Integrators tackle interoperability

Ensuring that IT systems work together is important, but there is no one way for contractors to approach the job.

Information interoperability is an emerging area of interest to federal agencies. Systems integrators, in turn, are angling to use the trend to develop business, particularly in government market segments such as health care and defense.

The integration of data “in a way that is intelligible to stakeholders…is very critical and the next wave of opportunities,” said William Matlack, director of BearingPoint’s Solutions Architecture Group.

Integrators take different approaches to information interoperability. At BearingPoint, several practice areas pertain to this field. Those groups support account management teams in BearingPoint’s Public Services solutions group.

Computer Sciences Corp., meanwhile, treats interoperability as a central element of its Global Health Solutions unit.

“All the work we are doing is around capturing, managing and integrating health care data into the core processes of the health care delivery model,” said Dan Garrett, managing partner of CSC’s Global Health Solutions. “The entire business unit has to be competent in this space.”

At least one company has launched an information interoperability specialty area. IBM’s interoperability practice focuses on the electronic interchange of medical information and spans the commercial and public sectors, said Tom Romeo Jr., director of IBM’s Federal Health and Human Services operation. The practice supports the company’s work on the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Health Information Network.

“It does look like the market is building momentum for the electronic interchange of information,” Romeo said.

Health care has become a prime source of information interoperability work, integrators report. But they said the Defense and Justice departments and state and local governments are also areas of opportunity.

Bill Conroy, president and chief executive officer of Initiate Systems, said more integrators will develop separate information interoperability practices. Initiate makes data-integration products.

Integrators that focus on information interoperability offer a progression of services. Integrtors usually start a project with a discovery phase in which they inventory a customer’s data. This process involves identifying quality problems, such as redundant data. It may also include identifying critical feeder systems that provide data, Matlack said.

Integrators may also recommend best practices for maintaining clean and accurate data, Conroy said.

Another step involves working with customers to determine the information needs of data consumers within an organization and to provide the necessary data views.

“The next big deal for the systems integrators is around interoperability,” Conroy said. “I think every systems integrator will have a practice dedicated to interoperability in a couple of years.”

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