System Innovations

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System Innovations

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Laura Brown Ė principal consultant
1112 Riverbend Club Drive - Atlanta, GA 30339
PHONE: 770-953-0534 FAX: 770-952-7863

Role of the Integrator in Enterprise Applications

By Laura Brown

Developing enterprise applications requires a senior architectural role that is more flexible and more fluid than both technical architecture and business management. It requires a person capable of knitting together the components that make up the technical solution. The integratorís job is to help pull together the goals of EA projects and the disciplines of the technical specialists that do the work.

The role of the integrator is similar to the role of the humorist in society at large. The integrator provides commentary, informal correction, and continually reviews the context in which a project is taking place. The role itself requires that the integrator have the freedom to go wherever needed in the organization, and the permission to question whatever needs questioning.

The integrator must have the willingness to work on multiple projects and the ability to change styles as needed, depending on the particular project. She must also maintain an integrative approach, which looks across, and not vertically, as does the typical project. Itís a service role, but one that imposes a broader view on the project when necessary.

The role of the integrator is flexible and fluid. It requires a tolerance for ambiguity and the ability to provide reflective feedback to project stakeholders. Some of the functions of the integrator include

  • Conducting the project
  • Conducting open-ended interviews
  • Starting outside the box
  • Stepping in to define issues
  • Identifying candidates to resolve issues
  • Getting back out of the box through a phased approach

Conducting the project

The integrator assumes responsibility for the success of the enterprise project by defining roles, marshalling resources, modeling desired behaviors and mentoring project resources. He may define project plans, assign project management resources and/or work with the program management office to set up overall guidelines. The role has been likened to a "project shepherd" who continually clarifies the vision and sees that participants remain on track for success.

Conducting open-ended interviews

Subject matter experts and representatives of the business areas affected by the project or business initiative will be identified and interviewed. The recommended method is the open-ended interview as opposed to predefined surveys. The idea is to explore and conduct a process of discovery, turning up business innovations wherever they may occur.

Starting outside the box

A strength of the integrator is the ability to start from outside the box, with experiences gained on many projects that can provide perspective on the particular project. When a key project participant remains outside the box, she is able to continually raise the bar, engaging creative thinking and new learning strategies in project participants.

Stepping in to define issues

Sometimes the integrator will step into a particular role on a project, whether project manager, technical architect or requirements analyst, in order to respond to specific issues. Or he may define a new role required by the project, with no current knowledge in the organization. An effective way to instigate a new role for your company is to have an experienced integrator play that role, define itís requirements and infrastructure, and then identify candidates (internal or external) to take up the role going forward.

Identifying candidates to resolve issues

Once a new role has been defined and profiled, candidates who fit the profile are identified and oriented to the job requirements. The integrator enjoys a unique vantage point from having moved around the organization in the course of an enterprise project. Often this background comes in handy in identifying promising candidates for new roles. The issues identified earlier then become the selected personís responsibility to carry forward and resolve.

Getting back out of the box through a phased approach

The integratorís final step on any given project is to phase herself out in a supportive way. This can be accomplished through setting up various supports for the integration team including:

- ongoing mentoring program

- "playbook" for team members to follow

- periodic check-ins from team members

- periodic communications with ongoing information exchange

- web community built and supported.

Laura Brown helps businesses and technical managers deliver systems solutions, as management consultant and senior technical advisor to Fortune 500 companies. She is President of System Innovations, a consulting firm specializing in enterprise application integration, data warehousing, and Internet design.

For more information, see Lauraís book, Integration Models: Templates for Business Transformation (SAMS, 2000). Laura can be reached via e-mail at, or on the web at




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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000. Laura Brown, LBPI, Inc. (DBA: System Innovations)
Last Updated: November 20, 2001