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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Define Before You Integrate

11:32:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , , No comments
Many organizations believe they have a clear and exact picture of what they mean when they talk about concepts such as product, service and customer. But if you ask around how people in the organization define "product" you will probably get almost as many definitions as the number of persons you ask. Why? Because the seamingly obvious often obscures misunderstandings and inconsistencies. Not many persons dare to question if, for example, a global Telecom company actually has a clear definition of what a product or service means to them. So the concept is left to be defined by anyone who needs it to be defined, without establishing a common definition that is communicated to everyone within the organization.

Many people would get offended if you start asking questions like this. So, is it a stupid question? Possibly. And possibly not. If they can give you a clear definition and show that everybody uses this definition, then it is fine. If not, you have a (political) problem to deal with.

Semantic integration is what integration is about first and foremost, with technical integration coming in on second place. You need first to ensure that "customer" in one business system means the same thing as "customer" in another business system if you are to integrate them, not just make sure that you map attributes in the correct way. And to be able to ensure that, you need a common definition on enterprise level of the customer concept (which might not be exactly the same as in any of the systems to be integrated).

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