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How do I determine ROI for EAI?

How do I determine ROI for EAI? Are there benchmarks?

While the business case for EAI is clear to most people versed in the technical aspects of this discussion, it might not be as clear to those who really need to understand its value. For example: will implementing EAI within an enterprise provide a return worthy of the investment? If so, how long before the return is realized? Is EAI a short-term or long-term proposition? And, perhaps most importantly, what are the methods that best measure success?

Before we make the business case for EAI, a number of things should be understood. First, implementing EAI requires that someone thoroughly understand the business processes in the enterprise. It is only by using this information that the degree of integration necessary to optimize those business processes can be determined. While there are methodologies and procedures that can be applied, most competent managers understand the degree of value when applying EAI without over-analyzing this information. Not all organizations are equal. For this reason, some organizations will benefit more than others from EAI. While some organizations clearly demand an EAI initiative, others might find almost no value in implementing EAI within their enterprises. If a customer leverages a single, host-based computer system with few applications existing on that platform, only a few thousand users would have only limited benefit from EAI. When applications and data exist within the same environment, they are much easier to integrate. For years programmers have been successfully integrating homogeneous applications.

However, it is when applications and data do not exist within the same environment; when the organization has gone through mergers or acquisitions; when it has experienced uncontrolled architecture and unruly application development projects; or when it has a large, distributed system with a multitude of platforms and protocols that exist to support hundreds, or thousands of users, that the enterprise will realize a tremendous benefit from EAI.

While it may be possible to develop a "common sense" set of metrics to evaluate the success of EAI, the reality is that in most cases they must be significantly adjusted on a case-by-case basis to account for the many factors that exist in any given enterprise. Because of this, there is no easy way to create a broad-based way to define EAI success. It must be measured enterprise by enterprise.

In order to evaluate the value of EAI to your enterprise, you must establish a set of measures that define success for your organization. This can be accomplished by examining and measuring the current state of the enterprise. With this baseline, consider your goals and the amount of effort that will be required for you to realize them.

For example, if increasing sales is one of your goals, sharing inventory information with the sales order-processing system may allow sales to operate more effectively and thus help realize that goal. Even so, without a significant gain in user productivity or a reduction in error rate, the integration effort between two systems has minimal value. Therefore, in order to accurately assess EAI, you need to weigh both user productivity and error reduction, giving a measure to both. Only then can you determine the impact of EAI on your enterprise.

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