What is an Integration Competency Center (ICC)?
Why an Integration Competency Center is Necessary. IT projects, including integration tasks, are often built on a project-by-project basis in a stand-alone, tactical way. The business might have a particular request for a web application, for example, so the IT team performs a point-to-point integration between the application and its data source. Each project therefore must involve selecting integration software (or creating the integration through custom code); acquiring skilled resources; getting training and learning the product; establishing processes, procedures and standards; developing the integration application; and finally deploying it.
Reinventing the wheel every time an integration is needed takes a long time and unnecessarily duplicates work. The amount of time needed to complete these integrations, along with the increasing number of integration projects the business requires, leads to an IT delivery gap between what the business needs the IT team to delivery and what it actually can deliver.
In order to stop this endless hamster wheel of work, a number of companies are establishing a cross-functional group offering expertise, historical knowledge and best practices on how integration functions in the enterprise, with an eye to gaining reuse out of at least some of the previous integration projects, reducing project delivery time and lowering the technology cost of ownership by leveraging technology investments across multiple deployments. The Integration Competency Center is intended to optimize scarce IT resources by combining integration skills, resources and processes into one group, who can then disseminate this knowledge to decrease the unnecessary duplication of integration-related projects.
The key objectives of an Integration Competency Center (ICC)
An Integration Competency Center should have the following objectives:
- To lead and support enterprise integration (data, system and process) projects with the cooperation/coordination of subject matter experts.
- To promote enterprise integration as a formal and strategic enterprise discipline.
- To develop subject-matter experts in integration processes and operations and then leverage their expertise throughout the organization.
- To assess and select integration technology and approaches.
- To manage integration projects throughout the organization.
- To optimize integration investments across the enterprise level and then to leverage economies of scale to maximize the use of the integration tools portfolio
The limitations of an Integration Competency Center (ICC)
While the ideas behind an ICC were well intentioned, in practice they tended to not work particularly well. Part of the reason was that the Integration Competency Center, like many Centers of Excellence, would feature centralized expertise and knowledge, which could result in information being unintentionally protected and rationed. ICCs can often become bottlenecks which made developers & architects work around them. An Integration Competency Center might provide great ideas, but those ideas can be inapplicable to actual business or technical scenarios. Sometimes these processes wouldn’t be standardized at all, meaning that everyone would do these processes their own way, opening up security vulnerabilities and creating more roadblocks and hampering agility.
A new approach to integration enablement aims to put the assets needed for integration projects in developers’ hands, rather than simply hoping that centralized knowledge in an Integration Competency Center could create the reuse that would end duplication of integration work and scale integration projects. This new approach is called a Center for Enablement.
How a Center for Enablement improves on an Integration Competency Center
A Center for Enablement is a cross-functional team that is entirely charged with promoting and fostering the consumption and reuse of projects and assets throughout the enterprise. The C4E model focuses on putting valuable assets in the hands of development teams across the organization, encouraging them to not only utilize the assets but add and improve assets as well, scaling the network effect.
This is done by creating a suite of assets that consist of productized APIs and templates, centrally available in a discoverable marketplace like Anypoint Exchange. Other projects can leverage these assets with easy discovery and self-service. Then, with every subsequent project, teams are encouraged by the C4E to reuse and/or contribute new assets back to the marketplace, which drives self-reliance and collaboration.
The Center for Enablement actually provides ways to actually implement these processes in a standardized way as well as publicizing best practices, company standards and advice. And, as best practices and technologies change and evolve, the C4E can help processes evolve in real-time, rather than waiting for an Integration Competency Center to catch up.
Organizations with an established C4E practice enjoy a shorter API delivery cycle because of standardized templates and greater reuse, enable more developers in the organization to build their own projects with less reliance on IT and reduce the number of defects. A C4E enables IT to start to build a set of capabilities to enable agility and innovation, scale project delivery and close the IT delivery gap.
For more information how a C4E could work in your company, take a look at our whitepaper How to Build a C4E.