Integration Tactics

eWeek Labs lays out strategies for effective integration projects.

Integrating a far-flung organizations technology products and strategies is one of the toughest, messiest and most failure-prone jobs in IT. Making sure that integration projects result in success takes business knowledge, clearly defined goals, realistic expectations and the right technology.

In this Special Report, well outline the major challenges and directions in the integration space, as well as examine the technologies that can make integration efforts easier to carry out and cheaper to finish.

Achieving economies of scale, ensuring that all parts of the business are working with correct as well as current information (two separate challenges) and keeping IT system maintenance costs down all depend on a consistent, universal and integrated information management strategy.

Unlike typical IT budget line items, integration efforts need to be made on an ongoing basis and supported by all parts of an IT organization. This is an area where leaving well enough alone fails miserably as a management strategy, especially in large enterprises with many thousands of identifiable applications.

"If you have one ERP [enterprise resource planning] system, you have two, and then you start getting into integration between those two," said Jim Ivers, director of product marketing at EAI (enterprise application integration) software vendor WebMethods Inc., in Fairfax, Va. "A lot of the applications that have been running a very long time are there because they do a good job."

Ivers gave as an example global semiconductor and electronics manufacturer Motorola Inc. (a WebMethods customer), which shows the typical scope of the integration challenge at a global company.

"Motorola is tying 9,000 applications together, and theyve scratched the surface of 10 percent of those," Ivers said. "Theyve saved $38 million a year. The age of people building new apps is coming to an end, and more people are working at building these composite applications that cut across those stovepipes. There is more process development than application development."