Underlining the confidence permeating the integration market currently, 42 per cent of respondents to the study anticipated an increase in the budget they devote to EAI software this year, 11 per cent predicted a substantial increase, with just 2 per cent projecting a decrease.
In line with this positive finding, many respondents are already spending a significant proportion of their overall IT budget on integration. For 29 per cent of the sample, expenditure on integration projects represented more than one fifth of their IT spending, a total of 7 per cent claimed their companies devoted 40 per cent or more of their IT spend to this purpose while 4 per cent in total stated at least half of their IT budget was spent in this way.
These findings are supported by the sampleâs positive overall view of integration in particular and integration in general. More than three-quarters agreed that âEAI provides real benefits to the organisationâ, with only 8 per cent disagreeing. In addition, just 17 per cent agreed that âcost generally outweighs the benefits of integrationâ, while a total of 48 per cent disagreed.
Drivers for growth
The survey demonstrates that the main drivers for using integration technologies are concerned more with enhancing the flexibility and agility of the organisationâs internal processes rather than improving interaction with suppliers, partners or customers.
Respondents chose âincreasing efficiency and effectiveness of internal systems and functionsâ and âimproving the strategic and operational agility of the organisationâ as the two most important drivers. Improving interaction with customers and suppliers was ranked much lower.
Underlining this finding, there was a stark contrast in the proportion of respondents stating that integration was likely to be used in the future for process automation within their enterprise (75 per cent) compared with the number claiming it would be used for process automation with their trading partners beyond the enterprise (50 per cent).
Highlighting this emphasis on internal flexibility, 80 per cent of the sample stated a key benefit they were seeking from their integration projects was âto make it easier to enhance and modify systemsâ, with 79 per cent looking to integration to âmake it easier to modify business processesââ.
Room for improvement
While all industry sectors saw integration as providing real benefits to their organisation, the survey also identified some key areas for improvement. For example, when deploying off-the-shelf adapters for popular software suites, only 7 per cent of the sample said that the process had been straightforward. In addition, while the multi-vendor approach proved more popular than using a single source for solutions, nearly two-thirds of respondents had âexperienced some difficulty when taking integration products from different vendorsâ.
Reflecting a desire for greater levels of sophistication, 26 per cent of respondents agreed with the view that âcurrent integration product sets are too limitedâ compared with just 16 per cent who disagreed with the statement.
Also, respondents ranked the question, âHow well are your legacy systems integrated with your newer applicationsâ with a score of 2.9 on a 1 to 5 scale, where 1 was equivalent to ânot well integratedâ and 5 to âwell integratedâ. While this result is disappointing, it does offer significant encouragement for integration solutions vendors like InterSystems, whose approach blends existing and new applications seamlessly, enabling customers to protect their investment in legacy infrastructure.
CSI help gratefully received
In InterSystemsâ case, one element of its approach which helps distinguish it from many of its competitors is its exclusive use of systems integration partners to implement its own comprehensive integration platform, Ensemble, launched in November 2003. To help maximise the rapid realisation of benefits for end users of the new solution, InterSystems has created the Ensemble Implementation Partner Programme. Membership brings a broad range of benefits including enhanced technical support, access to the full range of scheduled Ensemble training courses at 40% discount and the opportunity to receive a 20-user Ensemble development licence.
The PMP survey found that consultants and systems integrators (CSIs) are used by a substantial number of respondent companies, both for product selection and implementation. Fully 62 per cent claimed to have used them to âhelp in EAI product selectionâ and 65 per cent had utilised them to âimplement integration solutionsâ.
When it came to selecting CSIs, proven experience with integration projects proved a more important factor than previous experience with a specific integration product set or knowledge of existing applications. This highlights the widely-held perception that CSIs do not need experience of a specific product in order to be effective in the EAI arena.
"There is clearly a demand for better integration of internal IT systems and IT professionals are confident that EAI can deliver the benefits sought, but there is still an element of disappointment encountered with the overall benefits achieved by integration projects so far," says InterSystems alliance manager, Duncan Allen.
"We believe much of this stems from a dissatisfaction with the suite approach to integration which makes solutions too complex, slow and expensive to implement. The answer lies in the combination of service oriented and event architecture, which Ensemble supports. This streamlines the process of applications delivery, allowing users to cut costs, increase productivity and improve customer service.
"Integration is firmly back on the agenda as a technology that can extract greater value from existing investments in the development of new Composite Applications and the delivery of Business Activity Monitoring solutions," he adds.
"The winners in this marketplace will be those companies that recognise and demonstrate the most skill in delivering better integration solutions, more quickly. At InterSystems, we believe these concerns actually provide opportunities for vendors like ourselves with an innovative approach to service delivery to achieve significant success."