from scratch. With iSaaS, employees can rely on automation in order to become more autonomous. They can customize the tools to suit their tastes and objectives.
Finding a unicorn?
Citizen Integrators can also benefit from reuse capabilities designed by developers. This consolidated approach to integration will help both parties while avoiding the proliferation of integration silos.
But not everyone can become a Citizen Integrator. Schematically, the ad hoc profile is of a person that already possesses solid data experience and who, in addition:
- Understands a businesses workings and peculiarities
- Knows the clients’ needs
- Understands the subject related to a business process
- Knows the data requirements
Some people might consider this short description the same as finding a unicorn! Perhaps, but it indicates above all that the Citizen Integrator must integrate a human dimension to its approach and its projects. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, data is everywhere and everyone consumes it within a business. Data management has thus become a team sport. And as in any team, each person must understand and play his role as per the advice of a leader. Beyond the integration of information, it is about understanding the teams’ expectations in order to obtain the most accurate data possible (and subsequently, the ideas).
Since data management is often shared between multiple teams, it is important that a process is agreed upon for some of its interactions.
Other aspects require special attention. Citizen Integrators do not always understand the main issues related to IT security. Therefore businesses face a dilemma: how do you encourage data analysis by as many people as possible – in order to foster business development – all the while avoiding data leaks and malicious access that would lead to an operating loss?
Organizations need to rethink their approach to IT security and data governance. The increasing use of online applications (SaaS) and API requires the opening of many “ports” in the computer network. It is essential to know who has access to it and what they can access. The IT security team should also ensure that employees do not use applications with vulnerabilities that could be exploited in hacking.
Under the pretext of not wanting to wait for the green light from the IT team to use a particular software, certain businesses may be tempted to go faster by installing free applications that are simple to use. But does this free alternative guarantee the confidentiality of the analyzed data?
The Citizen Integrator represents an important opportunity for businesses to strengthen their know-how and competitiveness. But they must be aware of the digital risks so as not to jeopardize their business.