Role of the Integrator in Enterprise Applications
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.
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
For more information, see Lauraís book, Integration
Models: Templates for Business Transformation (SAMS, 2000). Laura
can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or on the web at http://www.systeminnovations.net.