Are You Doing Techie Integration Or *Business* Integration?

“Figuring out how to think about the problem.” That’s what Albert Einstein said when asked what single event was most helpful in developing the Theory of Relativity. Application integration is a problem. A big problem. Not to mention data, B2B, and other domains of integration. As an industry analyst and solution architect, what I’m most interested in first is how to think about the problem.

Pop Quiz: The Goal of Integration

Which of the following statements best articulates the goal of integration strategy?

  1. The goal of integration is to keep data in sync across two or more siloed applications.
  2. The goal of integration is to improve business outcomes by achieving consistent, coherent, effective business operations.

The correct answer is B. Was that too easy? Apparently not, because most of the integration strategies I see are framed as if the answer were A. Most, but not all — and it’s the ones framed around B that I’m most interested in. Here’s the difference:

  • A-style integration centers on technology. It begins with data and business logic fractured across application silos, and then asks, “How can integration technologies make it easier to live with this siloed mess?”
  • B-style integration centers on business design. It begins with a businessperson’s view of well-oiled business operations: streamlined processes, consistent transactions, unified tools for each user role, purpose-built views of data, and the like. It designs these first — that is, it centers on business design — and then asks, “How can integration technologies give us coherent business operations despite our application silos?”
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