The average business today cannot exist in isolation. Companies integrate more systems, apps and tools than ever before. Since information exchange is paramount, corporate data cannot be siloed in corporate data centers anymore.
The maritime industry and logistics in general are no exception. Day by day, companies from the sector must deal with endless flows of information to make the right business decisions, optimize business processes and analyze operations, or simply provide vital data for third parties in real time.
Furthermore, over the past several years, technology advancement and overall digitization of the industry have introduced new opportunities for greater optimization, automation, agility and profitability. Digital technologies such as IoT and the Smart Port concept, blockchain-based ecosystems and data exchange platforms such as TradeLens, and some online tracking and management services, provide new business opportunities for shippers, ports, carriers, beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) and others. As a result, the need for accurate information-sharing between stakeholders, and building connections with all those modern entities quickly and seamlessly, have become vital for the industry.
As a rule, companies operating in the sector run on various systems and data sources, some of which are based on outdated technologies and use proprietary data formats. In contrast, modern technologies are cloud based and quite often cannot understand those systems and their in-house data formats without extra efforts.
As a result, companies face a challenge connecting their existing on-premises systems to modern cloud-based new-world technologies and interacting with all those entities earlier than competitors. What’s more, those connections and integrations should happen with unprecedented speed and agility; otherwise, businesses might lose their competitive advantage.
Overcoming the integration challenge
A few years ago, the most common approach was to employ a team of integration specialists to develop an in-house solution. In today’s reality, due to the associated risks and availability of different Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) offerings on the market, the in-house approach is no longer seen as the best option.
iPaaS is a technology that helps companies connect different systems and data sources in one place to aggregate and share information with no manual data entry. In other words, it is a cloud-based centralized ecosystem allowing companies to collect, view, manage and modify data flows from different systems automatically.
As you pursue data integration with the help of iPaaS, you will most likely be able to eliminate data silos, enable real-time data sharing and processing, mitigate errors, data loss and transparency for all parties involved, centralize data aggregation and data management, increase efficiency and reduce the costs of operations.
Providing such benefits, iPaaS solutions have become the most popular option for many companies to manage data integrations.
How to choose an iPaaS vendor that will be the right match for your needs and budget
Although the nature of iPaaS is to automate data flow between entities, systems or partners, different iPaaS tools suit different purposes.
While some tools work perfectly for huge enterprises operating in the automotive or maritime industry, others work only for small entities operating in an e-commerce domain.
To enjoy perks such as efficient management of the data flows, elimination of disparate systems and the ability to connect with third parties quickly, you need to choose an iPaaS capable of handling integrations specifically for your sector.
If you google ‘iPaaS’ right now, you will find more than 50 different vendors offering iPaaS solutions. A few years ago, we wrote a blog outlining the 22 best iPaaS vendors, so you can look through the list to learn more about them.
Today, the most prominent iPaaS for the maritime and logistics industries are MuleSoft, Dell Boomi, and of course, Youredi.
To make the right choice, first and foremost you need to define a list of systems you are planning to connect with, define data formats you are going to use, gauge the expected amount of data from your partners and, most importantly, make the call whether you think you can do all this by yourself in-house or need industry experts to help you deploy the technology platform for you.
For sure, all those vendors will make your life a lot easier, but still, you need to put some effort into setting up the chosen iPaaS tool to make gears run. Meaning you still need a team of integration experts who will care about an initial setup and handle all possible adjustments that might happen over time.
If you are not ready to take on the burden of having an in-house team of integration experts, you can choose a vendor that provides iPaaS as a fully managed service. Managed service implies a partnership with a vendor rather than renting its iPaaS service as a tool. In this case, you will get agility, faster deployment, scalability and cost-effectiveness as additional benefits over the traditional iPaaS approach. This is also pretty simple mathematics: how much do you have to pay for an individual who can work with these tools and understand the industry? Do you need one, two or maybe five experts? Clearly, the best option is to go with a service if you are not bathing in money, and have access to those skilled resources.
The most critical factor in choosing managed iPaaS is the specialty of the vendor. Put simply, if your business revolves around logistics, you need to select an integration partner experienced in working with data formats and apps specifically for logistics. Youredi is one of those companies. Our domain is maritime and logistics in general, so we know the industry and have tremendous experience in integrations and data sharing across the domain.
Apart from the considerations mentioned above, choosing an iPaaS platform requires considering a pricing model that a preferred vendor pursues. As a rule, most of the vendors charge a one-time initial setup fee. On top of that, vendors have two approaches: they may offer a subscription-based model, or charge you depending on the amount of data you receive. Meaning that while your business is growing, the cost of the service might vary considerably.
Should I go with a managed service, or will a standard iPaaS platform work just fine?
Building your own integration solution on an iPaaS is a significant time commitment. Often, companies underestimate workload and, as a result, face a failure of their projects. Moreover, some companies consider integrations as a one-time job. However, due to the inherent complexity of data sources and continuously accruing changes on the partners’ side, the solutions need ongoing management and adjustment. In some cases, integration solutions might even require a complete redesign. All these can make the integration process endless and painful, not to mention requiring unexpected resource and budget allocation.
By contrast, a team experienced in building connections across the domain will handle all the challenges and surprises and provide your business with a reliable and efficient solution that will be managed and adjusted according to your requirements.
As you can see, the choice between the two approaches mostly depends on your needs, preferences and, of course, available resources. However, having a clear strategy and understanding of the real picture of the upcoming work might affect the decision as well. So, knowing the amount of data and number of connections as well as the available resources in advance will make selecting the right iPaaS vendor for your business relatively pain-free.
This article tries to outline all the essential aspects that should be considered when choosing an iPaaS platform to grow your business. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact our experts to learn more about Youredi and the services we provide.
This article was originally published here.