Projects dogged by integration woes

When it comes to business integration projects Australian organizations are simply failing to deliver.

An estimated 20 per cent of IT budgets were spent on integration projects last year and 51 per cent didn't deliver on time while 46 per cent didn't reach the targetted ROI.

The reality is that the easy projects have all been done and IT executives are left with the more complex jobs that are prone to failure.

This is the findings of an in-depth survey of 87 CIOs and 73 IT managers at Australian organizations in September 2004.

Undertaken by InterSystems Corporation, the survey cited implementation costs and access to the right level of expertise as major barriers to success.

InterSystems Australia managing director Denis Tebbutt said when it comes to integration a services-intensive engagement proposition has developed based around the assumption that integration projects are complicated and high risk.

"This is not a sustainable proposition, this model has previously been rejected with both ERP and CRM," he said.

"There is a clear need for solutions which are easier to use, less costly to implement and maintain, and faster to deploy.

"Business integration technology must become more integrated itself, enabling companies to focus more on business process and change management issues rather than making the technology do what it was supposed to do in the first place."

Limited skills, immature technology and poorly defined projects all contribute to the failure of integration projects, Meta Group vice president of technology research services Michael Barnes said this week.

"Other key issues hindering integration projects in Australia are a lack of involvement by the correct people and lack of communication among technical and non-technical staff," he said.

"Organizations continue to struggle with ROI because of a lack of direct, ongoing involvement with non-technical business process experts.

"In other words, IT-led integration initiatives are far more likely to run late or fail."

Gartner research director Greta James said integration projects are the toughest of all.

"Integration by definition is bolting together things that aren't met to be bolted together and very few people undertaking these projects estimate the work involved accurately," James said.

Despite the challenges very few IT professions were willing to describe their integration projects as failures.

Breakaway Sportswear IT manager Bill Mavrovouniotis has tackled a number of these projects and he claims every one of them was "proven."

"I think the risk of failing depends on the project. We're carried out a few electronic data interchange integration projects, and these have been successful and profitable," Mavrovouniotis said.

"For some projects there is technology available which is very suitable, and then there are other technologies that are very customized and would only suit certain projects."

Rail Infrastructure Corporation network administrator Steve Green claims that better technologies are needed for the planning of integration projects.

"There's plenty of software to choose from, but from a procedural point of view there's not much on offer," Green said.

"It doesn't surprise me that a lot of integration projects fail, they require a lot of careful planning."

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