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I somewhat forced myself to write this weblog. Recently I have been working on MDM 5.5 and had been following the MDM forum on a regular basis. Many times I came across these questions – ‘do I need to use XI to integrate MDM or, ‘can I use our integration tool instead of the one provided?’. If I have to give a straight answer, then ‘Yes, you can’. But, the real question is – is that what they need? There are few considerations before anyone makes certain decisions around integration, especially around SAP NetWeaver™. I have taken some efforts to explain them below. These considerations are not new. They go back to one common strategy – ‘Buy verses Build’ or ‘Reuse verses Develop’.

What do I gain by using a “pre-integrated”, integration stack like SAP NetWeaver?
You or someone in your organization needs to put some emphasize on this question, analyze what SAP NetWeaver has to offer, and then come up with a cost-benefit analysis. For example, if I use XI with MDM, not only can I benefit from the integrated content that is delivered with NetWeaver, but I can also take advantage of rich features of XI like async/sync message transfers, routing, mapping, monitoring.

What do I lose by not using the pre-integrated SAP NetWeaver stack?
As you can gain from using one way, you may lose by not using that way. This seems like an easy question to answer at a high level. But really, it requires an understanding of what SAP NetWeaver has to offer to solve your needs and then doing an analysis to come up with right answers. You should always leverage or extend existing tools but it may not make sense to build new integration layer if SAP NetWeaver can offer similar out-of-box. Don’t forget that NetWeaver is based on standards and offers inter-operability with other standards-based products. The strategy is to provide the best solution with lowered total cost of ownership. But, if you plan to build or develop something that is already provided in the NetWeaver stack, then I would insist that you take a closer look at your total cost of ownership (TCO) in the long run.

Short term vs. long term objectives
Being a consultant, I understand that sometimes, IT has to respond to a specific demand from business. Sometimes, those demands leave us with very few alternatives. These requirements fall under short term objectives.

But also, IT has some long term objectives. These objectives include: delivering on business strategy, adopting new architectures like SOA, and even lowering TCO by consolidations, outsourcing, etc. SAP NetWeaver can help you to achieve both objectives. Your decision should be based on what you are comfortable to achieve short term verses what’s your ultimate, long term objective.

Do I want to make the mistake of building stove pipes and tight integration again?
We have “been there, done that” and suffered because of the complex web we all have built over the years. Think where we all are heading in terms of IT and businesses. We will be in a ‘Services Oriented World (SOW)’ in no time. Standardization is a ‘must-have’ requirement. Businesses are growing beyond the typical boundary between departments and IT. They need to talk to each other to just stay in business. It is very important that we do not make the same mistake. Adopting standards based integration platform like SAP NetWeaver will help you build bridges that connect different worlds.

Do I need to stay ahead of curve or do a catch-up game?
The answer to this question is based on answers to all the above questions. This is not only important for IT but also for a professional who wants to stay ahead of curve and reap the benefits of being there first.

All this is true for applications, as well. We all have made appropriate decisions given the times we were in. Today, we all are offered an integration stack (SAP NetWeaver) that is going to not only solve a lot of IT problems, but also enable IT to be more effective, efficient, and (of course) innovative.

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