How are emerging trends in information technology being tracked

IT integration in times of digitization - (not) old hat?


Due to the increasing networking and the increase in the hardware and software used, the complexity of the corporate architecture of companies has increased steadily over the years. The emergence of user-friendly information technology (IT) solutions also enables departments to use IT innovatively. This increases the heterogeneity and thus again the complexity of the corporate architecture. In addition, this use of IT is a major driving force behind digitization in companies. This raises the question of whether companies still see a relevance in the reduction of complexity through IT integration or whether this is already the case against the background of digitization old hat is. Expert interviews and a qualitative data analysis show that IT integration and digitization are not disjoint phenomena, but rather influence one another. The results emphasize how differently the term can be understood and that uniform usage is therefore essential. In addition, they show that digitization is a driver of IT integration on the one hand, but also changes the possibilities for implementation on the other. The integration decision is complex due to the multitude of advantages and disadvantages. Department IT is rarely an explicit goal of IT integration projects. The article shows the need for scientific research in new technological possibilities for IT integration and in the balance between flexibility and IT integration in the corporate architecture. He highlights that a common language is the basis for IT integration projects and that a culture in which departments actively participate in IT integration decisions should be the goal of every company. Overall, the analyzes show that IT integration will go on for a long time not old hatbut, on the contrary, is brand new.


The complexity of enterprise architectures of companies has increased in the last years, due to the usage of more hard, and software and their growing interconnectedness. The rising of user-friendly information technology (IT) enables business departments to use IT in an innovative way. This increases the heterogeneity of enterprise architectures and fuels the transformation that digitalization demands of organizations. Here, the question is raised, if organizations see any value in reducing the complexity using IT integration or if this is old news considering digitalization. Expert interviews and a qualitative data analysis show that IT integration and digitalization are no disjoint phenomena but are rather mutually dependent. The results show how different the experts interpret the term and that uniform use is therefore essential. Digitalization is on the one hand driver of IT integration, but on the other hand it also changes its implementation. The integration decision is complex due to various advantages and disadvantages. Business-managed IT is only rarely the target of IT integration projects. This paper contributes to the scientific discussion by showing that new implementation techniques as well as balancing the benefits and drawbacks of an IT integration should be the target of future research. Additionally, a mutual language is the foundation for IT integration projects and a culture, where business units are part of IT integration decisions should be the goal of every company. Overall, the analyzes show that IT integration is not old news but, in contrary, ahot topic.


Hardly any other topic is currently as present in public discourse as digitization. Digitization in the original sense, i.e. the conversion of analog signals into digital ones, has been a central term since the appearance of the first computer (Legner et al. 2017). In the current debate, however, the focus is primarily on currently discussed approaches, such as artificial intelligence, and its value for the economy and society (BDA and BDI 2019). This is not a purely technical discussion, but a socio-technical one. This means that not only the technology selection and implementation may be considered. Rather, a second important dimension is people and the effects of technology on their everyday lives and the way they work. Various industry associations are also discussing how the changes resulting from current digitization will affect companies and their branches of business (BDA and BDI 2019). The processes that are to be implemented and used in a business context by emerging technologies due to digitization are referred to as digital transformation.Footnote 1 Companies have to deal with the effects on their structures, business strategies and models as well as corporate architecture (Legner et al. 2017). An enterprise architecture describes the information technology (IT) elements such as applications, data, infrastructure and their interconnections. It also builds a bridge to the business elements and is an essential tool for implementing the business strategy (Keller 2017). Corporate architectures are subject to both internal company decisions and external developments, such as the emergence of user-friendly IT solutions. These make it more and more easier for the specialist departments to design the corporate architecture by procuring IT, using it innovatively and thus promoting digitization (Kopper et al. 2018). However, this prevents the transparency of the corporate architecture and increases its complexity through redundant systems (Huber et al. 2017). IT integration, i.e. the merging of data, functions, processes, methods or programs (Mertens 2012), is a well-known and long-discussed means of reducing this redundancy. The fact that departments are driving digitization forward through independent and innovative IT use raises the question of whether the topic is currently relevant or already old hat is. Therefore, the aim of this article is to shed light on how companies are currently dealing with IT integration and the role of digitization. It is intended to show whether and how digitization acts as a driver of IT integration, what effects digitization has on the integration decision and what role the IT of the departments plays in IT integration.

