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An Integration Education Crisis - Curing Ails of the Industry with Common Sense Collaboration

  • February 02 2006, 1:00am EST

This month's column was contributed by Michael Kuhbock, chairman and founder of the Integration Consortium.

First, I would like to propose a few general thoughts for consideration.

  1. The baby boomer demographic is now starting to move into the age of retirement.
  2. A recent article in one of the national papers made reference to how we are now in a firmly based knowledge economy.
  3. The integration industry is one of the fastest growing segments in business and technology today. If you add the unrealized integration need the growth in the next five years will be overwhelming.

With our knowledge-based workforce entering the age of retirement, we start to realize the growing dilemma that the integration industry is facing and the pressing requirement for qualified and trained human resources by both end users and vendors.

The Challenge

This human resource challenge is further confirmed during industry presentations. One of the principal end-user issues brought up during presentations around the world is that integration resources are currently woefully inadequate to meet the needs of the end users. It is not because current integration practitioners have any shortcomings, just that there are not enough of them to quench the current demand, especially when one searches for specific experience and knowledge resources in the integration space.

Thus it is overly apparent that education needs to be a priority for the integration industry. There are a few vendors and third-party organizations that provide either product seminars or online education, which is a wonderful start to addressing the education crisis but does not really answer the need for a robust curriculum and educational platform for the integration industry.

All industry stakeholders should be driving - no, demanding - the development of a professional accreditation in integration. End users and vendors alike continue to contact the Integration Consortium (IC) daily seeking finely honed and experienced integration specialists to contribute to their solution teams. Therefore, the need exists, and the shortage of experienced and qualified resources can be termed a crises. Why are we not filling the need?

Much like the software "we will build it and you will buy it" paradigm of the past, the integration industry is leaving it to someone else to solve their problems. Why would we look outward to have others build educational platforms for issues that we deal with firsthand and need solved? It is our destiny, so let's control it ourselves and determine where we want to take it. Finally, let's stop pointing the finger at those who have attempted to provide education for the market, and stop blaming others for our plight. These third-party providers are doing their best, but unless we take an active role in the development of these educational platforms, we get what we deserve.

The integration industry must now take ownership of the future of our industry before it grinds to a halt altogether due to a lack of qualified human resources. It is time the integration industry insures the sustainability of our ever-growing and dynamic industry.

The Cure

The IC is now in the process of building an integration academic and certification program and, as a member-driven organization, we need everyone to participate. By being proactive in the development of an educational platform, we can effectively end the integration education crises.
We can now start building an educational program that is good for our own needs and create a sustainable resource infrastructure for those professionals that are in or will be entering the industry either as a consumer or a producer of integration solutions.

The Integration Body of Knowledge

The Integration Body of Knowledge (I-BOK) is an inclusive, trademarked term that describes the sum of knowledge within the profession of integration. This full body of knowledge includes knowledge of proven traditional practices which are widely applied, as well as knowledge of technologies, methodologies, best practices, architectures, frameworks, standards, processes and the like which may have seen general adoption in the global market. The full body of knowledge concerning integration is that which resides with the end user and vendor practitioners and academics that apply and advance it.

The Integration Consortium has launched the I-BOK, which will contain all that encompasses the science and art of integration. This includes practice areas in the categories of business perspectives, application requirements, development capabilities, and technologies and standards. The launch of the I-BOK is the culmination of four years of work by members and alliances of the Integration Consortium.

As defined by Dr. Gagnon, IC's VP of research and standards, and assistant professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, "A body of knowledge is a set of learning paths that provide a structure to acquire and master a discipline and its applications. It provides incremental and pedagogical sequences to navigate its core knowledge base, starting with fundamental concepts and scientific principles, to eventually reach standards and best practices, and then address specific functions and applications. A BOK can be used in many ways, whether by professionals who need a reference to prepare for some certification or by architects who need to scan and assess a wide scope of existing and emerging technologies for some applications."

The emergence of the I-BOK is not accidental. The IC board of directors, led by IT end-user firms, has commissioned its development to help resolve the confusion prevailing in the integration technology space. Members have voiced that the adoption of practices such as service-oriented architecture (SOA) and technologies such as business process management (BPM) and enterprise service bus (ESB) are hindered by not only the lack of coherence in such basic issues as vocabulary, but also the lack of references in how to assess the various applications of these technologies by vendors and end-users alike.

The I-BOK will, therefore, provide industry with a way to navigate the wide scope of knowledge sources on integration technologies. These learning paths will assemble various knowledge units necessary to define, elaborate and illustrate the BOK of the integration technology discipline. For each concept, technology, standard, application, etc. that we classify in the BOK tree, we will have a standard format providing a brief definition of the knowledge item in question, an indication of its related items and reasons for its given position within the BOK, a statement on the relative importance and history of the item, one or more tutorials to help learn about this item, and a rich and dynamic index of third-party knowledge content. These will include annotated references to glossaries, encyclopedias, handbooks and textbooks, academic and trade books, state-of-the art literature reviews, introductory and/or subject-specific articles in professional magazines, advanced research papers, technical standard specifications, white papers, case studies and even use cases available in the public domain that may help illustrate key applications.

Integration thought leaders, academic leaders, practice leaders, business leaders and product leaders will contribute to the I-BOK which will then help the industry achieve a higher degree of maturity and application interoperability.

The initial components of the I-BOK are outlined in the table of contents found at

Issues, challenges and dilemmas can always be overcome when an industry works together to collaborate on a solution; the I-BOK is an example of unity within the integration community solving the education crises.

Michael Kuhbock founded the Integration Consortium (formerly the Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) Industry Consortium) in July 2001 after having identified as a business priority the requirement to ensure industry trends were communicated with reliability and dependability. Since that time in his position as chairman, Kuhbock has led the organization to expand internationally and has established the IC as a key industry influencer. The Integration Consortium now has more than 200 members, partners and alliances including the most influential technology industry leaders, academics and end users. Through his efforts, the Consortium has grown from a vision into a leading global integration community.

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