Surveys Reveal the Pain and Woes of Integration Problems

Loraine Lawson

I often hear that many problems aren't really technical problems, but business problems, even when it comes to something that seems as technical as data integration. Of course, it's not that simple. You have to address the business problem through policy change-and enforce that change with governance and technology.


And that's the part that seems to be tripping up North American insurers, a recent survey reveals.


Despite the fact that a majority of insurers - both in North America and Europe - have a policy and strategic framework for moving data-those policies aren't enforced through software, according to the survey, which was released by Sterling Commerce this week. In fact, only 23 percent of North American insurers say they've enforced the policy, compared with 52 percent of European insurers.


Sterling Commerce-which happens to sell a data integration suite-commissioned the survey, but it was conducted by the research firm Vanson Bourne, and independently analyzed by a financial services research and advisory firm. The press release notes that they contacted 50 major national and multinational companies across the USA and Canada, and 50 similar companies in the UK, France and Germany, querying workers from both the business and IT.


The Insurance Network News notes that data integration is a key issue in two of the insurance industry's core business problems:

  • Improving customer service
  • Creating operational efficiencies that will provide long-term returns


External integration ranked higher as a problem in North America than Europe, with 56 percent of North American companies citing external integration compared to 46 percent of Europeans. Conversely, internal integration edged out external integration as the greatest issue in Europe, but only slightly - 48 percent chose internal integration, whereas in North America, 33 percent did.


While I was clicking around Sterling Commerce's site, I stumbled across another intriguing integration study, released in mid-March. Forrester Consulting queried 300 senior IT managers from North America, EMEA and Asia Pacific about their enterprise electronic data interchange (EDI) and business-to-business (B2B) document exchange operations. The study shows organizations are struggling with integration:


"The findings highlight that enterprises are still using multiple integration solutions, and still face the same challenges those multiple islands of integration create. Nearly 80 percent of respondents indicated they plan to upgrade their B2B systems within the next year, demonstrating that it's a time for a change toward a more strategic approach to B2B integration."


The results provide an excellent peek into the integration headaches large companies face. At least 65 percent had more than 500 trading partners with whom they need to regularly exchange EDI/B2B documents. The study also asked which challenges were important or extremely important to solve, and with that many partners, I wasn't surprised to see that integrating with other applications topped the list with 66 percent.

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