In current research, IT integration is viewed as a basis for digital design fields, smart cities (Pittaway and Montazemi 2018), digital platforms (Schermuly et al. 2019) or for data-driven production (Kammler et al. 2019). According to studies, the financial sector (Schmidt et al. 2017) in particular, but also the health sector (Hufnagl et al. 2019) show a lack of integration of IT systems for digitization. The IT solutions procured by the departments themselves, so-called shadow IT, represent a further area of ​​discussion in the application-oriented science of digitization (Huber et al. 2018). The research work described here focuses on partial aspects of IT integration in the context of digitization and thus shows the connection between the two topics. In contrast to the articles mentioned, this article does not focus on individual industries or technologies, but provides a broader picture. In doing so, he derives challenges and shows the connection between IT integration and digitization in general. The following analyzes show the need for research in order to find a balance between flexibility and IT integration. In addition, new technologies are changing the way IT integration is implemented. The article describes that companies have to attach particular importance to a common language, culture and governance in order to successfully implement IT integration in the context of digitization.

The following chapter explains how the complexity of corporate architectures has increased due to internal and external influences. It describes how the requirements for the corporate architecture have changed as a result and uses a practical example to illustrate how the question of IT integration is changing. The chapter concludes with the formulation of research questions that relate to IT integration in the context of current digitization. The third chapter describes the research approach, which consists of guided interviews and qualitative coding. This is followed by the presentation of the results and the discussion of these with regard to the research questions posed. The article ends with a final conclusion, recommendations and outlook.

Corporate architecture in transition

Since the first use of IT in companies, the corporate architecture has changed steadily (Laudon et al. 2010): In the middle of the 20th century it still consisted of individual mainframes and later of decentralized minicomputers. In the 1970s, the first personal computers (PC) spread to businesses through word and data processing programs. At the end of the 1990s, corporate architectures opened up to the outside world through the Internet. Companies could now network not only with selected partners, but also with various customers and suppliers through web standards and electronic data interchange. In addition, the internal company architectures have also become more complex. Nowadays employees use PCs for complex systems, for example in a client-server architecture. They also often work with mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. But not only is the number and complexity of hardware elements increasing, but also that of software. IT solutions are becoming more and more user-friendly. The so-called Consumerization makes it easier for employees to recognize the value of IT for their work and to use it (Niehaves et al. 2013). As a result, departments procure IT themselves and in this way help to shape the corporate architecture through the use of shadow IT (Haag and Eckhardt 2017). The management of corporate architecture deals with the corporate architecture as a whole; it maintains an overview of the applications used, their interfaces and the underlying IT infrastructure across the entire company. It collects the actual architecture, plans on the basis of established standards and principles how the target architecture should look and initiates projects to achieve this. Departments often do not have an overview of the actual and target architecture as defined and planned by the central office. Therefore, the IT that they have procured or developed themselves often does not fit into the current or planned company architecture, which leads to redundancies and inconsistencies (Huber et al. 2017).

While corporate architectures are becoming more and more complex, the requirements placed on them have also changed. The discussion about digitization reflects this change. On the one hand, innovation should be promoted through the value-adding use of new technologies in companies (Legner et al. 2017). As a result, this means freedom in the choice of IT systems and the design of processes. Only with this freedom can employees use and evaluate new technologies of their own choosing and change processes independently. However, this leads directly to increasing heterogeneity and complexity in the corporate architecture (Huber et al. 2017). On the other hand, other goals of digitization require a high degree of automation and thus a high degree of homogeneity and IT integration. For example, a goal can be a strong focus on the customer so that he can interact with the company on different channels (Bender and Gronau 2017). Since this interaction should be as error-free and as fast as possible, the various channels must have automated access to customer and other relevant data. Another goal can be the development towards a data-driven business model that no longer focuses on physical products, but rather on data and services based on them. For this purpose, data must be collected from various internal IT systems, but also from external sources or products that have already been delivered (Pflaum and Schulz 2018). The analysis of this data is the prerequisite for offering data-driven services. This goal also requires a high degree of IT integration between the various IT systems.

