Managing IT Integration

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Business is just as important as technology in IT integration projects, says an executive honored for his integration efforts.

Companies facing integration projects shouldn't get so caught up in underlying technologies that they neglect the broader business issues, cautions an executive recognized by technical publisher IDG as one of its Premier 100 IT Leaders, largely by virtue of having led his company's integration of three recently acquired companies.

"The most difficult aspect of merging the various IT systems was not a technical issue but a business one," says John Petrone, chief technical officer of Internet automotive marketing company Autobytel. "Integration projects frequently have to compete for resources with new development and 'run the business' maintenance activities, and the key challenge for us was managing these competing priorities."

Autobytel's IT department worked with business units to identify and prioritize the most critical integration tasks, Petrone says. "Less critical integration tasks were stretched out so that we did not completely shut down new development. In all cases we tried to divide the integration project into small, manageable tasks to reduce risk."

A key factor was the company's use of a service-oriented architecture (SOA) to create standardized interfaces on top of legacy systems, thus simplifying the integration effort.

Yet while SOAs are "a very exciting development," Petrone says, they are not a cure to all integration ills.

"SOAs are like any other technology; they are a useful tool for meeting business needs, but they will not by themselves take all the effort and pain away," he says. "Many integration efforts get bogged down not because of technical issues, but due to conflicting or poorly understood goals or more pressing needs for resources in other areas of the business. SOA is a valuable tool to support systems integration, but it needs to be coupled with clear and effective management in order to maximize the potential benefits."

Petrone's' take on IT integration and service-oriented architectures was part of a recent 3 Questions feature in Optimizing Infrastructure, one of 10 e-mail reports published by Louisville, Ky.-based IT Business Edge.

You can read the full interview with Petrone here:

The permission-based reports feature in-depth analysis, research and decision support information from hundreds of business technology publications and other sources, compiled by IT Business Edge editors and summarized in an easy-to read format.

Each of the reports focuses on a different IT priority, such as maximizing IT investments and aligning IT and business goals, that has been identified through research as being top-of-mind for time-starved CIOs and other executives.

In 3 Questions, one of the reports' most popular features, IT Business Edge editors pick the brains of some of today's top technology vendors, analysts and other thought leaders, asking them for their takes on issues that are relevant to today's business leaders.

Other 3 Questions interviews of interest:

Wikis: A Killer Collaboration Tool, with Ross Mayfield, CEO and co-founder of wiki software provider Socialtext and author of an influential blog.

Modern Times: The Work Day Never Ends with Noelle Chesley, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee who recently published research on the impact of mobile devices on family life.

Converting Browsers to Buyers with Bryan Eisenberg, co-author of the best-sellers "Call to Action," "Persuasive Online Copywriting" and "The Marketer's Common Sense Guide to E-Metrics."

To view other 3 Questions on a wide range of IT topics, visit:

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Kenneth Hardin