Could Integration Become IT's Main Job?

Loraine Lawson
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Integration is something of a side issue for IT. It's the route you take, not the destination. But in the future, integration could become IT's primary responsibility, according to a prediction from Accenture's managing director of cloud computing.


In a recent interview, Accenture's Jimmy Harris told Network World's Beth Schultz that, "IT will be more akin to being an uber integrator than to being a builder of specific components."


That's a pretty shocking statement, but he makes some valid points. Thanks to cloud and SaaS, it's not impossible to foresee a time when IT will be more involved with the management of services rather than actually delivering what Harris calls "day-to-day operational delivery tasks."


As part of that management, IT will ultimately be responsible for ensuring all the non-connected parts connect and play well together:


"From engagements at forward-thinking clients, what Accenture sees is a maturing of roles and technologies focusing on ITIL-like processes such as service management, governance, service integration, master data management and, newly emerging, service aggregation, Harris says."


That's going to boil down to a lot of integration work.


Of course, the change will have consequences, including a reduced headcount for IT, Harris points out.


How cloud will change IT is a pretty popular topic right now. Computerworld recently ran a similar post hypothesizing that IT jobs will be embedded in the business units, with centralized IT being cut by 75 percent or more. Those of you who have been around for more than a decade will of course recognize this as the old centralized versus decentralized IT debate-except this time, SaaS and cloud may enable business units to make this call once and for all.


If it's any comfort, it seems there's one thing IT can always rely on: a demand for integration.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 4, 2010 8:41 AM Juergen Brendel Juergen Brendel  says:

It won't be all that IT is doing, but the trend is definitely there. It's important for IT to already allow the components they (still) build to be ready for integration later on. Web services play an important part here, specifically RESTful web services. There are some nice open source projects, which can be used to help build RESTful web services, integrations and also to specifically allow the creation of new components that are well suited for later integration. RESTx ( for example is one such open source project.

Aug 9, 2010 10:17 AM Akiva Marks Akiva Marks  says:

"Those of you who have been around for more than a decade will of course recognize this as the old centralized versus decentralized IT debate-except this time, SaaS and cloud may enable business units to make this call once and for all."

Sorry, I think integration speaks to the exact opposite of this.  As the applications are decomposing, they simply CANNOT operate without the other "business unit" applications tightly interwoven.  An example from a client I spoke with yesterday, "we picked SAP for ERP but for CRM - a best of breed approach that requires us to do much more integration."

Neither their financial department nor their customer department can work without tight integration with the other.  Business departments don't work independently anymore, and neither can their applications.  This leads to the need for more centralized IT for integration, coordination, standards management, etc.  Decentralized wouldn't be able to handle it at all!

Aug 12, 2010 2:11 AM mmx-2010 mmx-2010  says:

It is the old pendulum issue :



centralization                                                consolidation

mainframe                                                    distributed

......                                                              .......

and the freelancers  are maintaining this via buzz-words ...

Do you recall 90s message Mainframe is Dead, Long live Client/Server ?

After some failures C/S was forgotten then as Phoenix Bird re-incarnated as many many things while the Mainframe has been alive and well.

Then  1st integration was at data level ..... a single version of the truth ---> Data Warehousing 

It seems that we are on the 2nd phase ..... a single version on the logic  ......

The question is not what we integrate again.

The question is WHY we have to integrate every 15-20 years?

A possible answer is that we integrate to solve the design faults of the preceding "phase" and this is the bonanza of freelancers ......




Aug 13, 2010 1:12 AM Boiler Business Boiler Business  says:

The best products come from companies that have deployed their software in a wide variety of industries, from aerospace and apparel to manufacturing and sporting goods.

Aug 13, 2010 8:24 AM John Schmidt John Schmidt  says:

I have a different perspective on the swinging pendulum -it is due to the lack of the 'right' practices.  In a decentralized model things go okay for a while, but then the complexity (and cost/risk) of all the variations grows to the point where senior management must do something-so they centralize.  The centralization model goes okay for a while and does begin to standardize processes and policies, but then turns into an ivory tower bureaucratic governance group that becomes disconnected with the needs of the front line business. And hence the pendulum swings back.

