Enterprise integration

This chapter focuses on enterprise integration at two levels – the systems level and the organizational level. Integration at the systems level requires common standards and data definitions, and some means of synchronizing the communication between different software applications. This is usually what is meant by the recently coined term Enterprise Application Integration. However, as pointed out by Markus and others [Markus], systems integration in the software system sense is not, in itself, sufficient to ensure organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Organizations consist of individuals, departments, divisions and functions, which must also be integrated for the organization to be successful. Both integration and coordination have been discussed in the management literature going back to the 1930s [Gulick], and their definitions have changed over time. Today, coordination is the more general term, referring to peopleoriented as well as systems-oriented dependencies. Integration is most often used in discussing the linkages between software systems. This chapter uses the two terms interchangeably when talking about the organizational aspects of integration. This chapter will not focus on a third level of integration, cross-enterprise integration and coordination, since this is the topic of the next chapter in this book. However, any discussion of enterprise integration must recognize that external needs, for example, customer requirements or supply chain efficiency, are increasingly important determinants of organizational effectiveness. Various points in the chapter discuss the boundaries between the systems owned by the organization and those owned by its trading partners and customers. The chapter begins with a framework that encompasses both system and organizational integration. Section 3 begins the discussion of the systems level of integration. Section 4 explains the major mechanisms and architecture choices. Finally, section 5 provides a summary and some brief comments on future trends in enterprise integration

A useful definition, which applies equally well to both systems integration and organizational coordination is made by Malone and Crowston [Malone, and Crowston] who define coordination as managing dependencies between activities. Figure 1 depicts the range of technical and organizational integration/coordination needs at a high level of granularity. A list of resource and activity dependencies is shown in the left column, common software and human coordination mechanisms in the middle column, and the supporting infrastructure elements in the right column. The resources, mechanisms and infrastructure elements are roughly arranged horizontally according to their sphere of influence. The boundary between technical and organizational integration mechanisms is shown by the dashed lines in the cells in the center of the table. Note that some of the mechanisms play a role at multiple levels in the Table. It is argued that effective integration/coordination requires attention to elements at all levels on both the horizontal and vertical dimensions in the Table. The integrated architecture exists to support coordination in the use of the material, financial, and human resources of the firm.