In some cases, your critical business processes may need to rely on external web services or trading partner applications.

Clients often ask us about the need to integrate their own applications with an external web service or trading partner application. Specifically, they’re unsure about whether it’s really necessary to their own set of critical business processes – because if it isn’t, they’d usually just as soon skip it and avoid the cost and headaches involved. For one thing, it’s simpler. For another, keeping everything internal means they’ll have more direct control over the security and reliability of their systems.

It’s often possible to set up a critical process using solely internal resources. The determining factors are usually the source of the data and where that data’s supposed to go. If the data stays under your own roof the whole time, then great – there’s no need for any external services or applications. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Otherwise, you might need to consider how the different pieces of your critical business processes will fit together. Don’t worry, it’s not always that complicated – for example, in some cases an external cloud-based resource can provide the necessary integration point.

But you can’t ever count on that. Right now, we’re working on a project that involves a third-party web server and two systems that cannot talk directly to each other, because their protocols are completely incompatible. In a case like this, you’d need a third-party external bridge that can understand both protocols and translate one into the other, and vice versa.

You might need something like this – but it’s not always easy to tell, if you don’t know exactly what to look for. And the implementation is even more difficult. We always encourage our clients to communicate with us at an early stage in the process, so that we can help identify their needs and plan out how we’re going to get those needs met. That way, everyone knows what to expect, and there aren’t any nasty surprises down the road.

If your company works with an outside IT consulting or development shop, make sure they’re willing and able to work with you in this way. If you rely on an in-house IT staff, check that someone on the team has the required skills before plunging ahead.