So what is the problem? All you have to do is to get applications and processes to “talk” with one another.
If we look at the systems / applications in most organisations they tend to end up looking like this:
Each system or application have a primary functional focus, perform certain tasks and have been allowed to “grow” towards addressing specific requirements.
However – when looking at it from a new or different perspective, they just don’t “fit” together like hands and gloves do. You have overlaps, duplication, “holes” and areas that simply do not exist.
If we look how our organisation interacts with our star client, we discover that Mr. Star Client is oblivious of our systems and applications; he just sees the big old grey business.
Now we have one of three choices in how to deal with Mr. Star Client:
Vertical Integration means that we “talk” to him from a functional perspective. When we talk money, the accountants do their thing and when we talk sales, the marketing guys step up.
This is how most traditional businesses interact with their clients. Integration is “easy”; now all we have to do is make all the systems that the accountants use talk to one another. That can’t be too bad, they should be reasonable compatible and the same people use them. Any one of the “entry level” integration methods (discussed in Methods Chapter 1) can be used. There is only one problem; marketing is selling stuff by the bucket loads, completely unaware that Mr. Star Client has not paid his account for months now.
Note – It seems easy and cheap at first, but it has a nasty sting in the tail.
Star or Spaghetti Integration allows us to directly “connect” the systems and applications of the various functional groups together. We connect the functionality or data of the accounts system to allow the marketing people to become aware of Mr. Star Client’s “little secret” and we save the company bundles of money. But now the procurement people notice that they are buying stuff from Mr. Star Client as well. Well now, that can’t be difficult to fix ……. That is why it is known as Spaghetti – give it time it will get there.
Note –Just because most organisations do it ….
Horizontal Integration requires that we spend even more money. We get all the systems or applications to talk to one other system. Now everything is theoretically connected to everything else.
Note –It requires that we invest in middleware, a service bus or some other technical mechanism.
These are the various methods currently available to most businesses. Integration is almost always more complex and “involved” than anticipated. Most organisations grow from the one method into the next almost by necessity.
We did not look at some of the technical aspects like master data management, process definition or standardisation, Meta data management, business rules management or even the various architectural levels on which these systems can interact with one another.
The only thing (I hope others will corroborate this) is the observation that the technical aspects are NEVER more challenging than the business or political implications that integration of systems and applications have.
Hope you have a fantastic day.