Avoiding Pitfalls of Integration Competency Centers

Integration Competency Centers (ICC) save time and money. To get some numbers around this statement, Gartner declared that ICC save about 30% of costs [1]. ICC as a concept has now survived over 10 years. While ICCs have not spread too wide and they are utilized only in a portion of companies, the concept is still gaining momentum and getting more and more spokesmen and supporters as benefits of it are redeemed.

I would add to Gartners cold numbers that ICCs also increase overall happiness of people working with system integration. No more unclear roles, fuzzy responsibilities and major bugs in production just because some tasks weren’t even identified nor assigned to anyone.

So why do companies too often fail to achieve these savings and benefits? Here are common pitfalls to avoid:

Lack of awareness and credibility

Quite often it is declared that ICCs fail, because of lack of management commitment. While this is true, it is not the root cause itself. Question is – why management is not committed to ICC? It is because either managers don’t know about ICC, don’t believe in promised benefits ICC or are pessimistic about their own organization capabilities of establishing or running one.

Quite often awareness exist in IT organization, but the business process owners are unaware of ICC governance model and it’s benefits.

What’s need to be done is evangelizing of ICC – in both public and inside companies. While you have read this far – you could consider yourself the one spreading benefits of ICC work.

Slaved to other projects

Too often integration work is done and funded by individual projects without – for example – need to think how reusable their solutions are. For example, in ERP projects, the largest subproject is usually EAI project. Integration solutions done by separate projects are run on single integration platform – whose responsibility is to check that they don’t collide? Who is checking that projects don’t implement e.g. same SOA -service twice? Why would project fund reusability from it’s own budget? Answer would be – ICC. The Gartner’s declaration of achieving 30% re-usability rate won’t happen if individual projects manage integration work without knowing what has already been done and what is currently being implemented in concurrent projects.

ICC is considered as a set of best practices or tools

While ICC treasures best practices it also chooses right ones and dismounts them. For example, lean integration is based on set of core principles which all should be managed by ICC. As a competency center ICC must be a pragmatic shared service which manages all integration in centralized and formal way. Instead of being group of wise architects musing about best patterns and methods by themselves, it must also manage integration work ensuring that best patterns are utilized.

In hands-on views of ICC, it manages all integration work in a centralized manner ensuring re-usability, communication with stakeholders, use of best patterns and tools as a shared service. In my earlier post I described most common bear-traps of integration: one of most common mistake is to think integration platform as a tool instead of a independent system. Integration platform is a shared system which server multiple projects and business units across company. Integration platform and solutions built on it should as well be governed by one shared service – ICC.

[1] http://www.gartner.com/id=639411

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