The Death of Swivel-Chair Integration

Header image for blog post: The Death of Swivel-Chair Integration

In 1973 Larry Tesler invented the concepts of "cut," "copy" and "paste" at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). As digital record keeping gained enterprise adoption, Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V soared in popularity, especially among data entry and processing professionals. Today, they’re the most common keyboard shortcuts.

Although Ctrl+C/V are perfect for ad hoc data transfer, they’re inefficient for routine or recurring workflows. Despite this, “swivel chair integration” as Gartner describes it is still very common in many industries. For example, here’s a real excerpt from new agent training at Acme Insurance Company:

Repeat after me: Ctrl+C, switch tab, Ctrl+V. Ctrl+C, switch tab, Ctrl+V. Repeat until you’ve populated each data field in web portal A from database B. Be sure to always reformat items X, Y, and Z or the application won’t pass QA, which bogs you down in reprocessing. Expert tip: most newbies underestimate the inefficiency caused by rework, which is why they tend to miss quota. Trust me I’ve been in your chair - get it right the first time. Oh, and if conditions 1 or 2 are met, data fields 3 and 4 are likely outdated, in which case assume 5 and 6. Ready to start processing?

Okay, the above is a bit of a joke, but the true complexity of the issue is no joke. Companies in every industry face difficult challenges related to integrating an ever growing set of applications, and extending these tools to fit the exact needs of their business (or settling when they don’t). Native integrations fall short, and while API integration platforms solve some of the issue, they’re configurable not customizable. You still get only what they give you.

The real solution to swivel-chair integration requires combining three technologies which create the opportunity for hyperautomation:

  • Traditional API Integration Platforms
  • Browser-based or noninvasive integration
  • Robotic process automation and process mining

Traditional API Integration Platforms

Traditional API integration platforms offer third-party connectors for exchanging common data among a company’s applications. They provide a finite number of premade flows and typically serve the largest SaaS vendors in each category. A key benefit is the as a service aspect which requires no DevOps or overhead. The downside is flows are configurable not customizable, and they’re focused on standardization and volume over intelligence or human interaction.

Browser-based or noninvasive integration

Noninvasive integrations don’t change the underlying infrastructure of web applications and are more flexible than traditional IT integrations. They can extract any element, table, or item on a webpage without the need for a robust API endpoint, which are often unavailable or outdated anyway. For this reason, noninvasive integrations can be implemented rapidly for any web interface.

Robotic process automation and process mining

Robotic process automation (RPA) uses configurable bots to emulate the actions of a human interacting with computer programs. It’s most widely used today for automating repetitive, rules-based business processes. Additionally, process mining is an approach for improving processes by extracting data from event logs to uncover inefficiencies and waste.

PixieBrix

Pixie Brix is the confluence of these technologies packaged as a flexible, low-code platform. We make it straightforward for anyone with a working knowledge of config files to rapidly build integrations and automate processes that span multiple applications and databases. Whether you’re Acme Insurance Company underwriting thousands of applications daily, or anyone else in any industry performing any number of tasks, Pixie Brix can save you time and refocus your energy on the most important work.

Integration Automation Hyperautomation

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