After reading my previous post, you should be familiar with the notion of a digitalized Managed File Transfer (MFT) solution and the benefits you can expect when adopting such a strategy for your file movements. Digitalized Managed File Transfer products offer new technical capabilities like administrative and operational API, integration with 3rd party and especially DevOps tools, can be deployed on premise or in the cloud. Those capabilities are usually amplified with added-value services such as predefined artefacts (e.g. system/service connectors, composite API, dashboards…), connected services for migration or on-boarding processes, and an organized ecosystem of contributors (e.g. developers, partners or other customers).
This directly provides value to the MFT Center of Excellence (CoE) by accelerating the time to market of new services. The MFT CoE now shifts their focus on improving the customer (business) experience, but the question comes up quite fast: ‘where to start?’. A lot of work can be done on various aspects of the chain: from expressing the business request to its implementation, lifecycle management and decommissioning. But chasing all horses at the same time is rarely a recipe for success.
How to approach your Digitalized Managed File Transfer?
The good news is that there is not a single answer – each MFT CoE will take a different path, starting with some quick wins, to rapidly prove the value and get the buy-ins of key sponsors, before addressing more extensive topics. Each topic is a step in your journey towards a digitalized Managed File Transfer solution. And as all roads lead to home anyway, you’d rather enjoy the journey and not rush alongside.
The second good news is that after discussing with a large set of Managed File Transfer customers in various industries and geographies, we see patterns around the new business opportunities that a digitalized Managed File Transfer can help with. To be exact, as of early 2018, we had identified 6 of them. This number is obviously not set in stone, nor does it mean that a digitalized Managed File Transfer cannot address more needs. What this means is that by covering those 6 areas, we provide ways for most customers to kick start their MFT transformation. No need to shoot from the hip in all directions, this is a reasonably small group of suspects we deal with here.
Last but not least – the third good news. You can already get a preview of those 6 digital integration projects today! You just have to keep reading this article. The following sections are introducing the main subjects and serve as teasers for coming articles. So make sure to stay tune (e.g. “Follow”) to be the first to get all the details when they are published. You’ll receive the elements you need to initiate discussions as well as some insights on what other companies are implementing. How does this sound?
So let’s get started and introduce you to the 6 digital integration projects for MFT.
Modernization and consolidation
A common thing that most companies struggle with is their legacy. Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) but also change of vendors or new corporate strategies (e.g. “Full on Cloud by 2020”) inevitably build this paradox situation. It would be just fine if this was a temporary situation, but more often than not, disparate systems persist for years, while delivering the same services. Successfully adopting the solution of choice (read “digitalized MFT”) is critical to the success of the MFT CoE, who’s looking at better controlling and governing their infrastructure, while decreasing costs and risk.
Migration services can be proposed (either in the form of a tool that can be run by the customer or via a platform service) to accelerate the conversion of the legacy configuration. Once translated, those services will rely on administrative APIs to provision the configuration to the new system.
Improving the customer experience starts with integrating with tools that the business users are comfortable with. Whether this is a commercial (e.g. Service Now or Remedy) or a home-made solution, the main interactions between the business users and the MFT team should be formalized in the context of this IT Service Management (ITSM) tool. It’s also important that the screens be simplified to only reflect the information the business has and can provide, and that the language used be business-friendly to limit/eliminate the risk of adoption failure. In some cases, the submission of the service requests can trigger the provisioning of the MFT stack through API for a fully automated workflow.
Risk and Compliance management
If you read the previous section carefully, you may wonder how to provide simplified screens when most technical configuration requires dozens of objects and hundreds of attributes to be correctly valued. This is when the consolidation of legacy systems into the digitalized Managed File Transfer presents one of its major benefits. With only one system to control, the MFT CoE can start working on a defined portfolio of services. This portfolio will lead to a set of configuration templates that are used by the self-service portal to enforce specific values – which the business doesn’t have to provide anymore! This ensures that only the services that are allowed by the MFT CoE and that comply with industry and corporate policies (e.g. security, architecture, infrastructure…) are respected.
Analytics and Business insight
You can’t improve what you can’t measure. This applies for any domain, including your MFT solution. Do you know how much data you transfer per day with external partners for a specific protocol? Can you evaluate the impact on your business organization, if you don’t receive all your VIP customers’ files before cut-off? And just think about how nice it would be to have the ability to cross-charge your operational expenditures (OPEX) to the business, based on the volumes transferred and some SLA. Well, cheer up, with the right analytics and business insight, this is coming your way… But shhh, don’t tell them yet!
This may not be the most visible part to the business at first, but automating your infrastructure deployment will help demonstrate your reactivity and avoid pressure or potential finger-pointing if things don’t go as smoothly as expected. With components ready for Dockers containers, you can spin up a new service or instance in a matter of seconds. Add to that the ability to pull its configuration from a DevOps repository and you’re ready to transfer files before your business contact even finishes to say “Managed File Transfer”.
As an integration middleware component, MFT is always at the edge of other domains: consumers – applications, systems or humans…, infrastructure – Operating System (OS), database, file systems…, network and security, IT management components – monitoring, notifications… A digitalized Managed File Transfer solution needs to provide the right interface to easily integrate with all this component and be seen as a partner of the overall solution, rather than an additional constraint. You can usually extend or alter modern product via functionality called “Service Provider Interface” (SPI). They are documented and supported API (in the broad sense of the term, not only web API) specifically designed for use by 3rd party. Your team can then develop plugins that will be natively integrated with your core components, can follow its lifecycle (especially the upgrade) and provide a powerful way to integrate with your IT ecosystem.
So, which digital integration projects will you try to tackle first?