How to Make an Integration Hairball

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7 Steps to Smarter Integration

Sometimes, change can be worthwhile. The key is knowing what's worth pursuing and what's not.

Hair ball: noun: a compact mass of hair formed in the stomach especially of a shedding animal (as a cat) that cleanses its coat by licking - called also trichobezoar
-Merriam-Webster Dictionary


Hairball: adj: Describing 1. a crazy situation. 2. unbelievable circumstances. 3. an odd series of events.
-Urban Dictionary


Integration hairball: "The hairball is characterized by unnecessary complexity resulting from duplicate systems, swivel chair integration, high cost to deploy new systems, and unstable operations caused by changes with unknown dependencies."
-David Lyle and John Schmidt, "Integration Competency Center: An Implementation Methodology"


No matter how you define it, a hairball is a disgusting, ugly condition. So, why in the world does IT keep creating them?


I suspect it's not on purpose, because, really, who would purposely create such a thing? Instead, I suspect hairballs are the type of thing created accidentally, because we don't know any better.


If you're going to stop building integration hairballs, doesn't it make sense to learn what creates them in the first place? I think so, and apparently so does John Schmidt, Informatica's vice president of Global Integration Services.


Schmidt usually takes a more pro-active outlook on integration. He and Lyle not only wrote the book on how to build an Integration Competency Center. They also applied the concepts of lean manufacturing to integration, with impressive results: On average, companies using lean integration principles reduced their cycle time for delivering integration by 90 percent.


But in a recent CIO Update article, Schmidt looks at what companies do wrong when it comes to integration. It's like reading a recipe for building hairballs and just generally making a mess of integration.


It's going to be easy to read this and think, "Oh, I knew that-but " and then make excuses. I challenge you instead to ask yourself, "How many of these are we still doing-and how do we stop?"


You'll want to read the full explanations, but, in brief, Schmidt's Seven Deadly Sins of Integration are:

  1. Point-to-Point integration
  2. Losing sight of the customer
  3. Documentation using Word
  4. Agile development without standards
  5. Independent teams re-inventing the wheel, rather than using integration patterns or middleware
  6. Relying on integration tests to find quality issues
  7. Adding complexity without systematic portfolio rationalization


Schmidt pairs each sin with its angelic alternative, which is, of course, a lean integration practice. Check it out, and maybe you can figure out what exactly is causing your IT department to keep coughing up hairballs.