As the use of technology to manage a business has become more and more pervasive, business analysts recognize that they need to integrate the different systems in use throughout the various parts of the organization if it is to function efficiently as a whole. After all, there’s little point in having a highly effective marketing system if the ordering system can’t cope with the volume of sales generated.
Designers face a number of difficulties, however, when they attempt to integrate different applications. For example, the definition of a particular business entity used by one system might be different from the definition used by another and some programmatic logic might have to be written to handle the translation issues.
The problems become even more pronounced when the applications you need to integrate belong to different organizations. It’s increasingly desirable for trading partners to be able to integrate their systems and enable cross-organization business processes. For example, a retailer might want to improve the efficiency of the ordering process by sending all orders to the appropriate suppliers electronically. However, this ambition needs to be achieved in such a way that differences in the platforms, operating systems, programming languages, database management systems, and protocols can be tolerated, as well as differences in business entity definitions.
Solutions for cross-organization integration have existed for many years in the form of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) applications. However, EDI solutions are extremely costly and complex to develop and often don’t provide the flexibility required by today’s Internet-enabled organizations.