Integration as a Practice.
Integration practices are becoming increasingly important to delivering value through technology to internal and external business stakeholders. However, organisations often struggle to define how and where integration best practices fit into their existing and planned business architecture. The Integration Centre of Excellence ("ICE") brings together diverse resources and practices from within the organisation to address integration problems.
Integration solutions introduce an increased level of complexity in relation to traditional IT solutions, and are not isolated to a single line of business, or to a single technology. Therefore, it is important that an ICE practice focuses on enterprise-wide solutions, and promotes the generation of integration standards and architecture, reusable and documented interfaces, and advanced skills development. Typically, this group maintains the expert body of knowledge for best practices, technologies and organisational standards as related to integration.
The typical deliverables from the ICE program implementation include a detailed assessment of existing plans and practices, the design of an envisioned integration architecture, and a roadmap for aligning integration capabilities to related business requirements. As part of this plan, recommendations will be developed for resource readiness, identifying key internal resources to form the integration team, supplemented by external experts whose skills fall outside of the recognized core competencies for the organisation, and who can be used in a surgical manner to provide specific, applied expertise to project deliverables.
Many organisations have recognized an increasing demand for integration among key business systems. Existing interfaces will typically have become increasingly complex as new technologies are introduced, which must communicate with, and share data with existing legacy systems. Often, these organisations have previously applied a "best of breed" approach when selecting application solutions, which contributes to a complex IT architecture. This situation is further complicated within organisations that frequently undergo acquisitions, which introduce new systems and technologies that must be maintained and from which important business data must be shared. Additionally, if an organisation is struggling with high rates of employee turnover, this results in skills gaps, which are increasingly more difficult to fill when they pertain to proprietary and/or legacy systems.
Organisations undertaking an ICE implementation often are looking to achieve the following successes:
- Reduction in breadth of skills and technologies required to support business priorities.
- Address challenges presented by acquisition.
- Replacing short-term decision-making with strategic planning.
- Improved reliability of business systems.
- Cost reduction in systems support through standardization of practices and resources.
- Reduced delivery time and cost for solutions through the introduction of reusable tools and practices.
It is neither effective nor efficient to address integration requirements on a case-by-case basis, and there is often a recognized need for an enterprise-wide strategy to harmonize all integration efforts. The ICE program implementation can help achieve this.