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The New Integration Equation: XaaS = Anything as a Service

by Daniil Saiko | April 15, 2019

Integration is one of the key objectives of the digital revolution. The reason is simple – sharing data and ways of manipulating data are among the key benefits digitization can bring to businesses and organizations of any kind.

A new way of providing services has emerged that promises to bring integration to a new level. It’s called “XaaS,” which means “Anything as a Service.”

Remember, back in grade school, when we were presented with equation and had to solve for the value of the “X” that appeared in it? In XaaS, X remains open – it’s just about anything that can be delivered as a service.

And delivering something as a service means taking a product or process or technology – really anything that is typically provided to a client – and providing it over a network rather than as a discrete “package.”

Music is a good example. For decades music was delivered on physical media such as vinyl records, cassettes and compact discs. Now you don’t have to use any physical medium at all – you just log onto a streaming service such as Apple Music or Spotify. That’s “Music as a Service.”

SaaS (Software as a Service) is an example from the world of business. It has been a popular and effective business model, and it’s brought with it a myriad of integration solutions that are easier to deploy and easier to integrate into the business process than their forerunners.

So why is this aaS part of the equation so important? Aside from immediate benefits of easier deployment and simpler maintenance, the key aspect is the fact that such a process is now integratable (easy to integrate). These solutions come with out-of-the-box capacity to play nice with other systems.

As a professional dealing with integrations daily, I am acutely aware that “playing nice” is an exaggeration. However, the fact that the systems can find a common language is already a step in the right direction. It lays a foundation for interoperability between internal and external systems, as well as creating an architecture of internal services to drive efficiency gains.

With the emergence of different XaaS solutions, it is easier than ever to: connect services and orchestrate, deploy new capability, connect to another tool, push updates on new platform, and consume new data.

A good example of a creative business XaaS solution is being pioneered by Deloitte’s Human Capital Consulting.

They are developing the idea of Human Capital as a Service (HCaaS) with a goal to provide value to clients in a much simpler way, from start to finish. A part of such a solution is data, which needs to be easily transported and ingested. The value add is insights (thanks to Deloitte’s data scientists and solutions) Deloitte is able to apply to this data. But the whole goal is to simplify such relationships and remove technological, contractual and customer experience hurdles that allow only the largest enterprises to get value from their knowledge base.

There are solutions out there that can help companies bridge the chasm of legacy technologies without complete overhauls. API gateways allow them to consolidate web services and internal processes across multiple entities, orchestrate the tasks and repackage in a consumable way.

iPaaS, or “integrated platform as a service solution,” can assist with creating a platform that can serve as a spring board for other integrations. Connect to it once and delegate all integrations to the platform rather than writing all the integrations by yourself.

However, both of the examples above are just tools. But I hate to break it to you, but they are available to everyone and have been for some time.

Without a strong driving force behind the tools, they will just swell IT budgets and business will only see marginal improvements. It would be like hammering nails with a microscope – yes, you can do it, but is that the best use for it?

I am of the strong opinion that the driving force should be clients and their needs. Clients’ use cases should be at forefront of this XaaS revolution. There are a lot of great and elegant solutions that really don’t solve any problems – they seem to solve a part of the problem but, in the end, do not fix the underlying issues.

The trick, of course, is understanding what the clients’ problems really are, the true root cause of the issue and the workflows.

There are two elements that should drive this effort. First is customer focus, which will define how you identify and tackle problems. Second, is agility which define how well you react to change and implement corrective action. Without agility, customer focus leads to good ideas but no execution. Agility without customer focus leads to lots of meaningless product being shipped with low ROI on it.

Customer focus will define use cases and crystalize what needs to be done, and agility will allow you to pivot on lessons learned quickly if your initial findings prove to be erroneous.

No new fancy XaaS tool or API gateway will be able to help you if both of those are not present. Even if a new shiny tool is used to streamline the backend, at the end of the day the net benefactor is the client, as the result is the business becoming more capable and efficient.

XaaS can help us build a myriad of bridges between our own systems – new and legacy – and our clients’. But without the customer focus and agility that helps us understand what our customers’ needs are, they’ll run the risk of being bridges to nowhere.

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