The Best and Worst Practices for Global Enterprise Integration

Loraine Lawson

Lawson: Is there a maturity level that you see with enterprises or companies pursuing integration in terms of the best people already have this kind of technology -- business process management or MDM or whatever -- and that supports their integration, or are they more into the process of it and, as you said, looking at things more strategically and not just relying on technology to fix this?

Reeves: Consistently, what we see is that which tool you choose is less important than your commitment to the streamlined governance and process improvement that goes around those tools. So take master data management as an example. The benefit in master data management has absolutely nothing to do with the tools that you use. There is some implication to that in terms of the implementation, but all the benefit comes from the data governance, which is a very difficult problem to solve. It has nothing to do with technology. But if you can crack that, that’s where you're going to get the benefit.

Lawson: Now we talked a little bit about best practices. Were there things you heard from CIOs or even business leaders in terms of things they tried that were a complete mistake? Are there things that are the worst practice?

Reeves: Yeah, that single repository. That doesn’t work because it’s too complicated — it’s too complicated technically and it’s too politically charged too.

The other thing is boiling the ocean when it comes to entities. Instead of starting with focusing on a customer, they try to take on customer, product and assets all at the same time, and it’s too much.

Something I’ve seen help is to have an industry framework to work off of, from a data model perspective. It’s really hard to start from a white sheet of paper. I think companies do that and they get sucked into analysis paralysis.

The other thing that I would say is often overlooked is the analytical skills. I don’t think IT, in particular, has got the analyst skills to be able to take this kind of information and make inference of it, let alone develop systems that will enable businesspeople to do the same thing. I think that’s a big gap and where folks have not been able to get the traction that they’ve wanted to because of that gap.

Lawson: Are there ways to internalize supporting integration — maybe an ICC or some sort of competency center that you see leaders adopt?

Reeves: There are different ways of doing it. We haven’t published anything on one model being better than the others, but we see centers of gravity around certain models.

For example, it has been, for quite awhile, pretty typical to see a data-oriented COE (center of excellence), which would manage the data governance process.

One of the things we did see showing up in the key issues study is the idea of master data management itself, which is a governance process itself, becoming more globalized. The KPIs — the capability performance data that would be coming out of IT, finance, procurement, HR — that information is becoming more global. In other words, we’re not looking at it on a region-by-region basis, but the capability itself is being distributed across different geographies and managed as one unit. That tends to be very popular among multi-billion-dollar organizations.

What ends up happening is you have pockets of teams that own entities, and those entity owners then worked with the process owners and worked with the business units to come to that standard way of looking at a customer where the different processes that leverage that entity and the different units who leverage that entity or different systems are able to extend in a back-compatible manner. That serves the local needs, but there’s still one owner for that.

And that’s usually a pretty small number. You're really looking at customer, product, maybe employee to some extent, asset to some extent, but it’s not a big boat. It’s not trying to boil the ocean, but there’s a handful that are very important to most organizations.

Be sure to also read the first part of this look at The Hackett Group's invitation-only conference, "Borderless Business: Integrating the Enterprise for Sustainable Success," The Enterprise Management Trend That's Driving Integration Work.

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