How you could benefit from an Integration Competence Centre (ICC) or Integration Factory(IF)?
Are the processes for integration development and governance in shape in your organization? If not, NOW is the time to sort them out. Five trends are emerging:
- Hyper-connectivity, a world where people, processes, data and almost everything interacts with each other seamlessly, is quickly becoming the norm.
- All other processes that are not core business related, will be in the cloud or use vanilla applications.
- Collected data must be utilized better.
- Decisions and opportunities are valid only in all the time narrowing time frames.
- Holistic context and location aware services are build to attract consumers and business users.
This means that application and business process development will be to a greater extent about integration. When choosing new applications or cloud services, the ability to integrate with existing or new business processes, will be a larger priority than earlier.
Because of increased importance, and to reduce time from idea to launch, organizations must:
- Align integration practices
- Increase reusability and flexibility
- Provide easy to adapt templates (for design, development, testing and documentation),
The best way to meet these goals is to build an official Integration Competence Centre - organization and streamline its processes with automation to act more like integration factory.
Building The Integration Competence Centre
The Integration Competence Centre can have various structures depending on the organization, but a few key positions are vital for a successful ICC. We will focus on the Design Board, the ICC -manager and the Decision Board.
The Design Board
The most important entity is the Design Board. The Design Board is the strategic element of the ICC and its crucial task is to constantly scan the horizon and keep track on what kind of demands and technologies lay in the future. Based on these visions, the Design Board must decide which demands and technologies are relevant for the organization. They must compose the reference architecture and also include various education paths, guidelines, best practises, selected technologies, templates etc.
Because the design phase is so critical for the future success, there must be a diverse group of people discussing the forthcoming paths and solutions. If the Design Board consists of professionals from the organizations different functions (business, architecture, security, testing, development, maintenance), this diversity guarantees that every strategic unit can give their best, and all parties will commit to a common goal.
The ICC -manager
Another important role is the ICC -manager, who is the one who implements the Design Boards visions. The manager is responsible for keeping integration platforms up to date, efficient & reliable and ahead of current integration needs. The ICC -manager is also an important change agent: helping the implementation of the new ICC -model, marketing its services and possibilities to every business line and project manager. Especially during the launch phase of the ICC, the manager must be active and help diminish boundaries and old habits, and promote the new service model. To meet these requirements the ICC -manager must have enough educated resources for designing, developing, building, releasing and testing.
The Decision Board
The third essential role is the Decision Board. The Decision Board is responsible of reviewing the individual integration projects design documents and check that the Design Boards directions have been met. If the Decision Board finds new unmet requirements in the project documentation, it is responsible of preparing a proposition for the Design Board where it points out these lacks and possibly advises on a new or different approach. This is a very important part of the feedback loop.
Security and Feedback
In addition to these various positions, everyone involved with the Integration Competence Centre are responsible for security and feedback. Security can't be forgotten, and the best security practices must be captured and applied in every step from guidelines to monitoring and maintenance. Regular scans must be used continuously to evaluate the state of security in the processes, the runtime environment, the organization and the implementations.
The other shared responsibility is the feedback loop. Continuous feedback loops of the processes are a key factor when developing organization’s integration processes to be more efficient and resilient. The Design Board needs a lot of feedback to analyze their own strategies, adapt and improve their vision. This is only achieved by receiving authentic and almost immediate feedback on how their guidelines work in real integration situations. A successful feedback model in integration development and delivery is the lean or continuous model. By being ready to constantly adjust the process and apply changes when needed, the integration is much more successful and fluent.
Because the Integration Competence Centre involves a vast amount of people, projects and business lines, it is very important that everyone trusts each other, has pride in their own work and has privileges to design their own processes and make individual decisions in the boundaries of the mutual guidelines that are set by the Design Board. In addition to the guidelines, work processes can be streamlined also by self-reflection, feedback loops and additional education. When the ICC is up and running efficiently the future estimates will become more accurate, no unexpected surprises will happen and overall quality will increase. Who wouldn’t want that?
The ICC effects so many projects and helps in many ways, probably the best funding solution is to fund it straight from the organizations overall budget instead of trying to allocate single expenditures to every project. It can be a very hard task to distribute general costs like infrastructure, platforms and maintenance, and virtually impossible for intangible costs like education and work of the Design Board. The costs of the ICC should be tracked and kept efficient.
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The more connected your applications, processes, data and people become, the more likely there is a need for change. The Integration Competence Centre could solve many of your problems. So prepare your governance, development, testing and deployment processes and agile adapt to the new requirements, you are going to need them sooner or later.
This article was produced with help and guidance of my colleagues at Descom. Thank you for your input!