Strategic Integration: Business Building Tips from 2008, Part I


Given the recession, it's a safe bet that the focus will be on cost cutting in 2009. But the smart money will also be on creating more business value with what remains.


To do that, you're going to need to think strategically, even when you are dealing with integration. That can be a bit tricky, since integration is often treated as a "have to do" on the road to accomplishing something else.


But integration can be very strategic. To prove it, I've found 10 ways that companies used integration and integration-related strategies to build business, squeeze more business value out of existing systems, or solve a pressing business challenge in 2008. As we head into 2009, I hope you'll share your own strategic integration stories with us.


Think big-picture integration. Integration isn't just about systems. A November Computerworld article explained the concept of "enterprise integration," which meant looking at strategic integration of business processes. Some companies are even forming enterprise integration groups as a new business unit to address this need. Another trend: distributed innovation groups, which act as an internal incubator for businesses. The article noted that CEOs are asking CIOs to play an active role in both groups.


Squeeze more value from CRM and ERP via integration. There's a lot of valuable data in CRM systems. Some companies are squeezing more value from CRM by integrating it with supply chain management, which can cut fulfillment times and help with ordering products. More companies are also interested in integrating CRM with bookkeeping systems, which can help better analyze which customers are truly profitable.


Others are also cutting costs by integrating CRM and ERP with their Web sites. According to an e-Commerce column written by Sandeep Walia, president of of e-commerce solution company Ignify, processing e-commerce orders can cost between $5-16 per order. Walia claimed that by integrating payment processing systems with ERP and CRM, those costs can be cut to under $1 per transaction.


Stop bickering and help, business analyst. A TDWI report found that business analysts spend upwards of 50 percent of their time doing things the IT department should be doing, much of it involving reports and data, because of a long-standing culture clash between IT and business analysts. This causes real business problems, affecting the timeliness of models, the model quality and general inefficiency and time waste. Wayne Eckerson, who authored the report, suggested five ways to address this problem, including using virtual sandboxes and seeking compromises. Okay, yes, technically, this is a management problem more than an integration problem.


Also see Strategic Integration: Business Building Tips from 2008, Part II and Strategic Integration: Business Building Tips from 2008, Part III.