Beware the elephant trap

The word 'integration' ranks right up there with 'virus' and 'hacker', as one of the most terrifying words to hit the ears of...

The word 'integration' ranks right up there with 'virus' and 'hacker', as one of the most terrifying words to hit the ears of e-business or IT managers.

All of us have heard many horror stories involving these words, and the more unfortunate among E-Business Review's readers will have experienced them first hand.

But the truth is that these IT bugbears are all the more scary because of the ignorance with which they are approached by so many organisations. If companies would just take the time to plan a structured, strategic approach to them, much of the potential threat evaporates.

Take integration. It has become something of an industry buzz-word as firms have started to try to integrate Web-based and legacy applications, systems and information across their organisation and supply chain. This is becoming an increasingly vital step as companies struggle to make the running in today's fast moving business environment.

But too many organisations are viewing integration as solely a technology project - requiring a piece of software to be installed, some coding to be done or a consultant to be called in. Because integration is a headache, firms think they should get it over as quickly as possible, and so initiate a huge project that ends up blowing the entire budget before anything has been done. If you don't believe me, just think back to the millions of pounds wasted on all those over-ambitious, poorly specified public sector IT projects in recent decades.

There is no cast iron solution to a successful integration project - but in speaking to the panellists that took part in E-Business Review's roundtable on integration this month, we have identified a few threads of common sense that are worth sharing: Ask where the value is and for whom it is being delivered; do the big-bang-for-your-buck stuff first; standards are critical; watch out for elephants.

Apart from the last point, these should all make immediate sense. For even more good advice, and some clarification on the elephants issue, we have a special report devoted to integration, packed full of expert opinion and real life experiences from the e-business coal-face.

E-business education is just part of our brief here at E-Business Review, we also aim to encourage. Which is why our cover feature this month is all about people successfully harnessing Internet technology to bring real benefit to their operations.

If they can do it, so can you!

Toby Poston

Read more on Integration software and middleware

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