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  Automation   |   March, 2011
Smart On-Demand Integration
by Faheem Ismat
 

On-Demand Integration means automating business processes by linking enterprise programs, which have operated independently in the past, to provide comprehensive services to the business by increasing productivity and at the same time decreasing operational cost.

Despite the trend toward acquiring application portfolios from a single supplier or from a limited number of suppliers, few organizations are able to have all of their application portfolio requirements using a single source. Heterogeneous IT portfolios are norm and will stay like that.

Typically, organizations have their in house applications and also 3rd party applications from multiple vendors and as the number of applications and the diversity of data increase, the effective integration of that data becomes crucial to the success of business. Traditional connectivity between internal systems provided by early generation of applications has evolved to include external data sources.

A vital component of today's business - timely and accurate information sharing have resulted in a greater need to automate business process and following are some common reasons for acceleration in this trend:

Mergers/Acquisitions: Due to business merger/acquisitions companies end up having multiple systems performing same activity. Most of the time due to business needs across organization, keeping one system and retiring other system is not the option. So, to increase productivity and gain benefits of merger/acquisition, companies integrate those systems.

Restructuring/Green Operations: Need to stay competitive have pushed companies to constantly look for restructuring and green operations by streamlining business processes and combining different entities of the organization. Those internal consolidations of business entities generate the need for on-demand integration between in-house and external (3 rd party) applications.

Data Quality: Over the period of time, companies end up having important business data across many systems. Believe it or not, this scenarios is very common even is small size of companies. That situation generates inconsistent and fragmented data which is hard to user for making better future decisions. It also generates an environment of duplicated data entry which leads toward bad data generation and other data related issues. To compete in ever increasing and challenging environment companies initiate on-demand integration projects to link and share data internally and increase productivity at all levels.

Governance Changes/Globalization: Some times, new government regulations, in various countries where companies are doing the business, generate the need for on-demand integration projects. When doing business globally, it is not practical to use same application across the border but it is necessary to have same functionality and data available everywhere. So, to accommodate those needs companies go for on-demand integrations.

Given the need and demand it is safe to predict that on-demand integration segment of IT is looking for a significant and sustained growth over the next several years. Strong information management capabilities are becoming critical than ever before. Today, more than ever before, the use of on-demand integration is an essential component of the IT strategy of leading-edge organizations. The need for on-demand integration is being driven by the overall demand to meet the real-time information exchange between internal and external departments inside and outside the organization. Flexible on-demand integration is crucial if organizations are to connect disparate data sources that reside on diverse technical platforms. This is a period of great change in every industry, as new business models, regulatory changes, cost and quality improvement initiatives are fundamentally restructuring traditional business processes and organizational models. All those changes are accelerating on-demand integration projects in every industry while adding complexity to the IT environment.

Real challenges come into picture when IT is required to resolve various business requirements among systems that mostly were developed by using different technologies and platforms to provide solutions for different business problems. Due to unique circumstances, conditions and requirements of each business, it is really hard to use one size fits all approach in On-Demand Integration projects. Most of the projects have hard task of reconciling the differences between various applications and systems knowing the fact that those applications and system were not designed for that purpose. That is why integration projects are subject to high failure rates unless planned and executed with a smart, realistic and clear approach. If not designed and implemented properly, an organization may end up with more issues and challenges to address problems generated by integration.

High level leadership, commitment and technical expertise are required for successful on-demand integration. Integration team must listen to all related entities and then tailor those integrated solutions that can save money to the business. There is always and will be a lot of resistance from many stake holders, but integration team must try to find the most effective and efficient way to implement the solutions. They need to understand and clearly communicate to concerned parties that there is no way to integrate the same way everywhere. Also, if implemented using a smart approach it can give a huge competition edge but still it is not the silver bullet for all business related needs and issues.

Core of success is to develop a comprehensive methodology to analyze, plan, develop, deploy, maintain and enhance integration by covering different dimensions of business environment and related applications. Following is a list of some common dimensions for each industry to consider thoroughly while planning for on-demand integration projects.
  • Applications, systems, databases and other related technologies
  • Solutions and system usability
  • Before and after functionality
  • Scripted demonstration of each application/system
  • Development time
  • Ease of conversion, operation, and maintenance
  • Testing environments
  • Applications/system stability and future enhancements
  • Cost and Return On Investment (ROI)
Goal should be to facilitate business growing demands in the most productive, least invasive manner possible, while ensuring high standards of security, availability, and compliance with business standards. Success comes automatically when on-demand integration increase productivity, efficiency, data quality and stability of environment by providing solutions that are secure, easy to access, easy to use, easy to manage, flexible, reliable and have maximize impact to automate business processes. Therefore it is essential to identify all underlying factors relate to low total cost of ownership (TCO) and high return on investment of integration projects, early in the game.


Copyright © Hafiz M. Faheem Ismat 2011 All Rights Reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, in any format and shape, without written consent from the author. It can only be reprinted and distributed with prior written permission of the author. You can email at faheem.ismat@gmail.com for such permission.

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