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The increasing complexity and number of application integration (AI) projects can no longer be dealt with on a project-by-project basis. The wide scope of AI projects requires the use of more specialized organizational structures and competencies.

In addition, the diverse and rare skills required (for example, data transformation and reconciliation) tend to be spread across disparate parts of the organization, which hinders many companies' attempts to take a consistent and integrated approach. Creating a single, shared service center that brings the diverse skill set together helps to create the focus, momentum, critical mass, processes and standards required to build and execute a world-class AI strategy.

By reviewing and contributing to AI projects, Gartner has outlined an ordered, managed and sound evolution path toward a mature approach to AI. Following this approach, stage by stage, is a best practice, but it is not the only method that works. Each stage builds on the last, and skipping a stage could be dangerous to the integration initiative. The structure and the nature of the working group changes at each stage. At stage one, most integration efforts are carried out by a few individuals, sometimes belonging to some sort of architecture or integration group within the IT organization. At stage two, the integration team begins to form, often spinning out of a general architecture group. By the time stage four has been achieved, integration technology is pervasive throughout the IT organization and the company, and the ICC has become a mature service center within the IT organization.

Following all four stages of Gartner's approach sequentially ensures an optimal execution of a corporate-wide integration strategy.

Stage One: Plan and Justify

In most cases, one of the painful symptoms of a company's problems at this stage is IT's inability to address specific business needs that require AI, such as the elusive "single view of the customer." Often, this is caused by a lack of IT flexibility. As a result, the business pressure increases: even if the IT organization realizes the technical potential of AI as a solution, it normally struggles to articulate the business value of a systematic, explicitly planned approach to AI in a business case. When the business value is articulated, communicated and accepted, and a senior business sponsor is identified, companies proceed to the selection of one or more AI vendors.


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