People, Process & Politics: Integration Portfolio

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People, Process & Politics: Integration Portfolio

IStock_000006846616XSmall different teams In our previous post “People, Process & Politics: Business & Integration” we discussed how to create the business and IT case gather sponsorship and enlist funding for an enterprise-wide approach to data integration. With the green light to proceed it is now time to start breaking the integration silos.

Enterprise data is a key investment, so treat data integration projects like investment portfolios. Set priorities, determine budgets and expect a return on investment. The portfolio should include any project that involves data – from its creation in your transaction systems all the way through reporting and analysis.

Establishing the portfolio

Creating the integration portfolio involves assessing where you are, determining where you want to be and how you are going to close the gap. 

First, you need to take an inventory of what data integration is already occurring in an enterprise. Existing IT projects may be under the label of: Corporate Performance Management (CPM), Master Data Management (MDM), Customer Data Integration (CDI), Product Information Management (PIM), Enterprise Information Management (EIM), Data Warehousing (DW) and Business Intelligence (BI). The technologies that may be used: ETL (extract, transform and load), data virtualization (formerly EAI Enterprise Application Integration), EII (Enterprise Information Integration), SOA (service oriented architecture) or yet another variation of what used to be called middleware. And do not forget data shadow systems or spreadmarts that are used extensively across enterprises using SQL scripts, ODBC/JDBC, Microsoft Access and Microsoft Excel to “integrate” data.
When assessing this inventory examine what has the most significant impact on the enterprise either in terms of business benefit or IT cost. You are not going to be able to “boil the ocean” so concentrate on the areas that provide the best rate of return for your efforts. Since there are generally many areas that need to be address, it is generally best to go after the “low hanging fruit” efforts. 

Second, you need to determine what you want your integration portfolio to be in the future. You cannot succeed unless you have an agreed upon goal, i.e. architecture, that supports what the information needs of the business. The integration portfolio needs to be an integral part of your information architecture and systems. 

Finally, you need to create an integration roadmap to move from your existing data silos to your desired information architecture. This will involve integration initiatives providing new capabilities along with projects that renovate or replace existing silos.

Portfolio Management

The best way to ensure funding for the right projects is a data integration investment portfolio. With this approach, each project is examined to determine if a data integration component exists. If so, that component is examined in the context of all the other data integration components of other projects. This review will determine if there are any overlapping or complementary aspects between projects, thereby eliminating redundant expenditures and leveraging work across projects. Looking at data integration efforts from an enterprise perspective often enhances these efforts because you are no longer sub-optimizing the data integration efforts of each project to fit within that individual project’s budget and resource constraints. A more robust effort can be undertaken when the enterprise is being used as a focus. In addition, some aspects that may have hindered other projects’ efforts may be modified in order to reach a better solution.

Money talks. You absolutely must have financial incentives such as budgeting to get buy-in for data integration projects. Enterprise-wide data integration, while appealing to many in the IT industry, is just an esoteric concept that will be overshadowed by short-term and parochial projects unless backed up by budgetary allocation and review.

Next Steps

With your integration portfolio guiding integration investments, it is time to organize your enterprise integration efforts. In our next “People, Process & Politics” we will discuss creating an integration competency center and its best practices.

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