Client background & business context
- Client: A leading window manufacturer with locations in several countries producing customized windows systems designed to accommodate every possible building situation.
- Solution: Our Microsoft Azure experts analyzed the main pain points of the partner’s current IT ecosystem, then designed and documented an integration layer meant to gradually integrate all involved IT systems and allow removing or adding new systems. We also demonstrated the viability of the proposed solution by implementing a Proof of Concept on how they can seamlessly track & process customer orders from placement to shipping.
Our partner was managing a complex IT ecosystem for day-to-day operations, involving several factories in different countries, an extensive decentralized distributor network, and a product configuration app.
This array of programs, both modern and legacy, became cumbersome to manage efficiently. Their current infrastructure was becoming difficult to maintain, expand with new software and ensure both proper overview and security.
The biggest challenge they faced was keeping data in order with their decentralized sales organizations and extensive dealer networks spanning several countries. An unwanted effect is the possibility of losing info on customer requests when transferring data from one IT component to the next, resulting in lost or heavily delayed orders.
Due to the complexity of their IT infrastructure, they required a solution that not only connected all the different components but had a robust and secure error handling system – guaranteeing that their customer’s orders are timely and correctly processed.
The team of Subject Matter Experts identified the need for a standardized, consolidated, and dynamic integration layer that can support both the current ongoing activities as well as the development of new systems and experiences for the partner’s customers and employees.
We designed and documented this integration layer through a consultative approach, ensuring that it meets the partner’s business needs. This meant identifying and conceptualizing multiple integration scenarios, while ensuring their efficiency, security as well as the needed mechanisms for logging and monitoring.
To implement a successful productive Proof of Concept, as well as plan an integration layer ready to support, we proposed the following phased approach:
- Ensuring a straightforward way for adding/removing systems
- Supporting multiple integration patterns related to communication styles, error handling, and message tracking and persistence
We used an already proven agile methodology with a milestone-based delivery, which was centered around the main requirements of the integration layer: maintainability, extensibility, and integrability.
Other essential factors we focused on during the project were transparency and consistency in reporting and communication as well as involving the customer in major decisions. We considered these points, as well as the project’s agreed time, scope, and budget as success factors while designing and delivering the solution.
The entire project was a complex journey with milestones at regular intervals to make sure the agreed security, performance, and capacity parameters are ensured. Our achievements include:
- Designing, documenting, and implementing the technical infrastructure to support the integration layer to allow the first productive proof of concept configurations;
- Defining and documenting the governance rules for managing the technical infrastructure, and adding/configuring connections between new and existing systems;
- Designing and implementing a Proof of Concept for the integration layer – connected the logging and monitoring components to allow quick troubleshooting of failures or auditing of operations.
The chosen technology stack was Azure, combining multiple PaaS (Platform as a Service) products to achieve the desired outcomes. The selected technologies and services were:
- Azure API Management
- Azure Logic Apps
- Azure Service Bus
- Azure ARM Templates
- Azure Storage Account
- Azure Key Vault
Once implemented, the integration layer we planned can radically improve ongoing activities while accommodating new systems as the partner's business needs change. This new system brings the following benefits to our partner:
- Quick configuration rather than extensive development: the implementation, maintenance, and extension of the integration layer can be done by power users with a solid technical background without having a permanently dedicated team of highly specialized software developers.
- Extensible and adaptable business rules with GUI support: a user interface allows power users to visualize and modify the business rules that govern service integration, while the definitions can also be edited and maintained as code.
- Secure, fail-safe technologies on a cloud platform: the implementation of the service layer is designed around widely used secure products and technologies following industry best practices.
- Predictable performance and costs: the integration layer uses technologies that provide an anticipable performance and throughput while limiting and predicting the incurred costs for multi-annual budgeting purposes.
The implemented Proof of Concept for the integration layer shows the viability and benefits of implementing the new system to the partner’s existing and planned IT infrastructure. Positive feedback from the external auditor when handing over the solution was valuable confirmation of the high quality of the deliverables.
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