The Rewards of Business Integration

Staying ahead of the pack in today's business climate demands that companies integrate new and existing business applications and processes in increasingly diverse computing environments. The recent explosion in corporate mergers, acquisitions and e-commerce illustrates how companies are doing all they can to maintain a competitive advantage and strengthen relationships with their customers.

Staying ahead of the pack in today's business climate demands that companies integrate new and existing business applications and processes in increasingly diverse computing environments. The recent explosion in corporate mergers, acquisitions and e-commerce illustrates how companies are doing all they can to maintain a competitive advantage and strengthen relationships with their customers.

But these strategies will work only if they enable collaboration between different business systems.

The benefits of business integration are clear: reduced costs, stronger customer and vendor relationships, a tighter supply chain, and a sharpened competitive edge. But the challenges of business integration vary from enterprise to enterprise. So understanding why business integration is critical to your company's success is key to making it work.

A changing marketplace

A number of factors are driving the need for business integration:

  • Mergers and acquisitions seek to leverage the strengths of two companies and often demands the integration and automation of business processes. Get it right, and you can create opportunities for cross-selling, better service and cost reduction. Get it wrong -- which can happen if the two companies cannot adequately integrate their IT systems -- and chances are that the benefits of the merger will be lost.
  • Supply chain management is increasingly being seen as the key to competitive advantage. The obvious benefits of a tight supply chain are reduced inventory and improved cash flow, but more satisfied retail customers and greater control of inventory and manufacturing processes are also by-products of such efforts.
  • Customer relationship management can set an organization apart from the competition. And, since it costs less to keep an existing customer than to sell to a new one, strong customer relationship management saves money too. From cash machines at banks to Web browsers, IT is the primary means of customer service delivery today. And excellent customer service requires flexible, speedy, and responsive IT systems.
  • Straight through processing (STP) is a target for the finance industry, particularly for trading systems, where the relationship between trader and broker depends on confidence in speed and 100% reliability. Payment and trading systems typically involve many different hardware, software and network elements. STP aims to reduce the cost of processing delays and human error by automating the flow of information from data capture to confirmation processing, all without the need for manual intervention.
  • Typically, an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is chosen because it is a fully integrated application. ERP envisions an integrated standardized enterprise-wide system -- but vision and reality are two different things. On average, for every dollar spent on an ERP system, nine are spent on subsequent integration. All too often, ERP projects become derailed because of technology issues, like linking existing applications with the new ERP system, or extending it to supply chain partners.
  • e-commerce on the Web is growing at a frantic pace -- and it still hasn't reached anything near its full potential. What's holding it back? Integration. The most difficult challenge facing most companies on the Internet is integrating their Web sites to their existing systems.

The tools of business integration

While the need for -- and benefits of -- integration are clear, finding the right tools to make it happen can prove a challenge. How can companies win in this challenging environment? The answer is Business Integration. Business Integration solutions include:

  • Secure, reliable exchange of information between systems
    Message queuing software, provides reliable transfer of information between computer applications on a range of platforms - from PCs to mainframes.
  • Scalable, secure sharing of data and files
    Enterprise file systems technology create a common integrated computing environment that enables users to share and access their information -- regardless of where its held, or on what platform.
  • Productive tools for building e-business applications
    Enterprise-scale development environments for Java are needed for building run-anywhere e-business applications.
  • Universal network communications
    Quick and seamless network access to central information repositories is critical to building better connections to business partners and customers.
  • High-performance Web application servers
    Application servers that can scale to changing business requirements, are needed to support business applications from simple Web publishing to enterprise-scale transaction processing. and to rapidly develop and deploy collaborative applications, for employees, customers and trading partners.
  • Leading database software
    Data, the critical information about customers, suppliers and inventory, must be integrated with a business' efforts to improve customer service. Web-enabled database solutions are needed for tight integration with legacy data and connections to popular databases.
  • Systems management
    As more companies depend on e-business solutions to conduct business, IT departments must ensure that these systems remain up and running at all times. Systems management products allow customers to centrally manage their entire computing enterprises, including systems, applications, hardware and network devices.

Integrate for success

Fueled by e-commerce, your markets and brands are becoming increasingly globalized. At the same time, competition arrives quickly and from unexpected places, and your customers are growing ever more sophisticated.

Business integration is the key to meeting all these challenges.