We just got back from the Midmarket CIO conference in Florida and while the event was about midmarket technologies in general, one message was loud and clear: CIOs still see integration as one of their major challenges. Whether it’s connecting the front and back office, automating business processes such as Quote-to-Cash, or linking inventory data with Amazon and other marketplaces, integration is the lynchpin for doing business faster and more effectively.
And this holds true no matter which organization you talk to. Even the Government is facing major integration hurdles, as recently highlighted by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense currently use different, disconnected systems to administer claims by veterans. These systems are not integrated, which leads to extra administrative costs and delays for veterans who need government assistance.
This has become such a problem that the Daily Show dedicated a full segment to the topic: http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/wed-march-27-2013-eva-mendes(start at minute 7).
The VA uses a system called VistA, whereas DoD uses a system called AHLTA. Without going into the history of why they use different systems, “numerous delays and [spending] more than $1 billion” on developing a new system is not easier and cheaper than integrating the existing systems. Of course there are likely mountains of red tape involved in making changes to any large government data system, so there is a whole other level of issues to solve beyond the technical solution. Still, the hope is that one day we’ll take care better care of those who serve their country — and moving away from paper and swivel-chair duplicate data entry is one of the key levers to make it happen.