Can a strategy for Enterprise Application Integration be developed in an iterative manner? 

I just had a conversation with a very well respected architect who was fairly unconvinced of the positive benefits of using iterative mechanisms to create a common strategy for EAI.  I greatly respect his opinion.  Yet, another architect, who I also respect, felt that iterative development may prove fruitful.

My opinion: creating a common EAI strategy is not easy.  There are a lot of parts to it.  You have to consider how to deliver advice to a large body of IT developers in multiple timezones.  You have to consider what information should pass across integration boundaries, and how it should be secured.  You have to consider how integrated information will be managed, tracked, and instrumented.  You have to make sure not only that services are provided in a correct manner, but that the correct services are provided.  You have to try to use the technologies that are inexpensive to exploit. 

When I’m faced with this kind of situation on a project, I will sit down with the customer to understand the needs as best I can, come up with designs that I think may work, and get something back to the customer as soon as I possibly can.  This helps me to prove if I am doing it correctly early, and helps the customer to give me feedback early.  In other words, I don’t pretend that I can guess it right.  I guess it and work with the customer to improve.

So, who is the customer for a common Enterprise Application Integration strategy to cover the enterprise?  Clearly there are business benefits.  Strong ones.  Applications are being integrated all over the company.  But who needs the common strategy to exist, and how can I get something in front of him or her to work towards improvement?  Agile methods work when a customer is present.  Are agile methods appropriate for this kind of activity?

It’s an interesting problem.  I’d love to hear about how this may have played out in other organizations.  If you have an anecdote or experience that you’d like to share about creating a common EAI strategy for the enterprise, please do so.  I love to learn.