What is integration

What is integration; explaining what I do to my father

I often get asked what it is that I do; by my father, by family friends, other people who might not be in IT. Einstein says If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself; so here goes: Our software makes sure that the curtains between business and economy class are in the right place on the plane. Our software enables telecoms companies to provision new telephone lines / new mobile numbers. Our software makes sure your car gets serviced on time. That’s pretty glib; it’s not just our software; but none of those things could happen without our software. Ultimately though, what we do is a combination of house-building and town planning.

Imagine a house; there are plenty of things that everyone knows about a house; ask any child to draw one. It’s got walls, a door, windows, maybe a chimney. What you don’t see are the foundations; the footings. If you don’t get your footings right then you don’t get to build the house. The foundation has to be strong enough; you can’t build a high-rise flat on foundations that are only suitable for a 2-storey house.

Sometimes getting the foundation right is time-consuming, laborious and painful. It’s not something that you can skimp on though, if you get this wrong, you’re building on sand. Could you ask any old person on the street to come and lay your foundations? maybe, perhaps they even know how to operate a digger; I wouldn’t be too confident about the results. How can you tell if the foundations are good enough? If you find out you’re on shaky ground when you’re building the top floor; it’s going to cost you a lot to knock it down and redo the foundations. Even after all that, the house might be fine for a few years, but you end up with subsidence affecting the whole structure.

Doing integration right is the foundation to your connected enterprise. You don’t see it, it’s not shiny, bright or new; but the glamorous stuff can’t happen without it. Integration can be a tough sell, it’s hard to demonstrate (whoopee, you’ve extracted an ORDERS01 from our SAP system) and it’s difficult to visualize. The business case is easy though; if you do integration right then you are going to get closer to your customers, you’re going to know more about your customers, and you’re going to have a competitive advantage over other companies that don’t/can’t/won’t.

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