Business Integration is a new and emerging practice for the integration of information-technology into everyday business process. It is in response to an observation that, as information-technology becomes more advanced, the less business value it delivers.
People and Platforms Working Together
For my entire career, I have been working in some way to help organizations use information technology. In my experience I’ve come to realize one key lesson: technology will not alone, help your organization achieve its goals. Yes, technology is vital, but it is nothing without people and process, all working together. Furthermore, as information technology becomes more advanced, the more reliant it becomes on other non-technical capabilities for delivering business value.
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Within the business environment we make massive investments into people, process and technology. If these capabilities are not working together, the potential of the business is not unlocked. Rather, the investing organization becomes dragged down by internal conflicts, sunk costs, inefficiency, stagnation, hubris, suspicion, and so on.
No amount of technology driven capability in data sharing, will help if your procedures pertaining to privacy management don’t allow for the sharing of data full-stop. Likewise, no amount of technology enabled capability will help achieve your goals, if nobody in your team is appropriately trained and supported to effectively use the technology. The problem of misalignment between technical and human capability is common in most organisation, regardless of industry, purpose or history.
To take control over information-technology means doing the work to align your technology with your people AND vice versa, your people with your technology. You have to do both! Business Integration is hence emerging as a useful management approach to align by design, technology, process and people within organizations.
Business Integration As Others See It
On their blog the technology company Mulesoft, described Business Integration as “a technique used to align the technical components of a company with its business goals in order to create a smoothly running system.” With this definition, Mulesoft are certainly getting to the heart of the Business Integration problem. That is, the aligning of ‘technical components’ with ‘business goals’. However, no matter how perfect the alignment of your technical components, if your human components aren’t also aligned, you will not achieve your business goals. The definition does not consider the process and people of an organization. It is thus incomplete. Business Integration involves much more than the “technical components of a company”. People and process are equally important to an organization achieving its business goals.
Business Integration recognizes that a business is a holistic system of systems. That technology, process and people are either working together or they are not. This applies within and across teams, units, groups, divisions and entire organisations. In the end, organizations that have not aligned their working components towards a common purpose, will struggle to thrive in the global marketplace. The Search CIO Blog has identified this in their discussion of this subject:
“Business integration is a strategy whose goal is to synchronize information technology (IT) and business cultures and objectives and align technology with business strategy and goals. Business integration reflects how IT is being absorbed as a function of business.”
Again, the essence of these emerging field is captured here. The words, ‘synchronize’ and ‘align’ are well chosen. If you consider terms like business cultures, objectives and strategy as simply being parts of an organisations capability, then it’s easy to see how this description hits close to the mark. However, the description is a little clumsy, and Business Integration is much more than ‘a strategy’.
Business Integration At AGContext
Business Integration is a multi-faceted activity, that draws heavily from the profession of business analysis, enterprise architecture, change management, process improvement and project management. It is an emerging capability in and of itself, much more than a task, activity, method or strategy. Business Integration is in practice, a profession.
So, let’s now be more precise:
Business Integration is the profession of aligning the capabilities of an organization
to serve a common purpose.
No new technology can solve old problems unless the entire organization and all its working parts, also join in (align to) the party. Today, Business Integration isn’t a term that is widely heard in the language of today’s technology management. It is however the remedy for those who seek to convert their investments in technology and people, into realized business value.