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SOA - Integration Industry Pulse

Beth Gold-Bernstein

Creating an ICC

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I recently caught up with John Schmidt, who has recently joined Informatica as the VP, of Global Integration Services. John is also the Chair of the Integration Consortium, and is now helping Informatica define a set of best practices and services for implementing an Integration Competency Center (ICC). John stated that when Informatica polled its customers and asked what they would like to see Informatica invest in, it was in helping them create the ICC.

Now, this intrigued me because, if the truth be known, lately I've been taking the "I" off my ICC slides and just renaming it the Competency Center for SOA initiatives - the thought being that integration efforts are now being subsumed as a part of SOA, or as an enabler to SOA - but becoming less of a separate initiative. But John insisted that integration was indeed important in and of itself, and is being driven by enterprise strategies for aligning IT and Business, (and this includes SOA), and the need is to create formal governance processes and this demands and ICC, The second driver John mentioned is data warehousing and business intelligence, and the need to create a common view of the customer, or a 360 degree view of the business. These initiatives include master data management and integration. The third driver John mentioned is regulatory or other compliance issues, data security, and privacy, where the ICC becomes the center for maintaining data quality.

Must admit I had some difficulty getting my mind around the last one. The ICC responsible for Data Quality? Isn't that the realm of the data center, which most large organizations have had in place for years? But John insisted that federated data requires a centralized governance group to manage the canonical models and map the semantic meaning of data across business domains.

In my experience, data governance is more about politics than anything else - who owns the data and who can access it. And of course, governance needs governors. If no one is responsible for enforcing governance policies, how is governance going to actually be implemented? So I agree that these issues of control and governance of distributed and federation information require some changes to the org chart in order to make them happen. But what is the correct organization and what should the responsibilities of a CC be?

John Schmidt outlined core competencies he has defined as part of the practice:

1. Financial management. The ICC operates as a shared service. This is a set of best practices around charge back for shared infrastructure and individual services.
I think this capability is definitely needed for SOA as well.
2. Architecture . The ICC does not do enterprise architecture, but is responsible for the information architecture. They work with the enterprise architecture group, and "connects the dots", by mapping schemas to physical data sources to enable the translation, transformation, and integration. This ICC is the central federated repository.
I asked John what he thought about using semantic metadata to enable this instead of all the proprietary mapping techniques, and he responded that it's not a viable alternative today.
3. Business Process Management. According to John this is not BPM per se, but this includes service flow modeling, information flows, business event modeling, and common definition of business events.
Sounds to me this is more about SOA, than integration.
4. Integration methodology . The process of running an ICC, defining it, organizing it, all the things you need to run an integration group, and how it will interact with other IT groups.
5. Metadata management . The core tool is the metadata repository. The ICC group is responsible for data assets. Metadata ends up being a federated model. There are multiple repositories, and all have different views. The ICC understands the federated model and focuses on the key integration points between the different parts of the organization.
6. Modeling management . This includes techniques around canonical data modeling, what are the best practices, how do you build them.
7. Integration Systems. This is about running integration systems as a specific class of applications – all the discipline of how your manage, plan and operate the system. Formerly, when he was at the Bank of America, John Schmidt was responsible for running the the biggest Web methods integration system in the world. There was never any time when there were no transactions going through it. He said doing maintenance is like changing the tire while the car is moving. – how do you do maintenance. Changing tires on the care when it’s moving. Business rules, hierarchy of services. All needs to be managed. Integration will be a core competency and discipline.

In his book, Integration Competency Center: An Implementation Methodology, John defines different ICC models:

icc_diagram.jpg

While I absolutely agree with John that organizations truly need to develop core competencies in integration, I think it is less clear what the roles and responsibilities of an ICC should be, and some of that depends on how organizations approach integration - whether it is a strategic initiative in itself, part of a an SOA strategy, or (as it is in most cases) a tactical solution for implementing a new business capability, as well as the model of the ICC or CC, or SOA CC.

While some of the roles and responsibilities John outlines may not all fall within an ICC, I think organizations that are seeking more agility through integrated solutions that cross existing application boundaries, need to think about these roles and responsibilities and define where they lie within the organization. Without governance we're going to to fall into the lawlessness of the wild west, and distributed, federated approaches will quickly run into problems. Governance requires governors.

So where do you fall on this spectrum? Are you building an all encompassing ICC? Are you creating different org structures? Are you experiencing the pain of having to make these decisions yet?

Industry trends and vendor spotlights from Beth Gold-Bernstein.

Beth Gold-Bernstein

Beth Gold-Bernstein is a recognized expert in integration technologies and SOA with over 20 years experience View more

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