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Minimal integration 8: do you need tools?
Before buying an integration tool, do not just ask "Is this the best?", but "Do I really need it?"
There are three types of integration tools that work on data as it is sent from system to system.
Be very critical of the value that these tools claim to bring.
Problem solver tools can be useful for solving point problems, but always consider them tactical. I have had this type of tool presented to me as a strategic toolset - as if, strategically, I wanted to have the problems. It is better to put your money into making each system produce and consume well-defined XML-based messages.
Brokers can be useful within a standards-based integration architecture. However, if the broker applies significant business logic, such as the calculation of a discount on an order, the owners of the connected systems can lose sight of this logic. In my experience, brokers are suitable for simple reformatting, but processing which changes the business meaning of the data is best left within the systems themselves.
Process management tools are sold on the promise of business flexibility. Sales demonstrations show graphical process design tools, and suggest that entire business processes can be changed by dragging and dropping a few icons.
I am sceptical of these claims. I have seen process management tools used successfully in three ways:
I have never seen a process management tool used to control a real end-to-end business process across different systems. I am sure some people have done this, and I would be interested to know the details. But in my experience, these tools do not live up to the promise of a significant across-the-board improvement in business flexibility.
Do not think of any of these tools as a "must have". I recommend:
Minimal IT: research, training, consultancy and software to reduce IT costs.