I have been citing integration and interoperability as one of the primary goals of IT management. Any IT team whose company is involved in mergers, acquisitions, or divisional dissolution or consolidation know the problems of integrating systems in spades. But even large operational shops have many parallel systems. Take Bell Canada and its integration woes.
Bell has different billing systems for their Internet Services, Unplugged/Mobile Internet, POTS-Plain ordinary Telephone Services, and at least two for their mobile phones. And of course these systems talk to each other with limited flexibility. For years I have been trying to get my bills consolidated and it appeared with One Bill the direction was set – Internet dial up,broadband and POTS all in one place. But I added Solo Mobile and Unplugged Internet and its up to three bills again.
A colleague ran into a problem trying to discontinue dial up service – there is no way to get his credit monies transferred over to his other bills. Another is switching from personal to small business services and is having a devil of a time getting the billing reconciled.
Now dont get me wrong – Bell Canada has attractive and price-performant telephone and Internet services. They often lead their North American colleagues introducing them, especially in the broadband arena. However, their siloed backroom billing systems are frankly disaffecting customers who expect better billing services and can find it elsewhere.
Bell Canada can take only small solace that this integration problem is not exceptional. So now more than ever before, open standards, non-proprietary, and cross platform are the name of the IT game. Now tell me again, do you really want to buy so called “enterprise software” that only runs best when you buy a uniform and tightly coupled set – OS clients, Server OS, database, and application server stack from one vendor. Sure – you have only one chain to yank but a) it may be a massive one (relative power counts) and b)nowhere does the situation change faster than in todays markets – your longtime rivals, may become partners – “And can we talk” should not flounder on system incompatibilities and integration problems.