I’ve been looking at the ‘business case for integration.’  How odd does that sound? 

If I’m going to be able to sell the idea that ‘integration is a good thing to spend our time on,’ then I need to know both WHY we would want integration, and IN WHAT SITUATIONS would I expect integration to produce a benefit.  In short, the business case. 

This is my second attempt.  My first attempt was a partial success.  I created a notion of the business processes (in general) driving the need for integration across systems, but honestly, it didn’t click.  I couldn’t find an approach that made sense.  Nothing that an executive sponsor would be able to understand, much less agree with.  Then, I looked at the problem from a different angle.

“Begin with the end in mind.” 

(Obvious, I know, but I will admit to you, gentle reader, that sometimes the obvious only appears that way after you’ve recognized it.  Until that time, it was not obvious.  After that point in time, it was common sense.  Case in point: why did it take so long to put wheels on luggage?)

If I’m going to ‘begin with the end in mind,’ then I need to ask a simple question.  Assume we succeeded, and our systems are all optimally integrated.  What has changed? 

  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.

That’s it.  The big four.  Those are the shining lights that drive the vision for integration. 

With integration, we create the foundation for a business that is Smarter, more Comprehensive, more Self Aware, and more Efficient. 

SOA is a tool for integration.  So is Master Data Management.  So is Enterprise Information Management.  We are all reaching for the same goal. 

My business case for SOA is not a business case for SOA.  (I don’t believe in selling SOA to the business and more than I believe in selling C# to the business.)  Nope: I don’t care to talk about SOA.  I want to talk about the problems that we can address through integration.  I want to share the benefits outlined above.

Integration will let the business grow larger, run smoother, make better decisions, and improve upon itself.  Who can say “no” to that?

By Nick Malik

Former CIO and present Strategic Architect, Nick Malik is a Seattle based business and technology advisor with over 30 years of professional experience in management, systems, and technology. He is the co-author of the influential paper "Perspectives on Enterprise Architecture" with Dr. Brian Cameron that effectively defined modern Enterprise Architecture practices, and he is frequent speaker at public gatherings on Enterprise Architecture and related topics. He coauthored a book on Visual Storytelling with Martin Sykes and Mark West titled "Stories That Move Mountains".

9 thoughts on “The Business Case For Integrated Systems”
  1. Great post, Nick – one that I will be re-telling soon! Only quibble – "integrated" is the right word, but conjures up an image of a monolithic application – SOA promotes "interoperability" between heterogeneous systems for all the benefits you mention. It’s a shame all-singing, all-dancing ERP’s have ruined the word!

  2. I have been in your shoes a few times before.  My experience tells me to take those future state scenarios that you mentioned and try to quantify them in financial numbers.  The guys who write the checks respond better to numbers then to a vision of the future state.  Although, your company’s culture is much more technology savvy, so they may be able to visualize the benefits of the future state.  My 2 cents.

  3. You are right, Mike.  I have to pose the problem (in numbers) and the solution (in numbers) accounting for trends, expected changes, and potential innovations.  It’s a challenge worthy of thought and effort, that is certain.

    — N

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