Interoperability a cost burden when rolling out new apps

Insufficient IT staff resources and interoperabilty are running up costs for CIOs

More than a quarter of the cost of implementing a new application is spent making it interoperable with existing applications, according to a survey of nearly 80 Australian CIOs and IT managers.

Another barrier is insufficient IT staff resources, according to 75 percent of respondents while 65 percent said there is a shortage of appropriate skill sets.

As a result, integration projects run over time and budget, missing targetted ROIs.

The 2006/07 Australian Integration Survey, conducted by software and database vendor InterSystems, found 68 percent of organizations were customizing applications, or plan to do so in the next six months.

The report states the gap between what organizations want to achieve with IT and what they can do with existing toolsets has widened.

"When it comes to Web services, SOAs, workflow functions and business process automation, executing within a six-month timeframe, and doing so cost-effectively, is beyond the capability of most organizations," the report states.

"Customization, replacement and re-engineering applications, however, are time consuming and costly processes.

"Insufficient staff resources and budgets are pervasive barriers to being able to quickly and cost-effectively connect or extend IT applications."

InterSystems Australia managing director, Denis Tebutt, said the survey shows resources are being squandered as organizations try to extend the reach of their applications.

"What our survey shows is that significant resources are being ineffectively applied to the problem of extending and connecting applications," Tebutt said.

"There is clearly a need for simpler, more affordable approaches to enriching and integrating applications and new capabilities such as adaptable workflow, portals, dashboards and business process automation; these are hard for organizations to implement quickly and cost effectively with most of the technology products currently available."

The main drivers for integration projects continue to be around cost-cutting - getting better value from existing apps and reducing costs through better access to information.

"It seems that when it comes to connecting or extending IT applications to workflow functions, business process automation/orchestration, business rules processing and management , and business activity monitoring, for example, Web services and SOA may not always provide a suitable solution," the report states.

"Although enterprise-wide business integration platforms are a relatively mature technology for connecting IT applications, only a minority of organizations had or planned to employ one in the next six months."

Integration projects can touch dozens, maybe even hundreds, of applications -- and they can break most of them if not done right. So integration demands more than the usual attention to testing.

Hotel chain ClubCorp uses an enterprise job-scheduling tool. Four schedulers were installed in a simulated production environment and tested on everything from scalability and support for existing applications to the usability of their adapters.

"We monitored them for two to three weeks, looking at how administration would be, what the ease of use is, how they handled thousands of processes at once -- a whole checklist of things," according to Robert Ayala, manager of production support at ClubCorp.

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