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In the past, building a business case for middleware was rarely a breeze. Spending money on “plumbing” to connect databases or batch updates seemed more of a time saver for the IT group than a value-add for the business. And while many of today’s CIOs recognize the important of enterprise integration (it consistently ranks as one of the top issues in Morgan Stanley’s CIO survey), that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to get business buy-in for integration projects.

Building a business case for integration typically involves identifying specific business problems that will be solved by connecting the applications, databases, or components and attempting to quantify (well - at least identify) the business benefits. A few examples of basic business benefits that drive many corporate integration projects include:

  • Savings - The project might drive specific cost savings through the elimination of extra manual steps (and/or the reduction in personnel resources required).

  • Quality - Integration among two or more systems that replaces manual steps or would have previously required re-keying of information is bound to increase the quality and consistency of corporate data.

  • Speed - Perhaps a company is under competitive pressure to respond more quickly to proposals or it needs to confirm orders within hours instead of days. Integrating business process such as order confirmation can dramatically reduce time lags.

  • Business requirement - Some companies need to integrate with a partner’s application, or into a supply chain application as the price of doing business with a market-leading company.

  • Customer self-service - Whether you’re a bank or bookstore, it’s important to provide ways for customers to access account information, product catalogs, place orders, and resolve problems through Web sites. And unless your company was forward-thinking enough to have a completely integrated enterprise architecture where systems were designed to work together seamlessly, you’re going to be doing integration.

And so on. While there’s nothing terribly new in the idea that you’ve got to identify the business benefit of an intended integration (or middleware) project to justify the capital expense and allocation of resources, something about the process has changed since IT managers were struggling to justify middleware systems a few years back.


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