The challenges can be concretized with a practical example: An automotive supplier with 250 employees manufactures standard and individual products in different plants. There are five different production lines in the main plant. A capacity plan must be drawn up for each of the lines. The team leaders of the lines each developed their own plans for this task. Depending on the technical ability of the teams, these are of different complexity and implemented with different technical bases. The requirements for the planning and the associated target functions are also different: In Line 1, large series are produced, here the focus is on the utilization of the machines. In line 2, smaller series are produced, whereby the goal is the utilization of the staff. However, the data that flow into the respective planning is the same. Personnel and machine data are required, which the team leaders manually enter into the respective system. This shows a redundancy of the required data, but also the basic functionality of the systems. Driven by digitization, the company is increasingly relying on automated production. The orders and machine capacities have already been automated. Therefore, the company faces several challenges. The capacity planning is manually enriched with data, which stands in the way of automated production. Furthermore, the various plans are redundant to one another. This suggests integration. Otherwise, all individual systems would have to be connected, which would increase complexity and in turn hinder automation. However, the needs of the various lines must be taken into account. A mere integration, disregarding the different goals, can mean that the team leaders can no longer control their lines optimally or even reject the new system. The company is therefore faced with the challenge of integrating the existing capacity planning on the one hand and not disregarding the requirements of the individual lines on the other.

This example shows that, on the one hand, companies have to allow a certain amount of freedom when responding to individual requirements or when they want to develop and use innovative technologies. On the other hand, they have to integrate systems with one another in a meaningful way if their goal is, for example, a data-driven business model, a high level of customer orientation, or, as in the example above, a high level of automation. An IT integration decision is therefore independent of the size of the company, but is to a large extent dependent on the goals that the company is pursuing in promoting digitization (Timm et al. 2015). The challenge of digitization in the management of the corporate architecture is, depending on these goals, to integrate the IT systems to the right degree.

In the scientific discussion, the explicit connection between IT integration and digitalization still little discussed. The combination of terms served as search terms for the scientific databases SpringerLink, the Association for Information Systems eLibrary (AISeL) and Sciencedirect. These were selected because they were the most important books, journals and conference papers in the research areas business Informatics and Information Systems in German and English-speaking countries. Searching in the title or abstract yields a small number of articles (see Tab. 1). The found articles often deal with a specific industry, for example the health sector (Houta et al. 2018; Hufnagl et al. 2019) or the financial sector (Schmidt et al. 2017, 2016; Weinrich et al. 2016). The lack of integration is an obstacle to digitization here. In the context of “smart”, data integration is an important basis. Case studies are described in the areas of smart cities (An et al. 2018; Pittaway and Montazemi 2018), smart hotels (Lai and Hung 2017) or smart services in production (Dreyer et al. 2017; Kammler et al. 2019). Other topics covered are shadow IT (Huber et al. 2018), supply chain integration (Korpela et al. 2017) or digital platforms (Bender and Gronau 2017; Pittaway and Montazemi 2018; Schermuly et al. 2019). The publications found only deal with individual subject areas or industries. The question therefore arises whether the topic is still relevant in practice or whether the benefits of using IT independently outweighs the resulting heterogeneity. The answers to the following research questions (FF) will help to make the investigation purposeful.

First, the literature shows that the understanding of the term IT integration varies (Chowanetz et al. 2012). Therefore, the first question aims at understanding the term:


How is the term IT integration understood in companies?

Second, this article aims to identify drivers of IT integration. This also raises the question of whether digitization plays a role as a driving factor.


Which factors are driving IT integration now and in the future?

Companies must consider the pros and cons when deciding on IT integration. The third question is used to find out which factors companies consider here. Another goal is to explain how digitization affects the factors.


What advantages and disadvantages do companies see in IT integration?

In addition to weighing the pros and cons, companies must actually make the decision. The following question should also shed light on whether and to what extent digitization has an impact on this weighing up:


What methods exist for deciding on IT integration?

Finally, the increasing number of IT in the departments, driven by user-friendly IT, is a current challenge. The fifth question therefore serves to find out more about how companies deal with it:


What role does the IT of the departments play in IT integration?

Research approach

The above research questions are based on the current state of practice on IT integration. Therefore, the expert interview was a good way to answer them. This asks for specialist knowledge that the experts have acquired from their professional activity and can therefore pass on representative of their professional group. Since the questions are asked openly and have an exploratory character, guided interviews were suitable for the survey and a qualitative methodology for the evaluation (Meuser and Nagel 2009).

