There's quite a bit of excitement surrounding enterprise application integration (EAI) these days. The enthusiasm is well justified because EAI is most likely going to be one of the core information technology (IT) requirements in the next three or four years. As Gartner analysts Ross Altman and Roy Schulte say of the coming EAI revolution, "Integration middleware will be a permanent part of the software infrastructure, like a DBMS."1 However, if you're considering undertaking an EAI initiative, you must build a solid business case that includes more than a standard project plan. This business case can be built by conducting an EAI strategic assessment.

The first step in any EAI project is to conduct an impact assessment. No IT project happens in a vacuum, and any EAI venture you undertake will have an effect on your other IT projects. According to Gartner, EAI is a fundamental requirement for the success of many IT initiatives. "A proper application integration infrastructure is a key enabler of whatever new e-business initiative an enterprise undertakes, from customer relationship management to supply chain management, or from business-to-consumer to business-to-business initiatives,"2 say Gartner analysts Simon Mingay and Massimo Pezzini. Because EAI will have such an impact on your organization's IT infrastructure, it's critical that you understand how its implementation will ripple through the organization and affect other initiatives already in progress.

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