Poachers pounce on EAI skills

Skill shortages in the enterprise application integration space are tempting organisations who share the same EAI vendor to poach staff from each other.

It is a sign of the times for a market which has been heating up over the past 18 months.

"I haven't seen this before," says Nathan Bray, Australia New Zealand sales director for US company Mercator Systems.

It has been happening in Mercator's own client base as customers become conscious of skill sets available in other organisations, Bray reports.

"I've had feedback from several clients in the past week who are actively trying to recruit middleware people who are also savvy about business."

Heading their must-have lists are qualified applicants to fill the role of chief architect for EAI.

"These are people who are technically qualified but also understand the importance of the business knowledge that sits in the system." says Bray "They are more your business analyst who wants to free up corporate data and do something with it."

Basically middleware on steroids, EAI was originally viewed as a point solution for linking one enterprise system to another.

But attitudes have changed thanks to the multiplying number of enterprise systems under each corporate umbrella and the looming demands of e-business.

Now many large organisations believe they need to embed EAI as a separate architectural layer in their organisations.

"They want to make it an ubiquitous layer through which every application they write communicates to the organisation," says Bray.

"And they believe they need to make someone responsible for that overall layer in the form of a chief architect who has a vision about what it can do for a company."

"They aren't focused on EAI as a tool for a particular project but more on how they use it to unlock information for the organisation."

According to Bray, a chief EAI architect slots in at a senior level whose status ranks below CIO and about equal to a network manager.

As the EAI market expands, Mercator has more than doubled its Asia Pacific staff to several dozen in the past 18 months.

The rising market temperature prompted Mercator Software's chairman and CEO Roy King to visit Australia for the first time this month.

Mercator claims 5000 clients globally with two-thirds of them in the ranks of Fortune 1000 companies. It has several dozen Australian customers including Telstra, Australia Post, NAB and Coca-Cola.

Australian organisations seem to be still focusing primarily on EAI for internal application-to-application integration, says King.

That contrasts with the US and Europe where interest is moving to integration of external business-to-business links.

"It indicates some companies here are yet to reap the benefits of what is out there with B2B and are still focused on the internal economics of their enterprise."

Mercator is shifting its stance from a straight software product company to a solutions-based company allied with best-of-breed partners.

It will concentrate on integrating solutions in the four vertical markets of financial services and insurance, manufacturing (which Mercator calls product intensive companies), telcos and utilities, and health care.

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