Packaged applications are natural stovepipes. This reality not only places them squarely within the problem domain of most B2B application-integration projects, but it also makes them the most challenging applications to integrate. You may find yourself needing to access the information in these stovepipes and needing to share the business logic locked up within them with others in your trading community.
SAP, PeopleSoft, Oracle, and Baan have come to dominate the many packaged applications on the market today because they have recognized and responded to the need to share information. This is a tremendous advantage over their competitors. However, before availing yourself of this advantage, you must remember that, over the years, hundreds of packaged applications have likely entered your enterprise. The sad reality is that many of these packaged applications no longer enjoy the support of their vendors—or, perhaps more likely, their vendors have gone out of business. Because the number of these older, packaged applications in your B2B application integration problem domain could easily number in the hundreds, you will be confronted with special challenges for B2B application integration. Most of these applications will provide some points of integration; others will not.
Packaged applications come in all shapes and sizes. Most large packaged applications that exist within the enterprise are business-critical. SAP, for example, provides modules for accounting, inventory, human resources, manufacturing, and other vital functions. PeopleSoft and Baan provide many of the same types of services and modules.
Vendors such as Lawson Software, JD Edwards, and others—some with less than a dozen installations—offer packaged applications. For example, Scopus, a call-center management application, is limited to highly selected and specialized applications. Siebel, a sales-force automation package, is designed to allow sales organizations to function more effectively.