Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Art and Science of Integration

Comprehensive planning, well defined framework approach and a set of technology and methodology are all crucial to improve integration effectiveness and business maturity.

Contemporary organizations are informative and interdependent, but often with silo setting and overly rigid hierarchy. In large complex enterprises in which there are many revenue streams, many business units, many geographies involved, many products and services will have a variety of data and different information streams, as well as a variety of systems to handle the assets of the business. 

Therefore, integration is an important step with technical “know-how” for running a holistic organization to ensure the business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces.

Integration is key to ensure that the application ecosystem offers real value and also is necessary for future agility: Integration is very simply the task of connecting business systems so that they can share and consume each other's resources. Sounds simple, but in practice, it is extremely complex. It has to be done with an architecture in mind that supports business strategy and business objectives like customer satisfaction, revenue growth, and margin improvement. Keep in mind though, the first thing to understand is that "integration" is not always about cost effectiveness, what drives the need for better integration of information technology systems, especially with highly disparate systems, is to improve the value from existing IT systems and the need for better business intelligence, applications optimization, performance acceleration, etc.

A holistic integration strategy and framework is a key for building an effective application portfolio with a variety of abilities: It’s the ability to extract data from source systems into decision support tools and refine it into invaluable information, doing data mining -enabling business to understand what has been achieved, how business has performed in a detailed way, predict what could happen with historical data, etc, and improve business value of information. It’s the ability for applications to integrate with each other and enable workflows between them as part of a business process value chain. A holistic integration framework with well designed dashboard and scoreboard enable the business to build effective application portfolio with a variety of abilities, as well as the ability to measure integral performance holistically.

How effective integration is depending on how you calculate the ROI: Integration can be very difficult, costly and hard to justify the ROI. integrating the right systems for the right business reasons can be extremely valuable. It might not be cost effective in the short term but in the long term, it will be. Integration is key to ensure that the application ecosystem offers real value and also is necessary for future agility with a compelling story. For the large enterprises where integration of legacy systems was found to be not cost effective. The issue was not integration but efficiency of legacy systems and inability to streamline through integration, perhaps you had to replace the systems to further integrate them. IT management needs to understand the business drivers for the integration to align the technology investment to the business value. Also, having clear measurements (KPIs) in place will (hopefully) demonstrate the value of the integration over time

To quote Newtonian: "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" that each "integration" effort can spin off into a chain reaction that may not be recognized until the budget is gone. Thus, comprehensive planning, well defined framework approach and a set of technology and methodology are all crucial to improve integration effectiveness and business maturity.