The Economy Crisis: Good News for Integration, Tips for IT

Loraine Lawson

I've been scanning Google Reader all morning, trying to find something really good and possibly -- just as a break -- not about SOA. But my wandering eye just kept clicking on articles about the economy:

I kept trying to draw myself back to the task at hand: Integration news you can use. But with an election only a few weeks away, Wall Street in turmoil, and a nearby bank statement showing my meager IRA lost 10 percent of its value in the past three months -- well, it's a bit hard to focus.

 

Judging from what I'm seeing in the tech press, I don't think I'm alone. Look how Denis Pombriant at E-commerce News started his article on CRM today:

I have to admit that it's hard to concentrate on business with so many issues and crises swirling around lately. As if the presidential election was not enough, the financial meltdown is threatening an economic meltdown, and I am forever asking myself what this all might mean to CRM.

Maybe it's time to take a timeout from day-to-day business and acknowledge the curious elephant in the server room: Just how will the economy affect IT, and, given the focus of this blog, integration in particular?

 

So I did a bit of digging. And while it's unlikely the IT division or the technology sector will be continue to be a safe haven from the recession, it seems integration work is one of the best gigs going, in part thanks to the economic upheaval.

 

According to this piece from CIO Update, system integrators and consultants will actually experience a business boost because of the crisis in the financial sector. That's because the buyouts and takeovers will create work integrating or aligning back-end systems.


 

Some may wonder whether standardized solutions from vendors could fill this role, eliminating the need for systems integrators, but that's unlikely, according to a recent InfoWorld Advice Line column. A small systems-integration business owner asked Bob Lewis, who writes the column, if standardized solutions from e-business vendors and application vendors would cut down on the need for specialized systems integrators.

 

Lewis assured the business owner that systems integrators shouldn't feel threatened:

Somewhere there's a company whose systems easily integrate through the use of these integration technologies. I haven't run across any of them, but they must exist. ... in my experience, what's more likely to happen is that the client will engage both - a systems integrator with experience in the industry and (with luck) the legacy system, and a few specialists from the package vendor to provide expertise in how to best make use of the new technology.

He did warn, however, that systems integrators will face more global competition. If you're a CIO with a system to integrate and possible budget cuts, you might consider whether global integrators could save you money. But be forewarned: The next president could set up tax incentives for keeping work on-shore, according to this CIO.com article.

 

Another factor favoring consulting firms and systems integrators is that financial institutions might not have the resources to conduct a full system integration, according to CIO Update. That makes it sound like companies will focus on making do with patchwork integration, rather than taking a "do things right" approach.

 

This should give SOA advocates pause, since SOA is all about the potential for a better architecture, and that translates into time-consuming and costly. To realize the integration benefits of SOA, you need to plan ahead and avoid tightly coupled, point-to-point, "git 'r done" integration. So, SOA might sound downright frivolous, despite the long-term payoff, in a business world focused on staying afloat in the here and now.

 

On the other hand, data integration will be an absolute must-have as the financial sector and the government struggle to straighten out this mess. Chris Boorman, chief marketing officer of Informatica, explained to InternetNews.com why this is so critical:

"The first thing that happens in an M&A is they have to bring together things like general ledgers and then customer service capabilities so they have a single view of the customer. That means bringing together data from disparate systems.

Some analysts also predicted that the crisis would be good for SaaS business, but after reading this post questioning the SaaS pricing models, I'd suggest IT decision makers run the numbers first.

 

The CIO.com article echoed the prediction that there will be an increase in demand for systems integration, but added SAP techs and techies with experience in risk-management systems also will remain in demand.

 

I highly recommend you check out the CIO.com article, which offers further advice and warnings about what the financial crisis means for IT leaders and technology workers now and in the coming year. As with most things in life, there's bad and good news.

 

This prediction particularly stood out to me, probably because I can't help but hope this time, the analysts got it right:

Gartner Inc. and Forrester Research Inc. believe IT spending won't drift into negative territory. IT has outperformed the economy generally, so it's probably reasonable to forecast that. Both analyst firms are looking for improvement by the second half of next year.


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