Get competitive with integration

Systems integration is an ongoing challenge for corporate IT departments, but a Computer Weekly/InterSystems survey highlights the business and technical benefits that can be achieved.

IT integration is a perennial challenge for enterprises, whether storing mission-critical data in multiple databases, or building platforms that can incorporate new web-based applications.

A survey of senior IT staff commissioned by Computer Weekly and integration specialist InterSystems has sought to understand how organisations approach IT integration, and what they perceive to be the business and technical benefits of system integration.

The poll of 300 senior IT professionals in companies with an average turnover of more than £50m, conducted by independent research agency Reed Business Insight, also looked at how IT professionals viewed service oriented architectures (SOAs). This approach to integration and component reuse was found to be gaining acceptance as a method of joining up systems.

Regarding the organisational approach to integration, responses to the survey showed that there was an even split between strategy driven by the IT department (38%), the board (32%) and on a per project basis (31%).

Benefits of integration were mainly perceived as improved competitiveness (67%), reduced operational risks such as IT downtime (65%), and helping with regulatory compliance (52%).

When respondents were asked to name a single business benefit from integration projects, improved competitiveness was listed by 49% as a significant benefit.

On the technical side, 67% of respondents saw IT integration as an ideal way to reduce the number of systems used, with 64% citing as a key benefit the ability to adapt rapidly to changes in business.

Faster execution of business processes was the metric used by 67% of respondents to measure return on investment on integration. A reduced level of risk was highlighted by 50% and 48% cited a greater level of automation.

Although the benefits of IT integration were clear from the survey, budgets for integration had stayed the same for 47% of companies, with 27% experiencing a slight increase in budget. Integration budgets for 13% of the respondents had increased a great deal.

When it came to the final integration decision, the survey found that responsibility tended to lie with either a board-level director with responsibility for IT (47%) or an overall head of IT (26%).

Obstacles to meeting the organisation’s expectations of integration projects included a lack of understanding (62%), insufficient funding (59%), failure to get sufficient end-user interest (49%), and an inability of departments or business units to communicate effectively (48%).

Important factors in selecting IT integration tools were choosing the best tool for the job, followed by price and aligning with existing employees’ skillsets.

When considering adopting an SOA, the importance of database and application integration is particularly important. SOAs provide a way for companies to quickly and flexibly design and build web-based applications in response to the organisation’s changing business needs.

When it came to the respondents’ perceptions as to what an SOA was, 35% regarded an SOA as an architecture that represents software services on a network, and 34% saw an SOA as a more cost-effective approach to IT integration. Twenty-five per cent considered it meant the route to software as a service.

The perceived benefits of SOAs were also measured. Security (50%), service monitoring (47%) and service level management (47%) led the list of benefits.

The survey found that 52% of organisations had already implemented an SOA or were currently rolling one out. And 48% of respondents said they planned to implement an SOA within two years. However, 25% had no intention of implementing an SOA.

As the survey shows, integration has a role to play in business. It can help organisations speed up business processes and consolidate multiple IT systems. What is clear from the survey is that an IT integration strategy is a business strategy.

About InterSystems

InterSystems is a provider of database and integration software. For more than 25 years InterSystems’ technologies, in conjunction with their application partners, have enabled users to enrich both existing and new applications by rapidly connecting systems, processes and people.

Creating this connected organisation enables people to quickly and easily make real-time, informed business decisions. With headquarters in Cambridge Massachusetts, InterSystems has offices in more than 20 countries serving more than four million users around the world.

Customers include Omprompt, Barts & The London Trust, The Cancer Registries and Maestro.

This was last published in June 2006

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