The criteria for selecting the interview partners were initially that they either worked in the IT department of a company, for an IT service provider or as a scientist in the field of (business) IT. As part of this activity, they should deal with integration issues or have dealt with them in the past. The professional experience in this area had to be more than five years. In addition, the aim was to select different industries and company sizes in order to get the broadest possible picture. In addition, the interview partners represent different perspectives on the topic. On the one hand, the respondents were managing directors of software integrators who provide an external view of the integration of certain systems in the company. On the other hand, the experts were in-house people who deal with IT integration, such as CIOs, but also CFOs, who are responsible for IT integration. Finally, the interview partners were stakeholders from the field of corporate architecture with their point of view from the consideration of the IT landscape. A total of nine experts asked agreed (Tab. 2). Eight surveys were carried out by telephone and one in person. The interviews lasted between 45 and 60 minutes. The research questions posed above were answered using twelve interview questions (Tab. 3)Footnote 2.

The data analysis includes a manual transcription of the interviews and the import into the MAXQDA toolFootnote 3. This supports a qualitative coding (Corbin and Strauss 2014) and allows to assign codes to the data in several iterations. The interview questions served as a rough frame of reference and thus as codes that were already established at the beginning. The remaining codes were developed through open iterative coding. These and the selection of the codes were carried out in several iterations by a researcher. This continued until the final codes were set. These codes were then reviewed and further adapted by the other researchers.

IT integration as a current and future challenge

The following sections present the results of the analysis just described. Starting with the term IT integration, the drivers of integration now and in the future will follow. The third section presents the described advantages and disadvantages of IT integration. This is followed by the integration decision and, as the fifth, the results of the questions about departmental IT. The last section discusses the explained results with regard to the five research questions posed.

The concept of IT integration

Some of the interviewees referred to the term integration in relation to IT as diverse and pointed out that different perspectives exist. Nonetheless, the interviewees agreed that IT integration represents a merger and thus creates an exchange. PFEA: "Integration means bringing the different parts together in a suitable way and interacting with one another." Otherwise, the interviewees mentioned different aspects of IT integration. One dimension was the range. Accordingly, companies could either integrate across processes, across the IT landscape or across organizational boundaries. Another dimension is the direction of IT integration, which is vertical or horizontal and can be either asynchronous or synchronous. One interviewee also mentioned enterprise application integration as a method and the technologies enterprise service bus, web services and interfaces. Most of the experts described that integration could take place on different levels. The participants paid particular attention to the integration of processes, but also of data and systems.

Driver and importance of IT integration today and in the future

The interview questions about the drivers of IT integration related on the one hand to current and future drivers, and on the other hand to the importance of the topic now and in the future.

Four of the respondents explicitly named digitization as the current driver. Furthermore, strategic initiatives are currently the reason for IT integration projects. Further factors are the reduction of costs, risk or complexity by eliminating unwanted redundancies. Furthermore, new business models generally led to an increasing need for integration. The experts described that new technologies are crucial for an increasing need for IT integration. They explicitly named trends such as Industry 4.0, cyber-physical systems as the basis for the so-called fourth industrial revolution, and Internet of Things (IoT), i.e. the networking of objects with the help of the Internet, with the aim of enabling them to communicate and make independent decisions, for example meet in the production process (Steinhoff 2016). One interviewee addressed the merging between IT and operational technology (OT), i.e. the hardware and software for direct monitoring and control of the performance of industrial plants or processes (Gartner 2020). ITAR: “With new digitization approaches, trends such as the Internet of Things, the two worlds are growing closer and closer together. One speaks of an IT-OT conversion effect. More integration will be needed here.“Most experts said that digitization will continue to play a major role as a driver in the future. CFO2: "Digitization drives everyone into the systems. ”One participant described how changing technologies such as artificial intelligence could change IT integration. ITAR: “I think that a topic like Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning will not only become relevant from the end user perspective in the next few years. The invisible components, such as middleware, will also benefit from it. "

All survey participants currently attach great importance to the topic. For the future too, almost everyone agreed that the topic would have the same or even greater importance. CIO2: “The trend is increasing. We move in a world that is becoming increasingly digitized. That is why we are talking very intensively about digitizing more and more processes. But what is much more important than digitization itself is the upstream process optimization. I think the topic is becoming increasingly important. Anyone who has not yet understood this may perhaps no longer exist on the market in a few years. "

Advantages and disadvantages of IT integration

To structure the advantages and disadvantages of IT integration, the following subdivision is made into the levels of corporate strategy, corporate architecture, processes, systems and users (Tab. 4).

At the strategic level, most of the respondents cited the benefit of reducing costs through automation. Above all, this lies in avoiding double entries or human intervention. Another advantage is the control over the current, but also the future situation. CFO1: “In the aftermath of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activities, it is important to take control. That means, looking backwards, you have to know what happened. In the next step you have to take control. Here you have to look ahead to learn how to control processes in the company. " Integration also helps to comply with legal regulations. On the other hand, there are the costs that arise from IT integration. These are made up of the changes that companies have to make to the systems and the expected running costs that subsequently arise from the operation of the integrated systems.

