Integration projects were once a back-end IT operation. While important, they would typically involve a small team hidden away from the rest of the organisation, focusing on bringing data into business applications such as SAP or Oracle. Today, integration has been recognised as being increasingly important to anything an organisation’s IT team wants to achieve.

A new business application, for example, must be supported by data from established parts of the business, while a cloud migration will require integration to transport data and to stitch new cloud applications into the rest of an organisation’s operations and infrastructure.

According to Gartner, however, the rate of innovation and digital change today means that traditional methods of integration are no longer up to the task. Instead, as with many areas of business today, the most effective way of connecting data and applications lies in the cloud. In addition to integrating their own applications and data, the deployment of an integration cloud will enable businesses to integrate with their partners, customers and suppliers, and for their products to integrate with those created by other organisations.

While an effective integration cloud will significantly improve an organisation’s agility and productivity, establishing an integration centre of excellence (ICoE) will help ensure the deployment of that integration cloud works to its best possible effect.

From beginning to end

Sometimes referred to as an integration competency centre, an ICoE ensures that all integration projects are completed to the highest possible standard, following best practices across all relevant disciplines, and making the most efficient use of an organisation’s people and IT resources.

An ICoE will be involved from the beginning of an integration project to its end and will fundamentally be concerned with governance – including the definition of standards, best practices and team responsibilities, as well as their consistent application across an organisation for each of its integration projects.

During its initial engagement with a project, the ICoE will undergo a process of discovery. Meeting with all relevant stakeholders, the team will gather requirements from which it will formulate guidelines and build an implementation plan. By the end of this discovery phase, it will have defined a project roadmap, and a reference architecture, along with the deliverables and processes to be used for building and then managing the integration.

The ICoE will then ensure work is carried out according to best practices for building, designing, and testing integrations. This will result in a working integration being built much faster, cheaper, and smarter than it would have been without the ICoE’s involvement.

Once it is up and running, the ICoE will work with the organisation’s IT team to help govern and manage the integration. If sufficient monitoring tools aren’t in place, for example, it will be up to the ICoE to make appropriate recommendations. Then, once the necessary tools have been implemented, the ICoE will work with the operations team to ensure a standard approach for monitoring and alerts. This way, the organisation can be sure that its integrations are not only being built consistently, but that they’re being deployed and run consistently too, in accordance with the roadmap and reference architecture defined at the beginning of the process.

Making a difference

The introduction of an ICoE represents both a cultural and an organisational shift.To make it easier to resolve any conflicts or concerns that may arise when the ICoE recommends doing something in a way never before tried, it’s vital that an organisation’s IT leaders show their support for the ICoE and its work. After all, it can be hard enough to implement organisational change at the best of times; doing so without the buy-in of a company’s C-suite could be virtually impossible.

With this support, though, an ICoE can make a real difference for an organisation. Integrations will be built better, at a lower cost, and rolled out more quickly, enabling stakeholders across the business to access the data and applications they need to do their jobs. The ICoE will enablethe business to more easily integrate with its partners, customers and suppliers.

By moving integration projects to the cloud, organisations will be better able to improve efficiencies and achieve the level of agility and flexibility they need to thrive and survive in today’s competitive business environment.