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Case YIT iPaaS – Modern Integration Platform

YIT is Finland's largest construction company and project developer, employing 7,400 professionals in ten different countries. Known for its Smart Building concept and other innovative digital initiatives, the company is recognized as a trendsetter in utilizing intelligent building technology.

Advanced digitalization projects would not succeed without a supporting integration platform, which brings information to the right place at the right time. Therefore, a modern integration platform is needed to enable current and future business needs, one that is clear, scalable, expandable, and reliable.

Enterprise Architect Janne Torppa and Service Area Manager Marjo Viinikka are steering the development of the integrations. Cloud1 and Devisioona are partners of YIT.

Flexibility as a Prerequisite for Integration Architecture

Before harmonizing the integration platform, YIT had a multitude of different solutions and tools for inter-system data sharing.

Marjo and Janne from YIT report that initially, several alternatives were tried to address the challenges. MuleSoft was considered as a replacement for the old systems, and various on-premises tools were also trialed for modernizing the architecture.

However, these trials did not lead far and did not achieve the desired outcome. As the company's cloud strategy strongly leaned towards Microsoft technology, choosing Azure's integration tools was a natural next step. Azure's integration services and modern architecture have already replaced several traditional integration technologies (Mulesoft, and to a large extent, BizTalk).

The overall integration architecture and operational model were developed through pilot architecture and implementations. Cloud1 and Devisioona have been partners with YIT from the beginning, planning the architecture and implementation. The work has taken place over several years, and in the process, more and more has been extracted from Azure's services.

System Projects Propel Development

Typical for integration efforts, YIT's modernization of its integration platform has been driven forward by large system projects. System projects related to Master Data, the renewal of financial management systems, budgeting, accounting, invoicing, and forecasting, as well as the simultaneous small-scale development of other systems, have set a particularly high bar for the task.

Adding to the challenge were the dependencies between projects, the variety of timelines, scopes, and operating methods. Additionally, the existing systems varied greatly in terms of their lifecycle stage: the documentation, integration capabilities, and assumptions about data mobility in these systems varied. Therefore, it was necessary to simultaneously build not only the integration architecture but also to develop operating methods and create documentation.

A Modern Integration Platform Consists of Layers

The integration architecture built for YIT strongly relies on a layered, microservice-like thought model, where individual integration implementations are divided into several segmented layers. Each of these layers has its own function and role.

The traffic between systems is routed through a process layer, which calls source and target systems via interfaces built for each system in the communication layer. This way, in modeling business processes, there's no need to consider the specific features of individual systems, and the focus can be on the process and business rules. The communication layers provide clear and neat interfaces, connecting to which does not require understanding the peculiarities of each system. This solution model was quickly found to be a sensible approach for multiple systems.

The benefits of a layered architecture, divided into smaller sub-components, include the ability to often isolate changes to a single component: when source or target definitions change, it's not necessary to renew the entire integration pipeline. At the same time, it's easier to find general usability in smaller-scale components, avoiding the replication of functionality from one integration to another.

Layered architecture is beneficial

Packing systems into the integration layer allows for offering modern interfaces to systems that do not inherently support them, for example, providing a REST API to a system based on file transfers. Many of these benefits were realized early on, as YIT's iPaaS architecture effectively met unexpected change requirements amidst the crosscurrents of different development projects.

An architecture divided into small sub-components is a much more complex entity than point implementations. It requires both good documentation and effective monitoring for traceability and understanding the whole.

In YIT's case, future support needs and monitoring were considered in the development phase of the platform. The platform has been built with the capability to automate ticketing directly from error situations. If data does not move, an automatic alert is triggered, and the support partner can immediately start resolving the issue.

Together with monitoring, Azure as a platform, and YIT's iPaaS implementations provide transparency through which the stages of individual integration executions can be viewed, regardless of how many layers and stages the message traffic passes through.

“One of the biggest drivers for the integration architecture was flexibility: we must have a toolkit that enables the implementation of the most varied solutions as uniformly as possible,” defines Janne.

Open and Direct Communication is a Prerequisite for Success

In an enterprise environment, cooperation often involves several different suppliers, as is also the case with YIT. Achieving a common understanding requires active participation from all parties, with each one ready to contribute to the collective effort.

Marjo Viinikka explains that YIT has strongly focused on ecosystem thinking. Providers of solutions or services are seen as key partners rather than through the traditional customer-supplier paradigm. Partners also play a significant role in developing the teams' own expertise.

The projects have successfully fostered an atmosphere based on openness, trust, and good collaboration, where cooperation is direct and immediate. Each participant has their own important role as co-workers, not competitors.

Experts from Cloud1 and Devisioona also praise the smooth cooperation. Strong trust and close communication enabled effective operations in challenging environments and demanding projects.