One advantage of IT integration at the corporate architecture level is the uniformity of processes and data and the reduction in complexity. Companies achieve this by eliminating unwanted redundancies and standardization. In addition, IT integration creates transparency by making data visible beyond applications. ITAR also mentioned the advantage of reusability, which is achieved through modularity and the flexibility of individual elements of the corporate architecture that it creates. On the other hand, companies can lose a certain flexibility and thus speed through IT integration. One interviewee mentioned the example of microservices. PFEA: "With modern architectures such as microservices, companies consciously accept redundancies and non-integration in order to create autonomous units that can function for themselves". In addition, the company is losing autonomy in the design of the architectural landscape due to IT integration.

Integration has advantages for the efficiency of processes, such as streamlining and automation. In addition, process quality and collaboration would be improved. The respondents named the risk as a disadvantage, because different areas of the company are deliberately separated from one another. ENAR: “Using middleware to couple areas that have different risk assessments is not sensible. One should separate here. " Furthermore, with integration there is also the risk that errors in data entry are passed on in highly integrated systems.

The advantages for the systems result from the avoidance of system breaks and the replacement of unsuitable systems. The system quality also increases because the availability, the speed and the reliability of the systems improve. Integration reduces risks by eliminating specialist knowledge and the fact that more users can operate a system. CFO1: "With a system change, the number of people who are familiar with the system increases." A disadvantage at the system level is the dependence on a single integrated system.

For the user, IT integration can mean less traceability. This suffers from a highly integrated system because it is like a Black box act. Transparency is increased, which can also be a problem for the user. In addition, an individuality is lost. CIO2: "In the case of applications that are very individually tailored to a specialist area, this individuality is usually lost to a certain extent through IT integration. "

Methods for deciding on IT integration

The integration decision is an individual decision for companies. Most of the respondents stated that they created a business case that weighed out the advantages and disadvantages. In addition, however, it is important to consider the decision itself and the way in which the assessment is carried out.

The integration decision is made systematically, especially by the interlocutors from the area of ​​corporate architecture and the system integrators, in other cases more pragmatic. Furthermore, there were two approaches. One group stated that they make the integration decision based on the system. They described that what was included in the functional scope or core competence would be integrated. ERPI: “That results from the ERP system. The scope of services of the system belongs in an ERP system. " The similarity and redundancy to existing systems played a role here. In contrast to the first group, the two CIOs emphasized the processes. CIO2: “Our job is to provide the best possible support for business processes through intelligent solutions. Therefore, the process must be at the center of the decision. "

In order to carry out the assessment, the participants indicated the possibilities of sending out a questionnaire or holding workshops. The systems to be integrated are identified either through a systematic search or active notification by those responsible. Those involved in the decision are the management level, i.e. IT management and managers. But also operational employees such as developers or process owners. Half of the experts said that specialist departments were actively involved in the decision. Problems with the evaluation arise mainly from the question of who is doing the evaluation. PFEA: “If you rate it yourself, you make yourself vulnerable. If you are getting the assessment, you need to be very careful about how you define the criteria. You have to provide a very clear evaluation grid so that there is no room for interpretation. " In addition, the interviewees named aspects of power that played a role.

Integration of the IT of the departments

This section deals with when the question of integrating IT from the specialist area arises and which specific challenges must be taken into account when integrating it.

The question of the integration of IT of the departments arises with the majority of the interviewees in the course of other projects. This happens either during the preliminary analysis or during the project itself. “I can't have shadow IT on my radar at the beginning of a project. This means that this must be identified in the further course of the project. " One expert described that the departments would come to him with the requirement for the systems to be integrated. CFO2: “In the beginning it was important to meet people and make them understand the need. We are now ready for people to see for themselves what is necessary. "

The interviewees saw challenges in integrating shadow IT. When asked about responsibilities, the question arises as to whether the systems should be the responsibility of the IT department or the specialist area. In addition, there is a difficulty in missing or unclear contact persons. Another challenge is culture. CIO2 also mentioned the balance between individuality and standardization and the resistance in the departments. Shadow IT could endanger the project goal of integration projects. Many experts also said that it is often not possible to map shadow IT in the IT landscape. When making the integration decision itself, half of the respondents saw differences to the systems of the IT department. It is more difficult to calculate the benefits and the quality of the systems is lower, as MESI describes: “If a solution is shadow IT, then it is more of a candidate for replacement. There is no sensible support, there are no sensible structures, it is not integrated into the IT infrastructure. "

