The Globally Integrated Enterprise: Developing Enterprise Integration as a Strategic Capability

By Maximilian Chowanetz and Sia Siew Kien

Many large enterprises have embarked on enterprise integration (EI) initiatives in recent years. Below, Maximilian Chowanetz and Sia Siew Kien suggest that while an organisation must plan well and be forceful in driving its EI efforts, it must also work continuously to sharpen the focus of its EI capability.

Dynamic forces such as globalisation, intense competition, and market innovation are driving enterprises towards greater differentiation to focus simultaneously on customers, products, geographies, and functions. But at the same time, such sophisticated differentiations create fragmentations that restrict an organisation’s ability to achieve ‘unity of efforts’ such as leveraging global resources and delivering integrated services to customers. As a response to these issues, many large enterprises have embarked on enterprise integration (EI) initiatives in recent years. For example, IBM is striving towards one globally integrated firm to ‘bring the best of global resources, whether ideas, technology, initiatives, and people, to bear on any customer problem anywhere’.1 Similarly, UBS is re-establishing itself as an integrated global financial powerhouse with the vision ‘One Firm, One Brand, and One Future’, rather than a conglomerate of multiple brand identities.2 More recently, Microsoft executives have also begun a radical transformation through its ‘One Microsoft’ strategy to bring a more coherent and holistic experience across its product lines for its users and developers.3

However, such ambitious EI attempts are fraught with challenges. Our study of EI initiatives (see research methodology over page) reveals that successful enterprise integration requires simultaneous attention to tackle the challenges in systems, operational, and strategic integration. Systems integration provides a consistent, consolidated, and scalable IT infrastructural platform enterprise-wide. Operational integration enables the design of end-to-end process flows along the enterprise value chains. Strategic integration forges cohesion across the disparate business strategies towards greater enterprise synergies.

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