7 Steps to Smarter Integration
Sometimes, change can be worthwhile. The key is knowing what's worth pursuing and what's not.
IT integration is simple. Developing a holistic integration strategy is the hard part, whether CIOs are dealing with data, systems, applications or the cloud.
But the payoffs, experts say, are worth it, and range from cutting the time it takes to finish an integration project to the number of technology tools you're licensing. Ken Vollmer, a principal analyst with Forrester and expert on integration, says one way to start on a holistic integration strategy is for IT's integration specialists to review twice a year:
"These sessions should focus on actions that can be taken to maximize the overall effectiveness of integration across all three silos," Vollmer said. "Most key business activities impact all three silos, so this is not as crazy as it might sound."
He also strongly suggests leaders form an integration competency center to guide practices across all three of IT's silos: application development, data management and business process management.
In a recent CMS Wire article, Kimberly Samuelson of Laserfiche, outlined three steps organizations can take to build an enterprise-wide, holistic strategy for integration.
Samuelson's background is enterprise content management, so her examples are a bit different than your typical IT integration project. Still, I think her approach is worth considering if you're struggling to move beyond tactical, one-off integration projects.
Step one: Map your processes. I love this quote from Bob Larrivee, director and industry advisor with AIIM: "Most business processes are created serendipitously. They were never well thought out to begin with." As a result, your business processes may be the culprit behind extra integration work, or even ineffective integration tasks. By reviewing your business processes with an eye toward building a logical, cause-and-effect process model, you may be able to simplify integration across the company.
Step two: Map your technology stacks. "Mapping your current infrastructure allows you to understand, process-wise, what it can support," Samuelson writes. Most IT departments will have an idea of their technology stack, but it's worth mapping it out in connection with your data or whatever you're attempting to integrate. Then again, you don't want the tools to dictate your strategy, as Samuelson points out. "Decide what you want to achieve first, and then look for the tools that will get you there," she advises.
Step three: Map human interaction with information. She doesn't mean include humans in your process map. She means, improve your fellow employees in the process of mapping and creating the integration strategy. This falls under the "involving business users to create better IT/business alignment" umbrella.
There are also tools that can help you move toward a holistic integration strategy, although, as Vollmer noted in my interview with him, most focus on two of the silos rather than all three IT silos. He specifically mentioned Software AG, TIBCO, Oracle, SAP, IBM and Informatica.
There is an exception: Adeptia effectively addresses all three silos in a tightly integrated product, according to Vollmer.