With many of the new and overhyped Web-service applications claiming to simplify application integration, many pundits predicted the demise of EAI software. What has been underestimated is the critical need for heavy-duty business process integration, data management, scalability and security capabilities. EAI allows for real-time decision-making due to the fact that it aids in the automation of business processes. By integrating historical data, decision makers are provided one point of access to the knowledge to make an informed decision.
Web offerings lack the process management and transaction integrity that are the key ingredients EAI and ETL tools provide to ensure proper integration. Developers by nature are trained to provide functionality, but less security and integration. We saw this breakdown in the early days of learning management system (LMS) implementations. A high percentage of early implementations lacked EAI and ETL capabilities, creating a poor integration success rate. Product claims were not met, customers were frustrated, and the utility of the application was put into question. Until the LMS product functionality was standardized and integrators employed EAI and ETL tools, integrations were very hit-or-miss.
Due the thrust of Web applications, EAI and ETL tools have become integral parts of a company’s strategic technology plan. For example, 18 months after installing an EAI server, a leading insurance company connected more than 25 systems with its EAI tool. The company was able to disable the legacy interface, but leave the back end intact. EAI was able to alleviate the pain of migrating to a new system. Leading vendors such as BEA Systems, IBM, TIBCO Software and SeeBeyond Technology now offer a full cadre of Web-service interfaces in addition to the proprietary adapters they offer for legacy systems and enterprise applications. As you may already have deduced, Web applications have actually increased the demand for EAI software. Web services and EAI are now viewed as complementary. In addition, pricing of EAI and ETL tools has fallen, giving them broader affordability and appeal.
Key to note is that there is not one “magic” EAI tool. You must find the right tool for your knowledge management system. EAI is very process-centric, which limits the use of a universal application. Also, make sure your EAI tools are based on industry standards, such as EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), depending on the use and industry. The HIPAA mandate has provided a fertile market for vendors to address. Health-care providers must integrate vast amounts of data and applications due to government legislation. With specific requirements for how information is to be passed back and forth to a provider, EAI and ETL tools are a must in order to achieve compliance. Integration points vary from the front end to clinical, claims and reimbursement.
With smoother data transfer and integration, knowledge management deployment will continue to gain momentum in the marketplace. Moreover, out-of-the-box LMS, business process management (BPM), collaboration and customer relationship management (CRM) applications will further ease integration issues.
Peter L. Martin, CFA, is an author and consultant, providing in-depth coverage of the knowledge services industry. For more information, e-mail Peter at email@example.com.
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