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The Struggles of Vendor Integration

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Oracle owns PeopleSoft, Sieble, and countless others.  Kenexa takes Brassring and Webhire.  ADP acquires someone every year or two.  There are some obvious things these vendors need to do to integrate the acquired companies.  Bill Kutik of HREonline has a great “Cynic’s Six Steps to Application Integration.”

  1. Press Release Integration
  2. Collateral Integration
  3. Portal Integration
  4. User Interface Integration
  5. Data Integration
  6. Interoperability  ((Bill Kutik, April 9, 2007.  “A Cynic’s Six Steps to Application Integration.”  LRP Publications.  Retrieved from HREonline on April 9, 2007.))

As usual, you’ll have to go check the link to view all Bill’s comments, but as buyers of these products, we need to understand how the vendors have managed processes 3-6 while wading through the confusing mess that is often steps 1 and 2.  Let’s face it, has any of your favorite vendor’s application suite been as integrated as they said it was?  Having come from a vendor, I can tell you that it’s all in the “interpretation” of the word integration.  After all, you organization is so unique that the vendor’s standard not-real-time batch interface could never be expected to work out of the box.  But the point is that they absolutely have integration down as shown my the fact that they have an interface that doesn’t work.  See, the technologists never explained to the marketing people that the customer reality is different than the vendor reality.

But let’s say you spoke with TalentSoft prior to their acquisition by MegaSoft.  It’s entirely possible that your TalentSoft salesperson simply told you that they would maintain their independence, cutting edge development path, and innovative and responsive style to solving client issues.  This is of course a very skilled salesperson.  What you should be thinking in your head is, “are you kidding me?!?”  The thought that MegaSoft would allow TalentSoft any leeway in making operational decisions is ludicrous.  First, MegaSoft is going to take over the executive management tier of TalentSoft.  Second, they will restructure all sales operations and processes to enhance cross selling.  Third, they will try to integrate application development and customer servicing organizations.  What will be left will not be TalentSoft.

Maybe this is the way it should be.  Perhaps when you bought PeopleSoft, what you really wanted was Oracle.  But really, if in 2 years, PeopleSoft HCM really is well integrated with Oracle financials, or Brassring really will effectively share competency models with the rest of the Kenexa offering, isn’t that better?  As Bill states, “Look under the hood. Be cynical.”  ((Ibid))  Steps 1 and 2 are nice, but the real changes that steps 1 and 2 state don’t happen for quite some time.

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3 responses to “The Struggles of Vendor Integration”

  1. The Struggles of Vendor Integration Oracle owns PeopleSoft, Sieble, and countless others. Kenexa takes Brassring and Webhire. ADP acquires someone every year or two. There are some obvious things these vendors need to do to integrate the acquired companies. … [

  2. Dave Lefkow Avatar

    You’re right on about how acquisitions play out. Development is one of the first areas to get pushed together between two merging companies. You just hope that the acquiring company did enough due diligence to ensure that the applications are compatible – but unless you’re highly technical and able to get your hands on a lot of information that vendors are not often willing to share, that’s tough information to come by.

    Integration between two separate companies’ applications is even trickier, and I was a little surprised that Bill didn’t address it in his article given that there are still a lot of point solutions out there (and in many cases, a strong business rationale to use them over more integrated but less effective solutions). In my experience, it does follow a similar path, but rarely gets to level 4 or 6 (although more often hits level 5).

    Most customers are perfectly happy if some level of the interface looks similar enough to feel like they’re staying in the same application. The devil is in the details though, and not thinking through how the data might work together or migrate/upgrade can cause a lot of pain down the road – although I would still argue that in most cases, integration is less important than what a system can help you accomplish as a business.