Integration: A Long Way to Go

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Occasionally, I find myself wondering how much more can be written about integration. I mean, surely organizations will be able to "solve" this problem - for the most part - within a few years, right?


Ha. I stumbled across some frankly alarming statistics this week that put my mind at rest about the future, because organizations have a long, long, LONG way to go on integrating information.


Just take a gander at this Information Week item on B2B integration. E2Open asked companies what technology they use to to synchronize orders, forecasts and inventory status. The top technology? E-mail.


I kid you not: E-mail, said 34 percent of those surveyed.


E-mail was followed closely by Electronic Data Interchange, (32 percent), which is a dinosaur of a technology. Effective, true, but also expensive and limited. There are better ways for most transactions ever since the invention of a little contraption made of tubes I like to call The Internet. I mean, I went for training on EDI back in 1999 and knew even then there were better options.


So, given that the first technologies were e-mail and EDI, you'd think the third would be something a bit more cutting-edge, like ERP, right? Wrong. The third-most-popular-integration technology: A fax.


ERP came in fifth, followed closely by paper, and - at last - Web portals, which I'm guessing just barely edged out hiring a town crier. (Fun fact: My home county still has a town crier announce the election results as they roll in. He's no Alan Myatt, but he does dress in the traditional Southern town crier garb: A baseball cap and flannel-lined coat, with green jeans and work boots.)


Kind of puts hosted integration in perspective, doesn't it?


It also explains why so many companies are interested in capturing unstructured data, such as e-mail.


A recent Accenture survey found that nearly two-thirds of CIOs plan to take into account structured and unstructured data when creating their information-management strategy.


DM Review featured the Accenture survey results this month, and they show that only 14 percent of CIOs surveyed say their data is fully integrated. Seventy-five percent hope to achieve integration within the next three years.


If that 75 percent includes companies using faxes and paper for B2B "integration," then all I can say is, "Good luck with that."


The Accenture study shows that more companies will focus on enterprise-wide information management, however. Of the 162 CIOs surveyed, 78 percent said their analytics were still wrapped up in silos.


So everybody, make yourselves comfortable. It looks like integration is going to be a hot topic for the long haul.