‘New’ Integration Strategy Rooted in Old Ideas

    Integration is such a persistent and well-explored problem that it’s a pretty bold move when someone declares a “new integration” approach.

    So, yes, Forrester analyst Randy Heffner’s title “Digital Business Design Is The New Integration” caught my eye.

    It sounds so fancy — digital business design — although “digital” seems a bit 1990s to me, but I digress. What, pray tell, is this new, bold innovation in integration called “digital business design”?

    Heffner offers Forrester’s definition:

    A business-centered approach to solution architecture, implementation, and integration that brings business and technology design together by placing design priority on user roles, business transactions, processes, canonical information, events, and other business aspects that embody a complete definition of a business.

    That’s a mouthful, to be sure. And the piece goes on to offer a lot of what I consider “new age integration terms,” such as “integrated holistic design model” and “break free of the strictures of traditional integration.”

    At any rate, the bottom line seems to be that digital business design is about coupling the business process of integration with the technology process.

    But it’s not like Forrester to offer something all touchy-feely without a basis in technical reality. And sure enough, Heffner gives us a peak under the hood of this new integration approach, and guess what we find there?

    SOA. That’s right: Service-oriented architecture, back in the limelight once again as a potential way to solve integration problems.

    “The design model for digital business design began to emerge in the early 2000s when leading organisations took a business-centered view of SOA,” Heffner writes. “These firms have had a major focus on SOA business services (i.e., ‘digital business’ services), which are designed to deliver true business transactions and queries — like ‘submit order’ — rather than merely shipping data between applications (that’s what SOA application services do).”

    And guess what else? BPM (business process management) saw the same shift happen as SOA, where the technical discussion connected with the business process decision, he notes.

    “When business design and technology design are simply two sides of the same conversation, your integration strategy centres on business building blocks and how to use a wide variety of integration technologies to create them,” Heffner writes. “Because your software-based business building blocks change in the same ways that your business changes, they provide a foundation for business agility.”

    That doesn’t mean you actually get rid of the traditional integration technologies, mind you. Instead, you start with the business design first before moving on to the technology discussion.

    Hence, digital business design as a “new” integration approach.

    There’s more to it, but it’s not outlined in the blog post. As usual, all the good stuff will be in the for-purchase reports, the first of which Heffner says will be released soon.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Forrester builds on this vision. Certainly, it does seem like the time is right to jump-start the discussion about BPM, SOA and strategic integration. While none of the underpinnings may be new, maybe what is new is a willingness to explore how all this services and process work can help resolve, once and for all, the integration spaghetti bowls.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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