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Integration: This Year's Problem?



Banks are finding it hard to keep up with the integration projects they face over the next couple of years. New product rollouts and changes in message formats from SWIFT and similar organizations are coinciding with regulatory demands such as Basel II and Sarbanes Oxley, to create a tidal wave of work to be done.

In a world where cost reduction still tops the agenda, and IT teams are smaller than in the past, the CIO has to deliver complex integration projects quickly. Traditional integration approaches like Enterprise Application Integration or custom-coding have proven too expensive and inflexible. A more flexible approach to integration is needed that reduces costs by allowing on-going change to be factored in more easily.

As key standards organizations such as SWIFT and the FSA embrace XML, a new generation of flexible, cost-effective XML integration platforms is clearing obstacles of earlier efforts, bringing new grounds for optimism that challenging integration targets can be met effectively and efficiently.

Efficiency Savings

The scale of opportunity to improve efficiency can be seen in the September 2002 Tower Group survey stating that firms have an average 37 systems, each containing the same securities and counter-party reference data. A recent KPMG global survey showed many banks are already falling behind on projects needed to support Basel II, for example, and they are also finding it very difficult to coordinate all the integration programs they currently have under way. A more flexible approach than EAI or custom-coding, that reduces costs by allowing on-going change to be factored in more easily, is what is needed.

As XML moves further into the mainstream, it is being seen by many as the key standard in the move to more flexible cost-effective integration, both within the organization and for B2B. Some adopters of XML have found some significant roadblocks: XML can be verbose, hard to manipulate within existing tools, and slow to process. However, the undeniable truth is XML is here to stay, strongly endorsed by key organizations such as SWIFT, which is rolling out its first XML-based business solutions in 2004, and the FSA, whose stated intention is to use XML for mandatory reporting. Luckily, there is every reason to be optimistic as a new generation of XML integration platforms is emerging that were built to unlock the benefits of XML, overcoming those initial problems.

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