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6 pitfalls of enterprise application integration – and how to avoid them

July 20, 2011

More than half of all enterprise application integration projects fail, not because of the software itself, but because of management issues which cause them to run late, go over-budget or not produce the desired results.

 

Enterprise application integration (EAI) is a complex undertaking, and the following six pitfalls can bedevil the process:

  1. A shortage of scarce skills

  2. Lack of recognition that EAI is an architecture, not a product

  3. Neglecting security, performance and monitoring

  4. Implementing EAI as part of another project

  5. Going ahead without an integration strategy

  6. Internal politics and poor communication.

With sound planning, these pitfalls can be overcome so as to dramatically increase the chances of success. Integration between software components allows maximum functionality and return on existing systems and reduces the manual processes needed to keep systems synchronised. It enables you to maintain information integrity and access information in real time across multiple systems.

 

The first step is to recognise that a unique set of scarce skills, challenges and disciplines is involved in an EAI project. So make sure you have the correct skills sets at hand, and that you choose staff or consultants who have relevant prior experience. To minimise performance issues, you need to approach the project in the right way so as to achieve a scalable architecture that will grow with the organisation.

 

It’s important to seamlessly integrate new software with existing applications using mainstream standards, such as web services. Frequently it is possible to build custom wrappers around legacy and proprietary systems to allow easier integration with these systems.

 

Second, recognise that EAI is an architecture, not a product. Evaluate your integration requirements and decide whether point-to-point integration will be sufficient or a whether a services-oriented architecture (SOA) implementation is advisable based on the integration needs and complexity of the enterprise application landscape.

 

The architecture needs to be planned and designed before buying an EAI or SOA product from a vendor or building it from the ground up. You need to analyse your business, and develop the list of services you require, and how they will interact or combine to form new services. Only then should you evaluate all the available products and decide which best suits your current information technology (IT) infrastructure and your planned architecture.

 

Third, take security, performance and monitoring into account. If you have several different applications, you would need a centralised service to authenticate users, for example Windows Active Directory, where you could hold all user credentials. It’s important to ensure users have the appropriate access to different systems and you need to be able to control access from one central point.

 

From a performance standpoint, you need to analyse and develop service level agreements for each service. Monitoring the various applications and services is essential to ensure that you can react quickly if one goes down.

 

Four, acknowledge that EAI is extremely complex and must be afforded the necessary resources and planning. It must be implemented as its own project with its