Software integration has traditionally always been built and managed by experts. People within the IT team, third-parties or consultants. Because of this, the perceived cost and complexity of integration is quite high and thus makes it feel (to some) as a luxury they can’t afford. However, there is an increasing ‘democratization’ going on in the integration space and now more and more people from around the organisation can own their integrations.
What is Citizen Integration?
A citizen integrator is a non-technical user within an organization who has been empowered with software and tools to perform integration tasks without extensive coding or IT expertise. These individuals typically belong to business units or departments and have domain knowledge about specific business processes or data requirements.
Citizen integrators leverage low-code or no-code integration platforms or services that make it easy to connect various systems, applications, or data sources. By enabling citizen integrators to orchestrate data flows, automate processes, and create integrations independently, organizations can accelerate digital transformation initiatives, reduce reliance on IT resources, and foster innovation at the grassroots level.
Why is this becoming such a popular approach?
The whole purpose of Citizen Integration is to empower everyone within a business to take control of the tools they use and how they use them. This is important because there is a commonly held conception that integration actually ends up with some people and teams losing their tools or being told to change how they work.
From simple in-app integrations such as connecting up Google Docs to your email marketing software, to more complex ecosystems of enterprise software. There are many instances now available to non-experts for building, managing and scaling their own integrations.
The role of Citizen Integrators in service design
‘Service Integration’ which is a little different to software integration as it looks at integration as entire business functions (tools, people and processes). Service design lead by Citizen Integrators allows for the designing and implementation of these types of integrations, is to take one team’s tools and processes and force them upon the other team/s they are integrating with.
Old-school business leaders like this because it creates uniform ways of working, which are simple to understand and manage. However, this simplicity doesn’t really get good results. It just makes things nice to look at on charts and presentation slides! Real people like, value and thrive in environments they have control over. If they can choose their tools, design their processes and shape their own way of working, they can use modern integration tools to just ‘connect that up’ to other teams who are equally in control of their work… this is a very good thing!
What are the core business benefits?
Empowering people to work the way they want to work is a big benefit, because it boosts productivity, employee experience and quality of service. But Citizen Integration is also fast. Handing down power and control to the people closest to the work removes friction and makes change happen quicker.
In traditional ways of managing integrations they are typically seen as projects, which require planning, external support, testing and so on. Integrations become very easy to do when you hand them down to the business users themselves. Providing the right tools for making low-risk changes is a huge leap forward from the old, incumbent and slow ways of working.
High-performing integrations are not treated as projects anymore. They are seen and utilized as capabilities across the whole business (much like communication, budgeting, team work etc…) which are constantly maturing with smart-work and time. This can only really happen when it is also seen as something anyone can take part-in.
And no, you might not actually be expecting a sales executive to be rolling out an enterprise-wide integration of your CRM (eg. Dynamics, Hubspot, Salesforce) ERP and Finance systems… but they could making sure that the data between Sales and Marketing for lead-generation is visible, accurate and synchronised in real-time across both teams. This is what Citizen Integration enables business users to do themselves, with no input from IT or outside help.
How are leading brands already doing this?
By investing in the right tools and empowering their people, big brands are accelerating their ability to change and collaborate. From the back-office IT teams producing new features and technologies for their customers to use, to the people-facing areas of the business such as HR and Management providing great employee experiences.
This is because brands who are at the fore-front of their industries appreciate speed, agility and collaboration above all other things. They know if they can democratize as many small business changes as possible, empower all staff to choose and use the best tools for their work and to create as much visibility of this for everyone as possible… they can move fast.
This speed means it’s easier to look after the needs of more customers. To test-out and leverage as many new sales and marketing technologies as possible. And to ship more and more new products, services, features and experiences than every before.
In big businesses; full of teams, software and different ways of working… integration is the magic ingredient to make things flow. Integration removes complexity, friction, obscurity and confusion, which are all huge producers of waste.
First of all, Gartner actually predicts that a lot of incumbent tools propping up old-fashioned integration will disappear from the marketing place over the next few years. This prediction stems from the fact that a wide range of enterprise-level integration platforms (iPaaS) are built around old ways of working. Ways which assume high levels of complexity, long projects and big budgets. All things which are on the way out.
We feel the same way, but we see an even faster-approaching future for quick, easy and simple to manage integrations. Most integration providers and platforms still require a certain level of knowledge around API’s, REST keys, coding and so on.
Modern and Next generation IPaaS solution don’t use these things at all. No code, no integration experience and also, no real-risk of getting things wrong. And we totally support this idea, because we are already seeing a shift to lighter weight tools and we know what a significant difference they can make to the whole organisation.
Modern tools for citizen integrators such as ONEiO Integration Automation Platform, provide simple and single-page dashboards, which replace complex interfaces, platforms and packets of code. You can offer integration as a capability to anyone in the organisation and make it their job to mature the way they connect up their tools and processes to other teams around the business.
Ultimately, people don’t need ‘services’ to help you manage integration… they just need to feel empowered. You can do this by changing the mindset, approach and technology you use to building integrations across your business.
If you’d like to get started, contact our integration experts and let’s see what integrations you can have up and running within just a few hours.
Read more: Ultimate guide to application integration