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Publication

Title: Achieving Organisational Information Integration: A Technology


perspective.

Area of Interest: Enterprise Application Integration EAI

Management Subject: Management Information Systems

Ravi Kiran.V

MBA Marketing, Dept of Business Mgmt, Osmania University, Hyderabad


MS Information Systems Management, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
Introduction

Often various departments within an organization lack the ability to


easily and quickly exchange information for effective decision making
and for communicating with partners, vendors and customers.

The objective of this paper is to understand how information


dissemination needs of an organization are being met by information
technology (IT) systems in general. Later on we try to understand how
such a system could be built that would help the management to access
and disseminate information for better organisational productivity.

The paper deals with how organization-wide information, mostly lying


unused in disparate information technology systems is brought together
through a brand-new and often used concept viz. Enterprise Application
Integration EAI.

Objectives

A few of the objectives in this paper are to understand:

1. Information Usage, Storage and Retrieval – Organisational


Perspective
2. Organisational Information Integration via Enterprise Application
Integration (EAI): Concepts and Definitions
3. Technology Architecture and Enterprise Application Integration
4. Organisations and Information Dissemination- how the need is
being met
5. XML and EAI
6. Conclusion
7. References
8. Additional readings recommended

1. Information Usage, Storage and Retrieval – the need for


Organisational Information Integration

Corporate/Organisational information was earlier processed/made


available from centralised & independent platforms. But as the number
of users and the size of information increased multi-fold,
organisations saw the rise in number of platforms/information systems,
thus leading to a state where information was now being processed from
several platforms.

For example, as the number of departments within an organisation


increased, so did the information repositories (i.e. databases,
enterprise knowledge portals), leading to an exponential rise in the
actual size and content of information. The management found it even
more difficult to access information for decision making purposes and
in several cases leading to loss of information.

All this has now led to the concept of Organisational Information


Integration or Enterprise Application Integration (EAI).

So, why do we need Organisational level information integration? In his


book on Enterprise Application Integration, David S. Lithicum, says
that Enterprise application Integration EAI, is a response to decades
of creating distributed monolithic, single-purpose applications
leveraging a hodgepodge of platforms and development approaches.

The more the dependence of management on information, for decision


making, the more the need for integrating disparate sets of information
lying in disparate information systems. EAI helps in quicker management
decision making thus improving the overall productivity of the
organisation.

According to Steven H. Spewak, in his book on Enterprise Architecture


Planning: Developing a blueprint for Data, Applications and Technology
with Steven C. Hill, the author lists out success factors (listed by
executives in organisations) for achieving organisational IT mission
objectives:

1. Access to data when and where needed


2. Ability to adapt to changing business needs
3. Accurate and consistent data
4. Share data across the organisation
5. Contain costs

For our discussion purposes, point five would lie out of the context,
but what needs to be gained from this book is that “access to data when
and where needed” forms the primary objective of today’s technology
managers.

From a technology perspective, the author goes on to list out the


factors that would enable an IT system (for e.g. a Enterprise
Application Integration Platform) to be termed successful. They are

1. Timely access to needed data


2. Flexible, maintainable systems
3. Data integrity and standards
4. Data/systems integration
5. Cost effectiveness.

2. Enterprise Application Integration- Definition

EAI is the concept of unrestricted sharing of data and business


processes among any connected applications and data sources within an
enterprise/organisation. (Enterprise Application Integration, David S.
Lithicum)

3. Technology Architecture and Enterprise Application Integration

a. There are several ways of achieving enterprise application


integration, as listed out by David S. Lithicum.

1. Data Level EAI: Interface among various data sources is achieved


through connecting data sources at the “data” level. This would
lead to a database-to-database method of application integration.
This is important, since, in most enterprises databases number in
the thousands and represent a complex mosaic of various database
technologies and models that provide data storage for
applications. Accessing data, within the context of EAI, requires
a basic level query and retrieve language that should be able to
replicate information over several databases. A real example
would be a situation, where sales information stored into a
Oracle database as part of a larger Enterprise application, and
simultaneously copied over to a database located at a different
location/department. Unfortunately, most database are coupled
with the user interfaces and do need a lot of development effort
to decouple them from user-interface (the enterprise application
that sits over the database).

2. Application Interface-Level EAI: The next obvious extension to


the above logic would be to enable enterprise application
integration at the user-interface level. This is usually done
through gaining access to applications through either exposing
the business processes or the data directly. Sometimes it becomes
necessary to use an API (Application Programming Interface) to
gain access to data within an enterprise application.
3. Method Level EAI: Method level EAI allows the enterprise to be
integrated through the sharing of common business logic or
methods. A common business logic or method is usually a
distributed object technology like CORBA that enables a developer
to program logic that enables enterprise application integration.
4. User Interface-Level EAI: This is the most primitive type of
achieving EAI is through a common user-interface application that
has access to various data sources.

b. The process, steps involved in building an effective Enterprise


Application Integration EAI application.

1. Understanding the enterprise and problem domain


2. Making sense of data
3. Making sense of processes
4. Identifying application interfaces
5. Identifying the business events
6. Identifying the schema and content transformation scenarios
7. Mapping Information movement
8. Applying technology
9. Testing
10.Performance requirements
11.Defining value
12.Creating Maintenance procedures

4. Organisations and Information Dissemination- how the need is being


met

Most organisations store and retrieve data through proprietary packages


available from the industry such as SAP, PeopleSoft, Baan, and Oracle.
And in order to achieve enterprise application integration in such an
scenario it becomes necessary for developers to know the ins and outs
of the packaged application to access the data lying within. Also the
industry standard packages allow for opening up of their architectures
and technologies through proprietary methodologies.

5. XML and EAI


XML provides for a standard data exchange format that helps in going
beyond the above mentioned methods of achieving enterprise application
integration. Most industry related products and packages come with XML
as the standard integration mechanism i.e. the common data exchange
format that everyone could agree upon.

6. Conclusion

We started out by going back to days when data storage and retrieval
was done in its basic form i.e. a centralized repository that everybody
could access through a programming language. The need for EAI grew with
the growth in the number of such data repositories that used to ride on
various technologies (growth of technologies). Having understood the
process and various methodologies through which EAI could be achieved,
in conclusion, it has become important to understand that the concept
of application integration is now being collocated within the data
storage mechanism or the enterprise application, XML being such a case.

7. References

1. Enterprise Application Integration by David S. Lithicum.


2. Enterprise Architecture Planning: Developing a blueprint for
Data, Applications and Technology by Steven H. Spewak, with
Steven C. Hill