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Is Your Center of Excellence Excellent?

A CIO told me “After five years with an integration Center of Excellence, I expect them to be excellent. They aren’t.”  But so what? The IT organization has lots of things to focus on. Is integration excellence really essential?

In the October 22nd issue of ComputerWorld, May Thornton wrote about the questions he’s been asking  hundreds of CIOs in recent months. In answer to one of the questions, “What Business is IT in today?” 61% of Global 2000 organizations said they were in the “Integration Business (gluing together various stovepipe legacy systems so they can interoperate on a semi-non-toxic basis).”

I maintain the percentage is even greater since every organization that has a “buy versus build” IT strategy is inherently in the integration business. Nonetheless, it is reassuring to hear confirmation from CIOs directly that integration is one of the key areas of focus and investment. This is yet another factor driving the continued adoption of Integration Competency Centers (ICCs or COEs if you prefer). In other words, if IT is in the integration business, then IT better be competent in integration.

The same issue of ComputerWorld included another article, A Creative Evolution, by Michael Fitzgerald to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the publication by exploring how IT has changed over the years and what the future holds. The article included additional points by May Thornton such as the following:

Today’s Fortune 500 CIOs represent the last survivors “of the ERP death march.” While an ERP deployment is “an amazing feat of character and stamina,” it isn’t an act of creativity. …People have the wrong skills for a world where IT means the cloud, big data, social networks and mobile. CIOs need to become creative artists.

In other words, implementing big ERP systems isn’t where the challenges lie in the future. The challenges are coming from the tremendous complexity, variety and fragmentation of data. And to meet these challenges, a critical skill/competency that is needed in the future is creativity to meet needs in a constantly changing landscape.

The conclusion we can draw from all of this is that integration must be (or must become) a core competency in your organization. This is not something you can outsource to a systems integrator. An SI firm or an off-shore partner can play a staff augmentation role or be contracted for specific activities, but you need to have a core team in-house with top-notch integration skills.

If you’re in a situation where you don’t have an ICC/COE or have one that is under-performing and not meeting expectations, there is somewhere you can go for help. You could try the do-it-yourself route by studying up using various reference sources such the ICC Book, Lean Integration, or Informatica’s Velocity methodology. Or you could get some professional help from Informatica or one of our partners to get your organization on track. Whatever path you take, the critical factor is to make integration a core competency and competitive differentiator for your organization.

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