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Establishing an Integration Center for Enablement

Gartner introduced the idea of bimodal IT with mode 1 focusing on stability and efficiency and mode 2 being experimental and agile. With regard to integration Gartner said , “The bimodal approach to integration is emerging as the strategy that would enable directors of integrations to support the agility, flexibility and rapid integration long coveted by lines of business (LOBs), departments, application teams and power users, while maintaining a certain degree of centralized control and governance.”

IT needs to integrate data, applications and devices much quicker since they are all expanding at a rapid pace. As companies migrate to the cloud and push applications and data to mobile devices integration endpoints are growing exponentially. A integration strategy is needed that addresses integration architecture and organizational approach holistically.

Many companies have established integration competency centers or centers of excellence (COE). The COE was popular for designing complex Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) and deploying the Enterprise-Service Bus (ESB). But if you look at today’s integration needs, the COE style has liabilities. It is difficult to be agile when integration is funneled through a COE. This approach forces a project team to create waterfall type deliverables (an integration spec) and pass the work to the COE that has specialized tools and skills for integration. The work is then queued within the COE for development and deployment.

Much like Gartner’s mode 1 concept, many companies require a COE to manage legacy integrations. Legacy ESBs are the backbone of many companies systems and must be highly available and stable. But how do we reconcile the need for rapid integration (e.g. APIs for mobile apps) with the COE integration style? If each project team built their own APIs as one-off, point-to-point integrations, APIs would certainly proliferate and become a testing and maintenance nightmare. That’s where an enablement approach to integration comes into play. Where integrations can be experimental and agile but follow guidelines and can become reusable assets.

Also, as applications are pushed to the cloud, for example SaaS-Salesforce.com, the need for data integration increases. The COE cannot be the arbitrator for SaaS data lest another bottleneck be created. There is a need for non-technical, do-it-yourself (DIY) integrators to be enabled to get to their data. A wider integration community is needed including API developers and DIY integrators across many endpoints including mobile, SaaS and internet-of-things (IoT). A Integration Center for Enablement (C4E) is needed for DIY integrators and API developers to meet these needs.

The following high-level steps can be used to create the C4E and the integration platform and address the requirements for APIs and DIY integrators.

Steps to create the C4E organization:
• Define the funding model
• Identify sponsorship and management personnel
• Define roles and responsibilities
• Create the integration strategy and roadmap (people, process, and technology)
• Define success criteria, KPIs and feedback loops
• Create a lightweight governance model – workflows, metadata, policies (e.g. onboarding APIs)
• Define a support model and guidance for DIY integrators
• Knowledge transfer and onboarding of project teams – e.g. API training
• Evangelize APIs and the C4E to drive adoption and consumption

Steps to establish the C4E integration platform:
• Define integration architecture
• Assess integration current state and gaps
• Product selection for tool gaps
• Stand up the integration platform
• Define standards and guidance
• Conduct a pilot project to prove technology and standards
• Create and catalog reusable assets

The high-level steps above outline a great deal of work that must be done to create the C4E. But, the work can and should be done incrementally. An integration strategy and roadmap is critical to an integration program’s success over time. The investment in the C4E and the integration platform will pay off as integration becomes an IT core competency. Technology such as cloud computing, mobility and IoT are moving at a rapid pace and all require integration.

Chief Strategist, IT Modernization & Integration

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