You’ve probably never read anything that paralleled the creation of wine with the integration of applications. You might even be thinking that I’ve consumed too much of said substance in deciding to pen this post. But wine production, like many things in this world, is a process with well-defined steps. It requires attention to detail and knowing where you want end up. Thinking about it in this light, you can probably see where I’m going with this.
Here are the five things wine production taught me about enterprise application integration:
1. Have a plan.
- With wine, this means knowing how much you are going to try to produce, making sure you have the right the materials (barrels, space, fermentation tanks, etc.), identifying a location, and outlining a timeframe for production. Don’t forget help—making wine is not a one-person show!
- Having a plan is also essential for an integration project and should be driven by your application integration strategy. Simply saying that you need to connect Hadoop to your Marketo or Salesforce feed (for example) is not enough. Questions to ask yourself include:
- Why is integration needed? This allows you to make better decisions when problems arise by keeping your core objectives in mind.
- What data do you aim to connect? This helps identify the potential scope of your project.
- What is the right method of integration? Using the wrong tools makes any project more difficult and longer. Do your research and know what solutions are available.
- How long do you think is going to take? Estimating the duration of the project helps to measure success and help with future projects.
- As you can see, perhaps even more important than having the right materials is having a solid plan, and likely, a few good people to help you out.
2. Know your environment.
- Any winemaker will tell you that you need to start with good grapes to be able to make good wine. And good grapes require the best soil, sunlight, water, and weather conditions. A winemaker will regularly check the vineyard to ensure the environment is conducive for creating an optimum end product.
- The same can be said for integration projects. The environment needs to be observed, understood, and maintained. You need to know where your integration technology will live. What about the applications? Are they on-premise, cloud based or a mixture. Lack of understanding of the environments leads to a less than optimum end product (and some pretty sour conversations with management).
3. Be flexible.
- In the wine industry, every year is a little different and every vineyard has its own variations. Winemakers accommodate by being flexible and having contingent activities. Being able to roll with changes (weather or otherwise) and update your plan accordingly is critical to success.
- Trying to anticipate challenges in integration is tough but understanding which components have flexibility in your plan is much easier. Identify that flexibility and expect the unexpected. Common areas of flexibility are; order in which integrations are implemented (where is the real priority), the minimum test criteria (versus the exhaustive test plan), and staffing (when can you run with minimum and when do you need a full team).
4. Keep it clean.
- Hygiene is essential to making a wine that doesn’t go bad, so we do a lot of cleaning. We clean things two times and will clean it one more time just to be sure.
- Moving data from one system to another is rarely clean. Information is often in a different format and may not contain everything that is needed for transport. Dirty data can clog up your integration and eventually break it. Don’t think dirty data is that much of an issue? Studies have shown it costs US business over $600 billion each year. Ensuring that the data is clean may mean doing transformation, augmentation, and translation. If these techniques don’t work, kick out the data so it can be addressed independently—don’t let kill your process.
5. Taste test.
- Checking in as much as required is the key here. Before grapes are harvested they are tested for sugar, flavor, and ripeness. Early on, you may test once a week but as the sugar increases winemakers will test daily and sometimes twice a day. Why? Because grapes need to be picked at the optimum of sugar AND flavor before they become overripe.
- Testing your integration should be done regularly and increase in regularity as you near the end of your project. Not starting testing early enough is a common mistake and can end up leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Make sure you’re meeting your requirements by testing from the onset and dialing up the frequency and intensity as the project nears completion.
Both wine production and integration take time and can happen at different rates. Some harvests will go smoothly and move quickly while others involve complication after complication. With wine, we know where we want to end up and are prepared to deal with the unforeseen as it occurs. With integration, TIBCO has solutions that scale up or scale down to address the needs of any organization, department, or individual.
If you tackle integration projects with same mindset (or wineset?) of wine production, the fruits of your labor will be that much more enjoyable—learn how to increase your yield with TIBCO integration.