My good friend Harry Pierson took a pass at my ‘business case for integration’ post the other day on his blog.  He ended up shortening my list of integration benefits from four benefits to one.  For the record: I agree that he picked the correct benefit as being important.

I will take the list items from the prior post, break them out, and look at Harry’s concerns one at a time.  Harry’s response is both visceral and useful.  If an intelligent and thoughtful (albeit noisy) guy like Harry came away from that list with misunderstandings, that means that I need to polish the list. 

When communicating, it is the responsibility of the speaker to insure that the actual message is heard.  Words are the medium.  If the message is not being heard, the words must change.  Harry is not wrong to shoot down my words if I failed to express my message correctly.

The List

Keep in mind that these elements are expressed in terms of “what will change if we integrate well.” 

1. We have better business intelligence.  We have better understanding of our customers, our partners, our products, and our business.  And from that understanding, we make better decisions.  Those decisions are made in a federated manner using self-apparent information.

We agree on this one.  Let’s jump to the next one.

2. We have end-to-end business processes that cross multiple systems, multiple roles, multiple geographies, and multiple data stores, all aware of and supporting the needs of the customer. [original text]

Harry points out the lack of clarity in this statement.  The business has processes that cross systems, and they care primarily if those processes are efficient and well coordinated.  They don’t care about the systems and data stores.  However, the processes we have are NOT all “supporting the needs of the customer.”  We are not there yet.

He completely missed that point, and therefore threw out the baby with the bathwater when he chucked this one.  So to clarify, I will change the text on this one and I’ll add another sentence to clarify the process change part.

2. We have end-to-end business processes that seamlessly cross multiple touch-points, multiple roles, and multiple geographies, all supporting the needs of the customer. Those processes can change readily and inexpensively as strategy and customer needs change.

The business value is that integration allows the creation of altogether new processes, ones that can adapt and change and be laser-focused on meeting the needs of the customer without incurring massive IT costs.  Most enterprises struggle with this, and ours is no exception. 

Next point:

3. We have end-to-end awareness of the metrics that drive both dissatisfaction and cost, and we can take that knowledge and apply it to making our business better. [original text]

The intent was to include the concept of “process metrics,” which is often not included in traditional business intelligence scope.  I could have expressed this more clearly.  Business intelligence is typically focused on the metrics with respect to sales, regions, customers, segments, products, etc.  Some very well-oiled companies include process metrics in their BI infrastructure, but not all, because many organizations simply don’t collect this data in an automated fashion. 

So, to clarify this one as well.

3. We have end-to-end awareness of process efficiency through the automatic collection of process metrics.  Using this data, we will be able to address the causes of customer dissatisfaction and operational cost.

If our systems are truly well integrated, it will be simpler to collect and report on process metrics and therefore feed efforts at process improvement.

The fourth one is interesting. 

4. We have a more efficient enterprise, more able to grow to a larger size, at an accelerated rate, and still respond with agility to changing business opportunities.

Harry doesn’t have any problem with the text… he simply says that the business doesn’t care.  Interesting.  Without divulging the nitty-gritty details, I will say this: If we add up the dollars, I’d be willing to bet a nice lunch that Microsoft has spent more money, in the past four years, on improving operational efficiency than we have on business intelligence. 

Because a lack of efficiency creates pain, and business spends to remove pain. 

So I don’t have to change this one.  I stand by it. 

Harry is right about one thing: we don’t sell Integration to the business, any more than we sell SOA to the business.  But we do need to make sure that the IT leaders understand and support the amount of effort that will go into integration.  That is not ‘sales’ because there is no ‘purchase’ process.  The benefit I’m looking for is leadership support, not a funded project.