This month's column is contributed by Ken Dschankilic, director, Integration Practice, Eastern Region for Online Business Systems. A plethora of articles and research have been done regarding centers of excellence, or competency centers, for integration. Topics such as roles, responsibilities, deliverables and more have been addressed (although I'd like to offer my opinions on these subjects in future articles). Just Google "John Schmidt" and you'll get a ton of information related to integration competency centers (ICCs) - after all he wrote the book on it (no pun intended). What seems to be missing in the story is an area that is key to ensuring integration success. The missing piece is organizational placement. In other words, once you've decided that you need a Competency Center, and once you've decided how to staff it, and once you've decided what the roles are, where do you put them in the IT organization where they can most effective?

Lets go back in time for a brief integration history lesson. One of the most over- and misused marketing tools has been the classic application integration spaghetti diagram. It has been used to depict the integration problem prior to enterprise application integration (EAI) emerging in the early 1990s. It has been used to depict unarchitected middleware solutions that were not patterned after a bus or hub and spoke design. It has been used to depict the dysfunctional nature of business processes with redundant applications. And you can rest assured that it will be used to depict the rampant deployment of unarchitected services once the service-oriented architecture (SOA) hype settles down and the next new hot trend starts up. In any case, the single biggest reason that this picture is still valid is that integration-related initiatives have been largely project based with little or no thought given to a sustainable integration architecture. Project teams are formed, technology is bought and learned, interfaces/services are built and implemented, the project wrap up party is executed and success is declared. This is a relatively standard process, but the very last step is that the project team is disbanded and all knowledge about the tool, the integration architecture and the interfaces is literally disbanded as well. Whatever documentation was created by the project gets archived and becomes essentially useless. While the ICC was set up properly, it was not sustainable. Why? Because an integration competency center needs a permanent home, with a permanent contingent of staff, with an accessible and reusable body of knowledge.

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