By Mark Emmons
Alexander Wurm has a data science background, and it’s served him well as a senior analyst at Nucleus Research. But he’s also learned that data alone won’t give people the insights they need to make the best business decisions. That’s why Wurm is also something else:
“You can say that a solution improves your integration development time by 50%, but what does that number mean?” Wurm said. “It doesn’t explain the motivation for choosing the solution, your prior limitations, or the strategy. The 50% figure isn’t a rich insight on its own. It’s the story behind it that carries weight.”
Wurm provides that context when authoring industry reports and speaking with clients about the latest and greatest in technology. His recent research includes the “iPaaS Technology Value Matrix 2023,” where he evaluated integration market trends and vendors.
Wurm developed a knack for explaining complex technologies in easily understood terms by sharing stories of how clients are using tools. While Wurm focuses on the tech, he also keeps in mind something else: The people.
“It’s easy to get lost in all the flashy announcements,” Wurm said. “But it really comes down to the people who will actually use it. A technology can have fantastic capabilities, but if no one actually uses them, the ROI is zero. We look at software from a customer-first perspective. We’re listening to the strategy, benefits people have achieved, and the challenges they’ve had along the way.”
We spoke to Wurm about how he’s looking at integration and automation, the latest Value Matrix, and the common themes he hears in every conversation with clients. Here are some lightly edited portions of our conversation.
Let’s start with an icebreaker. Give us your best pizza integration.
Alexander Wurm: One of the favorite lunch establishments next to our office in Miami is a brick oven pizza place. My go-to is always their pesto chicken pizza. When you ask about pizza integrations, most people probably think about toppings like pepperoni or cheese. You’re usually not thinking about something more foundational, like the sauce or crust. With technology, you need to take the time to consider not only your integration tools but also reconsider your entire data infrastructure. You’ll likely have more success with your integrations as well as data management. So, whether that’s changing the sauce on your pizza to pesto or going thin crust, you shouldn’t be afraid to change up the entire pizza infrastructure instead of just the toppings.
Can you share more about your role and the focus of Nucleus Research?
Alexander Wurm: First and foremost, my job is relating the experiences shared by customers. The research we do is based on actual examples of implementations. In my view, it’s critical to focus on that customer value. Nucleus is known for our emphasis on financial value. We write to the CFO. We recognize that technology is an important investment for a lot of reasons. But at the end of the day, it’s still an investment. You’re adopting tech because you’re trying to get a return. Whenever we’re looking at a technology deployment, we’re trying to evaluate to what extent you can cut costs, improve employee productivity, create time savings for your teams, and impact your top-line revenue or bottom-line profitability.
How important is integration in business today?
Alexander Wurm: That’s such a loaded question because there are so many ways that you could take that. For me, I think integration is really at the crux of everything you’re doing. If you want automation, you need to be able to integrate applications before you can automate processes across them. If you’re looking to modernize your data warehouse or implement a data fabric, you’ll need that integration layer for your data to create a single source of truth and create a unified data model. There are so many use cases that organizations are adopting that require an integration strategy. But almost always, there’s a need for a new solution, and it has to be connected and automated with your other systems.
What’s that one thing you keep hearing in conversations?
Alexander Wurm: Cutting costs is on everyone’s mind. Certainly, that’s the top thing I’ve heard from customers. It’s easy for them to directly attribute cost savings when automating processes. But it’s harder for them to see the direct value and cost savings for something like managing APIs or integrations. But it’s there. Think about the number of people an organization employs to manage technology sprawl, the integrations, and the applications they need to connect. It’s becoming a larger time sink for organizations and a larger area of spend. So, when organizations look at that total cost of ownership, they should focus on integration. It can help by doing more with less, but it also has an impact by giving people the tools to do work themselves that may have required an IT team in the past.
What do you hope people will take away from the Value Matrix?
Alexander Wurm: Every company is trying to figure out: “How do I scale my use of all this modern technology without ballooning costs and maintaining budgets?” The main takeaway from this report is the value of an automation-first approach and what that means in terms of cost savings while providing scalability to expand your application ecosystem going forward. The secondary takeaway is that if you adopt application integration for a specific pain point, you also want a vendor who can provide the groundwork and the adjacent tools for things like data governance or data privacy that may help as you expand your application ecosystem.
The Value Matrix graphic categorizes your findings based on “greater usability” and “better functionality.” Why those criteria?
Alexander Wurm: Those are the two most important factors in customer technology adoption. People are always focused on if a solution has the functionality they need for the use case they’re trying to solve. The usability side is geared toward the skill sets of the personas using the tool. I will say there’s one main point we don’t evaluate in this matrix: price. That’s because everyone understands intrinsically that cost is a big part of the evaluation process. While we don’t consider price generally, we do see a trade-off between the usability and functionality of a solution and how much it costs. The customers who get the most out of our matrix are the ones that find that balance between price and the functionality and usability they need.
The report notes the growing role of automation. What are some of the common use cases that you’re hearing?
Alexander Wurm: They’re around repeatable processes, like hire-to-retire, invoice-to-cash, and lead tracking and scoring. In the past, these would have taken multiple people to manage. Hire-to-retire usually takes a couple of IT staff on the back end to worry about each employee’s credentials for every system. If you’re looking at invoice-to-cash, a couple of people in the operations teams usually are responsible there. It’s the same for lead tracking and scoring because it stretches across sales and marketing. The automation-first approach looks at every process and determines the manual or recurring steps. There’s an obvious dollar value to automating those steps. But the indirect benefits are around retaining employees. People don’t want to be focused on the same menial tasks over and over again. Automation empowers your employees as well as improves productivity.
Up Close With Alexander Wurm
Role: Senior analyst at Nucleus Research
Education: The University of Florida, bachelor’s degrees in economics and behavioral cognitive neuroscience
Career: His work at Nucleus focuses on ROI analysis and strategy around technology investments, particularly within the iPaaS (integration platform as a service), database, data warehouse, and data analytics markets.
Cool Thing About Alexander: He belongs to a rowing club. “If you’re ever looking out on the Miami Bay at 8 a.m., you might see me there. It’s nice to be on the water in the morning when it’s very glossy on the bay.”
Download your complimentary copy of the “iPaaS Technology Value Matrix 2023” from Nucleus Research to learn more about the integration market and see why Boomi is positioned as a market leader.