Enterprise Integration Management - A Paradigm Shift

Leesa Dinwiddie, Director-Enterprise Applications, American Psychological Association
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Leesa Dinwiddie, Director-Enterprise Applications, American Psychological Association

Over the past three decades, organizations have spent millions of hours and billions of dollars implementing a stable of Enterprise Applications that support their mission critical business functions. These enterprise applications are much more than a collection of independent applications; rather, they reflect many complex interdependencies at all levels of the technology stack. The evolution of the cloud, mobility, big data, and the Internet of Things has increased the complexity of those integration points. Now, more than ever, organizations require rapid, agile, and innovative solutions that can move through terabytes of data, span multiple platforms, and deliver real time information to the organization. The insatiable demands for information regarding customer engagement, the performance of the products or services, market forces and the operational efficiency of the organization are increasing exponentially as the world shifts to new, innovative ways of doing business. Although much is known about architecting, implementing, and maintaining the individual components of the application holdings, little is known about Enterprise Integration Management.

"Enterprise integration management requires a shift in focus from managing ‘IT components’ to managing innovative business solutions that integrate technologies, data and business processes"

Integration is the unrestricted sharing of data and business processes among any connected application, device, or data source. Enterprise integration management involves managing all of the integration solutions that bring together the variety of technology components and business processes across the organization. This process creates solutions that:

• Ensure that data are presented with the utmost security and are visible to only those who should view it.

• Provide a common, device-independent interface that is specific to the work and which, shields the user from having to learn multiple software packages.

• Contain the business rules that support the work and protect the user from application upgrades or the exchange of one application for another.

• Provide users with the means to visualize data in formats from dashboards to details with the ability to slice it and dice it at will.

Integration technologies for -- data integration, application integration, and process integration -- are available to build such solutions, although these technologies have not been embraced consistently across the industry. Point-to-point integration technologies are often introduced to create a single line of business solution. Some organizations introduce different integration components from multiple vendors, while others will not incorporate or standardize on a toolset, leaving it up to the developer to choose. Moving toward a platform that combines toolsets from all the components will give developers the environment they need to build the secure connections between data, cloud, and on-premises environments. The bottom line is that today’s organizations need an affordable, flexible platform of integration tools and technologies. They simply cannot afford to wait.

Implementing and maintaining integration solutions is difficult and requires a special type of team. The teams must obviously be experts in the technology. But to really help organizations succeed, the teams must be organization development specialists who truly understand the organization, its information needs, and its business processes. The teams must possess a deep understanding of organizational dynamics, change management and systems theory because complex integration solutions inevitably lead to significant process change, cross-enterprise business integration, and extensive organizational redesign.

This reality means that we must reframe our thinking about our search for better technology solutions. Instead of viewing this simply as a series of “IT projects” or operational challenges, we must see the work as a series of organizational interventions. These interventions require enabling technologies and a very special team of collaborative, open-minded personnel (Gartner refers to these as “Citizen Integrators”) from across the enterprise who have a special blend of IT and organization skills.

This reframing of the process to deploy integrative solutions across the technology ecosystem requires a holistic, systems point of view. One component cannot be modified without considering the impact on the entire integrated solution. Therefore, Enterprise Integration Mangers must be skilled system thinkers who understand the entire set of components and consider their interrelationships before making any adjustment, including patches and upgrades, to the individual components. Unfortunately, mangers and technologists who understand both the organizational perspectives and the technologies are difficult to find. More often than not, such specialized unique staff cannot be added to an already tight IT budget. Retooling of existing resources is required.

Managing the complex ecosystem of enterprise applications and the fabric of integration points is a challenge for many IT organizations because of the shift from IT lead initiatives that drive the business to business-led initiatives that are bolstered by technology. For those of us working in Enterprise Integration Management, the real-time work in today’s tech environment requires in-depth knowledge of each technical component, and the integration technologies, as well as an in-depth knowledge of the organization, the people, and the information they need to perform their work efficiently and effectively. Recognition of and demand for these skills in Enterprise Integration Management is expected to grow as organizations move further into the innovative world of Customer Engagement and the Internet of Things.

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