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Integration Architects: The Bridge to Peak Technological Solutions One critical and often overlooked member of the core project team is the integration architect, who defines and translates key information across technology applications. Yet many organizations do not explicitly define these positions. In an exclusive to PharmaVOICE, Jon D. Chick, director of business solutions at Concord Innovations, a provider of pharmaceutical sales and marketing information consulting services, discusses the role the integration architect plays in bridging a company’s technology solutions in support of sales and marketing efforts. The Best Bridges provide timely and accurate information, along with easily maintained and centralized business rules. Their framework will enable new bridges to be built to other technologies in the future. “Let’s face reality; targeted prescribers are becoming less and less available to participate in key information exchanges with pharmaceutical sales representatives,” says Jon D. Chick, director of business solutions at Concord Innovations. “As a result, there is increasing pressure placed on the representative to prepare and deliver a clear, concise, and customized message to each prescriber.” To properly support those in the field, pharmaceutical sales executives are increasing their demands for timely, accurate, actionable, and portable field technology as a way to remain competitive in the industry. These demands typically evolve into information technology (IT) development projects. “Today’s IT departments are faced with overwhelming pressure and difficulties of their own, primarily because of constricted project resources, budgets, and delivery timeframes,” Mr. Chick says. “There are many contributing causes for a failed development project, one of which is the poor identification and selection of the core project team. One critical and often overlooked member of this team is the integration architect. The integration architect constructs the bridge to a company’s next technological solution.” Mr. Chick says there is a vast shortage of competent integration architects who define and translate key information across technology applications. Yet he says many organizations do not explicitly define these positions. “Integration architects are not hired consultants, and they are not managers,” he says. “The true expertise that these individuals provide for the required project development can only be obtained through years of experience while participating in the development and maintenance of applications within the company home office.” Integrating the Knowledge base Integration architects offer insights and system architectural expertise to ensure that all technology applications present sales and related information with consistent metrics and business rules. According to Mr. Chick, examples include a uniform representation of customer bases, organizational alignments, product and market definitions, and calculated measures. “An enormous number of complex, proprietary business rules are buried deep inside existing home-office applications,” he says. “These business rules need to be continually synthesized and communicated for any new technology to be developed and implemented with meaningful information. The fact remains that without timely and accurate sales information, peak technologies are useless to their intended user community.” Integration architects ensure that applications are being built so that enhancements to metrics and business rules can be modified inexpensively and downstream applications can automatically benefit from changes made upstream. Without competent integration architects in an organization, development projects tend to uncover expensive system design issues during the final phases. Poorly developed architect efforts come with a late realization that the project at hand impacts other key applications and processes in ways that were overlooked and oversimplified during the design phase. The longer a project takes to uncover previously unforeseen impacts, the bigger the exponential increase in time and cost to resolve the issue. Managing Integration Architects Organizations risk the development of projects because of the way integration architects’ roles and responsibilities are defined and managed. The job satisfaction of integration architects is typically low because of high stress and poor organizational recognition. “Because of the nature of their job, which often consists of simultaneous ad hoc support of several high-profile projects, integration architects are being stretched thin,” he says. “They may feel like they are helping a series of projects and applications in small ways but none of these projects completely. This is potentially dangerous to an organization, as full attention needs to be paid to all projects, big or small. “In addition, organizational career paths typically do not properly nurture the development of the integration architect, as many organizations force these up-and-comers to quickly join the ranks of management as their only means of career advancement. But many of these people never aspire to be a manager. Many prefer to spend the majority of their time each day in problem-solving settings, minimizing the time spent in meetings and preparing formal documentation.” According to Mr. Chick, for project organizations to thrive, integration architects must continue to be developed, motivated, and compensated attractively. “Otherwise, these people will be the first to leave a company, looking for greener pastures as the economy improves,” he says. “Consider the mass turnover of key employees during the mid-1990s as a point of reference.” Grooming the Next generation “Every development organization needs to invest in a select set of loyal, passionate, high-performing individuals as candidates to become its next generation of integration architects,” Mr. Chick says. “These are people who can speak to and understand an intense level of detail when corresponding with IT developers, but also are able to translate this into a language required by management.” According to Mr. Chick, organizations must create a plan to expose these people to a variety of related applications, business rules, and the reasons why they exist. They will need to witness and participate in home-office applications at their lowest levels of detail. Organizational leaders must continually let integration architects know of their overall importance to the entire organization. Most pharmaceutical companies and related outsourcing firms claim they build adequate bridges to peak technologies. But many of these bridges are inefficient and costly to support because of the use of nonstandard, decentralized business rules and metrics that are represented inconsistently across applications. “The best bridges are designed by competent integration architects,” Mr. Chick says. “They provide timely and accurate information, along with easily maintained and centralized business rules. When built correctly, the bridge’s framework enables new, cost-effective bridges to be constructed to other applications and technologies in the future. Companies need to take some time to review the status of the integration architect’s role in their organization.” November 2003 PharmaVoice welcomes comments about this article. E-mail us at email@example.com.