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What areas/aspects of integration should business people be looking at?

Integration has always been an issue for a technical audience. What areas/aspects of integration should business people be looking at or would most likely want to look at?

In a word: ROI. There is a huge business advantage with application integration. Think about it: the access to all sorts of information in real-time, and the ability to react to that information as it happens.

We are moving inexorably toward an event-driven economy, an economy where demand realized translates into demand satisfied - in a matter of nanoseconds. Demand realized is accomplished by extending the capabilities and reach of an existing IT infrastructure so that enterprise applications, both inter- and intra-enterprise, are bound by a business event-driven paradigm. In the process, expectations about business methods must be redefined. Either businesses are getting on board and automating their common business events, inter- and intra-organization, or they are preparing to exit their market. There is no in-between. This is the fundamental reality of e-Business.

This new event-driven economy has several defining characteristics:

First and foremost, it is almost instantaneous. All supplying systems are instantly aware of demand, but they are able to react to that demand instantaneously. Likewise, all demanding systems are instantaneously aware of supply capability, and are able to respond accordingly.

Second, all participating systems are able to communicate in any direction, with any system, automatically, and in real-time. For example, when creating an order, which in turn creates an order event, a supplier's system may respond to that event with a "delay status," due to a material shortage. The order system would learn about the delay instantaneously and just as instantly adjust the expected delivery time. As a result, customers (or more likely the customer's systems) are able to react to dynamic business realities in real-time, perhaps even changing their order to work around the shortage automatically.

Third, systems are bound at both the data and process levels. Exchanging information is not enough. Business rules, processes and sequences need to be shared as well, assuring that the data is processed properly and that common integrity constraints are enforced. A common business model needs to determine the path and order of each business event. For instance, the process of building, selling, and shipping a product may span as many as 10 different systems housed in 3 different companies. A common process model needs to span the business systems, defining the properties of a business event, including the order, behavior, and characteristics of information moving from application-to-application, and has to deal with concepts such as common agreements, as well as private and public processes.

Finally, all relevant information existing in any participating system is accessible by any other participating system. Any information supporting any event or transaction is always available to anyone anywhere in the participating systems.

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