The 'right' integration model will stop the pendulum.  Key elements are to run the integration function as a value-added service-including charging business units and projects for the use of the integration services.  The chargeback model has the benefit of forcing the integration team to clearly understand their customer and what they value, and to structure their service offerings to be better, faster, and cheaper than the alternatives, and to constantly improve. There are of course challenges to doing this well, but it's not rocket science and many organizations have a very successful and sustainable integration competency center.

To reinforce Loraine's main point that integration could become IT's main job, the root cause issues that is making this is a reality is complexity.  IT is becoming more and more complex every year and is constantly changing-this is not going to stop.  When things become too complex, the natural tendency is to break the problem into smaller parts so that each piece can be tackled effectively.  Yet in the world of information, all the parts need to work together seamlessly.  This is the job of the integrator-to take incompatible components, that were developed independently, and continue to evolve independently, and make them work together seamlessly. And it's not just about the technology, the integration job is also about aligning policies, procedures, metrics, etc. across different internal functions and throughout the supply chain.

In short-thanks for writing this blog Loraine!

Aug 14, 2010 6:18 AM SOftware Outsourcing SOftware Outsourcing  says:

Nice post ! M getting some knowledge through this discussion

Aug 14, 2010 6:23 AM Graphic Design Graphic Design  says:

I agree with Software Outsourcing's comment that really it is nice post and very very business informative.

Aug 16, 2010 6:02 AM Darren Cunningham Darren Cunningham  says:

Great post Loraine. I wrote about it on the Informatica Perspectives blog last week:

I've also written in the past about cloud politics and the role of data integration:

There's no doubt that cloud computing will require new levels of business and IT collaboration and that SaaS application adoption has resulted in a shift in technology purchasing power. I don't see this changing any time soon. One IT director put it to me this way:

"We can either get on the cloud train or get run over by it!"

Aug 16, 2010 7:47 AM MikeP MikeP  says:

'IT will be more akin to being an uber integrator than to being a builder of specific components.'

That's more interesting to me than the centralization debate. While there always be a need for a unique application, I agree that the trend is for this need to diminish over time as more and more SaaS options become available.

It's the getting the parts to play nice piece that will be the challenge.

As for decentralization, I think that we all see a greater trend toward greater  business involvement in IT and vice versa--consider BI SaaS offerings, the rise of BPMN, etc. As SaaS diminishes the need for dedicated IT staff, it seems to follow logically that existing IT will slowly be absorbed into business units. Of course, I'm on the outside looking in, not an IT professional myself.News and trends

Aug 16, 2010 7:52 AM Miguel Miguel  says: in response to MikeP

--consider BPMN and Reply

Aug 16, 2010 7:54 AM MikeP MikeP  says: in response to Miguel

Or that my HTML skills were so poor. Meant to say, "consider BPMN and SaaS BI." Sorry for all these comments!

Aug 16, 2010 11:49 AM Frank Millar Frank Millar  says:

"IT will ultimately be responsible for ensuring all the non-connected parts connect and play well together"

"That's going to boil down to a lot of integration work."

Got to agree with Accenture on these.  Thing is, 'connecting' is not necessarily a plug 'n' play task.  It's quite multi-dimensional, including security, web services orchestrations, performance, cost effectiveness, continuous improvement, etc.

"the change will have consequences, including a reduced headcount for IT"

"centralized IT being cut by 75 percent or more"

I disagree:  I'm thinking that there will be significant shifts in skillsets from today's norm, but as the enterprises start seeing positive results from improved business process management (leveraging IT) and information management, they'll want more.  I see head counts rising.

Lastly, centralized vs distributed. as indicated above, that's an endless debate...won't go there this time!

Frank Millar

Millar Consultants, LLC


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