Modern business depends on smooth and seamless interactions between diverse and complex information systems. For example, a salesperson clicks a button in the customer relationship management (CRM) application to follow up on a customer’s order, which references the human resources’ database to verify the employee’s role, before retrieving critical product data from the company’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Interactions between systems such as that depicted in the previous example depend upon successful integration between varieties of system components.
Raytheon is a defense and aerospace contractor that serves as a good example of a modern business with diverse and integrated information systems. Raytheon employees access the company’s business applications via an enterprise portal. The portal system is built using software from SAP that leverages several Java, web services, and IEEE standards. The standards based approach to presenting portal applications and content enables other standards compliant vendor products to seamlessly integrate with the portal. For example, the company’s web based mail program is integrated as a tab on an employee’s portal. Similarly, business intelligence dashboards and ERP application screens are also natively integrated.
The SAP portal framework includes a feature referred to as iView that allows non-SAP applications to be embedded within the portal’s look and feel, as long as they are web-based. The iView feature allows integration of legacy applications. In Raytheon’s case, the company’s internally developed product data management system has iViews that present the application through the portal, even though the interfaces are not native portal applications.
Business applications that do not have web-based interfaces are unable to integrate with the portal environment. Client-server applications such as some legacy manufacturing reporting systems are unable to integrate with the portal. However, these systems are planned for eventual replacement with systems capable of integrating into a service-oriented architecture via web services standards.
The successful integration of diverse systems depends upon careful testing, analysis, and implementation of new technologies. Conformance to standards is paramount for seamless integration. For modern businesses, integration is an ongoing, but worthwhile, challenge that provides increased efficiency.