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A new year, a new challenge? Not exactly. For many companies and IT departments, 2003 will bring much the same as 2002—flat budgets, increased workloads, and intense pressure to achieve more with less.

What’s the best solution to this productivity paradox? How can you maximize existing investments while still delivering new solutions and increased business value? For many companies, the answer is integration: Integrating enterprise applications to automate and streamline data transfer, and integrating with business partners and suppliers (or perhaps even customers) to decrease inventory, reduce required manual interactions, or decrease time-to-market through closely-linked design and manufacturing processes.

With tight budgets and increased expectations, companies acquiring others no longer have the luxury of simply tossing out incompatible systems and starting over. “A major driver today is that the global economic slowdown is really forcing companies to look at productivity in a very new light—working with what they have, rather than ripping and replacing entire systems,” notes Joshua Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, California. “The idea that in a recession you have to try to do more with less is really pushing integration.”

Even large business software companies such as SAP and Peoplesoft have realized that we’re no longer in the 1990s, when they could force customers to adopt their proprietary systems en masse. It’s finally hit business software makers in general that customers live in a heterogeneous world and real value is going to be in stitching together these heterogeneous applications and making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

And while integration vendors have talked about the benefits their products can bring to internal and external business processes, we’re finally starting to see real-world results.

For example, in December, Intel announced that it had funneled more than $5 billion, or 10% of its customer and supplier transactions through RosettaNet. Some $3 billion was in customer orders, while $2 billion was in supplier purchases. But the huge transaction figures aren’t the only story: Intel’s use of RosettaNet has shown how integration can improve productivity and increase customer satisfaction. Intel used RosettaNet standards to implement machine-to-machine connections with customers and suppliers via a common integration infrastructure and common business processes as defined by RosettaNet.


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