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**Editor’s Note: This article appears in the December print edition of the ebizQ Buyer’s Guide, available as a supplement to the Business Integration Journal.



Companies have long invested in EAI (enterprise application integration) and B2Bi (business-to-business integration) tools to help them tie internal IT resources and external partners together. But, the next generation of business interaction is requiring a level of organizational cooperation and information use that has heretofore not been on the radar screen.

With that in mind, let’s look at the collective tea leaves for those that are pushing the envelope in these area and see if any pattern appears to reveal the most likely future. We’ll find that the seemingly disjunct array of initiatives currently being pursued is not some rag tag collection of unrelated projects, but rather, carefully chosen threads that together weave a fine quilt of business efficiency and competitive advantage for those willing to play.

START WITH THE END IN MIND

Let’s begin by looking at the end state toward which the most proactive companies appear to be moving and see what it tells us about where our journey will most likely lead. We first need to understand the three foundational goals that the leaders are pursuing:

  • Community information integrity. Consistent, accurate information within and between interacting community members.
  • Community process alignment. Holistic, synergistic orchestration, management, and execution of actions within and between interacting community members.
  • Community visibility. Cross-enterprise access to and productive use of decision-affecting information.

These pillars of effective interaction ensure that the value you and your partners (be they external or internal) realize from your future initiatives will be optimized.

DON’T FOOL YOURSELF

Though each of the goals is certainly valuable in its own right, optimum execution comes only when you’ve addressed all three. Consider, for instance, how dependent process alignment and visibility are on the quality, consistency, and accuracy of the information being used.

If the input is incorrect or inconsistent, no amount of process reengineering, automation, or coordination will erase the fact that decisions are being made based on erroneous input. Regardless of how easily accessible we make the information—or how cleverly it’s analyzed—the conclusions drawn from that content will always be directly dependent on whether the input used to make those decisions is truth or fiction.

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