In my daily reading, the integration articles tend to focus on big, strategic initiatives-master data management, service-oriented architecture, data quality, software-as-a-service. These are all issues that reach across the organization and tend to be as much about planning and processes as technology.
That's not to say there's little technical content out there. For instance, discussions about network migrations or integration between sites tends toward the technical. After all, getting two networks to talk is like IT 101, right? It's pure network admin stuff-so surely we can leave all that "touchy-feely, management, IT-alignment crap" out of the equation.
Well, not really. Though it often doesn't get a lot of electronic ink, there aren't legitimate, broader business issues to address when you're faced with a network integration or migration project. In fact, network projects can be very political and disruptive to the business, as a recent Enterprise Networking Planet article explains.
In it, Stephen Brown, product marketing manager at Network Instrument, says network integration can be downright personal-particularly since it tends to happen simultaneously with the merger of different IT and business departments. He said:
Company cultures can be impacted by everything from management styles to industry and company size. If you're merging two cultures, this can be a large point of friction and a significant obstacle that impedes success.
The article discusses how you can handle the political issues of integrating networks. It also looks at the business issues that can arise, such as applications that might be affected by the integration work and using the merger as an opportunity to consider SaaS or cloud options.
However, even if you do decide to move to a third option, you can't ignore the existing systems, according to Larry Fulton, an independent IT consultant and a former senior Forrester analyst and UPS enterprise architect.
Fulton is the author of "Six Principles of Multi-site Integration," a white paper recently offered for free download on ComputerWeekly.com. (Be forewarned: It took me three attempts to get the download to actually happen. After confirming someone else experienced the same problem, I e-mailed ComputerWeekly about the issue.)
Like Brown, Fulton stresses you can't ignore issues of ownership and control when you're integrating the technology of different office sites-even when you consider the issues architecturally irrelevant:
In many organizations, considerations of who "owns" and controls specific assets, such as business systems, can drive or at least influence decisions about system architecture, including where individual components are located. While you could argue that this is not architecturally relevant, your architecture should consider all the realities that impact the business, even those that are primarily "people issues."
Fulton's white paper is a great resource for IT departments facing mergers and acquisitions, but it also contains great advice for overseeing any integration or migration project.
MDM, business intelligence, SOA - these are all major undertakings. But for many business users, the day-to-day operations define IT. A network integration project affects business users, too, so don't view it as an IT-only effort. Instead, see these projects as a chance to show how business-savvy IT can be by involving business stakeholders early and throughout the project.