Integration May Not Be Cool, But It Pays


Integration isn't exactly what you'd call a cool technology.


Lately, it seems to be becoming even more uncool. Maybe it's just the summertime blues, maybe it's an editorial hangover from the Fourth of July holiday -- but I'm having a hard time finding anything substantial about integration.


This is especially true since the SOA folks decided to distance themselves from the integration discussion. I understand their point -- SOA looked to become something of a synonym for better integration and clearly, integration is only a part of SOA's value proposition.


But at the same time, it seems a bit mean, somehow -- especially when so many companies are embracing SOA precisely because they believe it can help them with integration. It also seems a bit stubbornly purist, since research shows this approach actually pays off in the real world.


I can also understand why integration isn't such a hot topic in the general trade press. Let's face it -- it's hard to do, it tends toward the situation-specific and it can be very technical. It just doesn't have the allure of, say, an iPhone or virtual servers.


To put it bluntly, integration is a bit boring.


But, man, can it pay off. And that's why it's still worth discussing.


Take, for instance, this item about a recent Aite Group study on how technology integration impacted investment advisory firms.


As it turns out, if you're an investment adviser, you want to spend a big chunk of your time with your clients. If you're anything like me, you prefer to picture your financial adviser as worrying over the performance of your -- and only your - personal portfolio, but apparently, that's not how they want to spend their time. Go figure.


Anyway, on average, advisers spend 34 percent of their time on client-facing activities, and 25 percent on portfolio management. The rest is frittered away on administration stuff, compliance and marketing.


But the picture changes if IT does its job and creates tight integration among the supporting applications used by adviser:

"Advisers who are supported by a fully integrated technology environment spend the majority of their time with clients, about 50 percent more time than the average adviser. At the same time, a fully integrated technology environment reduces advisers' administration burden by 33 percent and their compliance efforts by 30 percent."

When you see numbers like that, you realize just how big an impact integration can make.