Some of the benefits of integrated technology and business processes have become familiar enough that we probably don't even notice--or at least we don't think about--the complexity and effort that was involved in making them happen. Buy a plane ticket, and you expect to be able to rent a car and reserve a hotel without going to three different Web sites. I go to Amazon.com to buy a CD or a book for a friend, and I can also check to see if Toys "R" Us has the new Barbie my daughter has been asking for without leaving the site. This all seems normal to me. But when someone goes to a hospital where patient history isn't linked with pharmaceutical information and the wrong drug is dispensed, well, then integration moves from convenience to a matter of life and death.
I don't mean to be overly dramatic, but the need for better integration in many industries is rising. But more often than not, the answer isn't simply linking together data, systems, applications, and people, or hiring a systems-integration firm. Rather, it requires building a framework to tie together all of those strategies. In this week's issue, we bring you numerous stories on the many facets of integration. We hope you'll walk away more knowledgeable about the benefits, the pitfalls, the challenges, and other lessons learned by those in the thick of it. But in case you need a cheat sheet, here are a few things you'll learn:
1. Don't worry about the terms--EAI, EII, e-i-e-i-o.