The Culture of Integration

Rather than depend on integration tools or vendors to get the job done, Gartner insists that companies must leverage technology, as well as corporate culture to see the benefits of business process fusion, which melds previously autonomous business process into a more efficient, inclusive, end-to-end operation. Gartner has been touting business process fusion as the latest trend effecting business applications, software infrastructure, and their roles in supporting business processes. It will drive stronger alignment of IT with core business processes, and provide linkage of operational and management processes with a true end-to-end scope, Garter says. Business process fusion is not just another IT integration project. The objective is to integrate business processes to create value, regardless of how, or even whether, the underlying technology is integrated. "The movement toward business process fusion is not just a matter of vendors extending their application products," Simon Hayward, vice president and research fellow at Gartner, writes in a recent report. "Business process fusion takes business applications vendors into a new field of competition, the application platform. This field brings new challenges, such as competitors that traditionally have delivered components of this technology platform, such as Tibco Software and Vitria Technology, as well as competitors with comprehensive platform offerings, such as BEA Systems and IBM." According to Hayward, enterprises must make strategic decisions regarding how far to consolidate IT purchases with a single vendor, as opposed to maintaining vendor independence between application categories, and between applications and infrastructure. They also need to view the extended enterprise as a network of interdependent business processes, rather than a collection of independent functions. This is a major cultural challenge, more than a technology problem. The technology platform for fusion applications will combine the infrastructure of application servers and integration brokers with portal, content management, and collaboration support technology. Gartner analysts identified three key capabilities required from IT systems to achieve business process fusion: systems integration achieves the requisite scope for end-to-end processes; application mutability provides flexibility to accommodate process changes; information unification supports all types of decision-making within a single framework. Although application vendors that have a vision for fusion, including SAP, PeopleSoft, and Oracle, now provide the basic technology components required, most components are relatively immature and primarily are optimized only for each vendor's own application environment, Hayward notes.
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