Commerce One Conductor Takes on Integration


InfoWorld Logo Business processes typically cut across system boundaries and require the interoperability and choreography of multiple systems. Yet, most enterprise-level support systems focus instead on one task without thinking about working with other systems. Web services promise to solve the problems of integrating these enterprise systems and most vendors already support basic Web services protocols -- but the real problem is that tricky integration process. There are basically three choices to integrate systems with Web services: (1) write a custom application in Java or some other programming language that interfaces with enterprise systems and creates the integrated functionality; (2) buy message buses, integration brokers, business process modeling tools, and other middleware and configure them to provide the functionality; or (3) buy an all-in-one integration suite such as Conductor from Commerce One.

What business really wants from IT is automation of the processes that make the business go. For example in most businesses, the most important thing that happens is the transformation of an order into cash. Just how this is done in a given business is called the order-to-cash process. But in spite of its importance, the order-to-cash process and other crucial business processes get only spotty support from IT. Ironically, its the very ERP and CRM systems that CIO's installed in the 90's that require so much integration now. We often think of "legacy" systems as being ancient mainframe applications, but often its newer systems as well.

Be sure to check out the How I Tested sidebar on this one since there's actually some meat there about the extended example CommerceOne provides. In summary, it needs quite a bit of work.

One interesting conversation I had about this product occurred while it was in editing. In respect to this passage:

Also, an important caveat to keep in mind: Tools like Conductor are not simple to use. This is not a slam on Conductor -- it's simply a recognition that automating business processes by integrating multiple legacy systems is a complex process.

She asked: "If this is so complex, why would people want to use it?" That's a fair question for a word processing program, I suppose, but when it comes to enterprise-class software, its usually very complex stuff. The analogy I used was flying a plane. Flying a plane isn't easy but planes enable us to travel halfway around the globe in a day instead of weeks, so we put up with the complexity.

That said, enterprise-class software could be improved a great deal in its usability. We've sacrificed simplicity for interoperability and now we're going to have to fight our way back.