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A modern and practical guide to Automation & Integration Part3

Updated: Aug 10, 2022

In this section we are going to look at Integration. Low-code platform business requirements demand surfacing data from bespoke systems, databases, 3rd party services and other data sources. In most cases, the demand for integration is aligned with the customers quest to ingress data or input and respond to their clients on a timely basis with the correct information.

Low-code platforms allow for defining processes that cover user-to-user, user-to-system and in some cases, system-to-user interaction, facilitating approved or rejected information to go somewhere and trigger a response or action.

With low-code platforms, you enable non-experts to develop at scale and free experts from routine work at the same time. Low-code platforms support many different use cases, like automation, customer service, web experience, e-commerce, data analysis or enterprise software development.

At some point, data needs to be read from data source or written to a system of rest. This is where integration comes in.

What is integration?

A software solution is designed and functions around data, enabling users to collect, manipulate and approve data. This data needs to live in some state of rest to be used for decision making at some point or other.

This data can be structured (json, xml, csv, transactional) or unstructured (common document formats, images). Any good low-code platform has a set of predefined connectors, brokers, or services to do basic crud operations on data external to the low code platform. This is key when designing for a low code platform or bespoke developed software solution, as it will determine the value you will get out of investment made into the platforms of choice. Designing solution with single point of rest has moved from traditional transactional data systems to data as a service or data on demand.

In recent years the sheer volume of data that is available is mindboggling and has transformed from retrieving data from traditional systems of rest to data living in services.

This is where integration platforms, specifically around low-code platforms have evolved quite a bit.

What differentiates Low-code Platform Integration Capabilities?

Low-code Platforms come with predefined and compatible integration connectors, or at least any market leading platforms. The main factors to consider are:

  • Cost - If these connectors come at a price per user and/or have 3rd part dependencies to be installed, then you should question whether you should be using these integration connectors. For 10 users, it can be a cost-effective solution. For 1000 users, not so much.

  • Compatibility – If these connectors don’t fall into your organizations digital journey or product stack, you need to revisit and/or align to your digital strategy. If these connectors or integrations require a separate upgrade path, then the question arises around compatibility of future versions.

  • Support – The low-code platform should have technical community (free, perpetual) that can assist with any query. You don’t want to get into a situation where you have onboarded a product that his limited localized support. Some platforms force vendors or service suppliers to purchase support packages, even these come at a premium as the customer eventually will have to foot the bill.

  • Scalability – The low-code platform connectors should have some defining criteria or best practice to allow custom build integrations to scale vertically and horizontally, without increasing the cost and effort to support the platform.

How to design integration for low-code platforms?

Any great integration platform needs to have the ability to be developed, supported, and extended to adhere to multiple business requirements and accommodate current and future demands.

Integrations therefore need to be designed independently. This would enable one to keep the cost low, as there is less change management and support involved, and keeping integrations to serve a single purpose makes it more scalable.

Low-code platforms enable organizations to unlock non-technical business users and allow experts to collaborate, design and construct integrations that are functional, scalable, and testable.

How to test integration?

Low-code platforms that are governed and designed with the differentiating factors in mind, should have testable integrations. These integrations can be tested with simple black box testing by give input and testing for expected results.

Testing the low-code platform should involve some sort of process automation or workflow capability within the low-code platform, like a coded integration test approach whereby test cases are developed with in the low code platform to simulate certain test plans.

If customers have access to software developers, specifically technical testers, an advanced coded set of integration tests can be modelled and added to the CI/CD pipeline project to test integration and extend this to more advanced load and performance testing.

What if no out of the box integration exists in my organization?

There are several approaches here, platforms like Synatic that can surface business data as rest services to both low-code and bespoke developed platforms, as these Integration as a Service come with solid management features to easily deploy and facilitate integration.

If you have a low-code platform, or bespoke developed solution that requires data to be integrated, feel free to contact First Digital’s Automation & Integration business unit to assess and assist with your quest integration.

Eckard Meyer

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