Half of the respondents said that IT in the departments should be included indirectly or specifically in integration projects. Differences to systems of the IT department could be seen. Two experts mentioned that the measure must not be lost and that not everything can be eliminated. An important point mentioned by half of the participants is the role of culture. With shadow IT in particular, management should rely on collaboration and openness. CFO2: “You have to trust your employees, listen to them, but also seek understanding if there is no money to invest for a while. You can achieve a lot with it. " Important differences to the integration criteria mentioned above are the maintenance of flexibility. There needs to be a balance between freedom and a certain amount of guidelines. PFEA: "I allow the specialist side a certain amount of freedom, but also negotiate red lines with them and make them offers so that they can stay within the red lines without much effort."

discussion of the results

This section summarizes the previous aspects. Table 5 shows the results in an overview.

The statements mentioned in the last sections answer the first research question: "How is the term IT integration understood in companies?" They show that integration is primarily to be understood as creating a connection and ensuring an exchange. However, there are differences in the integration objects. The interviewees most frequently named data, functions or processes as the goal of an IT integration. These objects coincide with existing schemes from the literature, with additional methods and programs appearing here (Mertens 2012).The diverse understanding of the integration object indicates the different stakeholders on which an IT integration affects. In integration projects, the departments are important at the organizational level. For projects at a technical level, their involvement may be less relevant. An analysis of the stakeholders and corresponding participation are therefore necessary, as research on digitization projects shows (Schmidt et al. 2017). As a basis, companies have to create a common language. This is accompanied by a clear definition and uniform use of the term IT integration as the technical and / or organizational merging of data, functions, processes, methods, programs or a combination of these to create an exchange. Companies must specify, communicate and consistently use the definition to suit the respective application.

The second question was "Which factors are driving IT integration now and in the future?" The answer from the survey participants' input shows that the drivers are described as being company-specific. Nevertheless, there are some often mentioned factors, such as the reduction of costs, complexity or risk. The generality of these factors suggests that the topic will remain relevant in the future. Digitization plays a major role both now and in the future, because a lack of IT integration is an obstacle to digitization in companies, especially in the health (Hufnagl et al. 2019) and banking sectors (Schmidt et al. 2016). IT integration is the basis for developing new business models, for example, as is currently described in research (Bender and Gronau 2017). In the same way, however, new technologies are also changing the way in which companies can implement IT integration better and more automatically.

To answer the question "What advantages and disadvantages do companies see in IT integration?" it can be said that the experts described a large number of advantages as disadvantages, although they named significantly more advantages. The advantages and disadvantages affect all areas of the company. An overarching factor is the cost. These consist of the one-time and the running costs, as also mentioned in the IT integration literature (Khoumbati et al. 2006). However, successful IT integration leads to a reduction in costs in the long term, for example through greater automation and efficiency in processes and systems. The aforementioned factor of flexibility is a double-edged matter. On the one hand, IT integration can lead to gains. On the other hand, it can also hinder flexibility in the IT landscape, which counteracts the goals of digitization initiatives (Fürstenau and Glaschke 2015). The quality and availability of systems can increase through integration, but the loss of individuality can lead to emotional resistance among users. Here it is important to choose a suitable technology and counter fears with change management (Schmidt et al. 2016).

The answers to the fourth question, "What methods exist for deciding on IT integration? " show that the classic weighing of costs and benefits is also a method of choice for IT integration. The multitude of the aforementioned advantages and disadvantages show that this is a complex undertaking (Huber et al. 2018). Companies have to know all the factors, measure them and weigh them against each other. Often there is not enough time to do this systematically, so companies take a pragmatic approach. This harbors the risk of forgetting important factors and thus interests, which in turn can reduce acceptance. Due to the increasing number of elements in the corporate architecture and the growing heterogeneity, digitization will increase the complexity of such an undertaking (Huber et al. 2017). It is therefore important to choose experienced project managers who ensure that the current situation is adequately analyzed, that the right decisions are made based on this and that the right stakeholders are involved.

The results answer the fifth research question: "What role does the IT of the departments play in IT integration?" Firstly, IT of the departments is viewed as a by-product in integration projects, otherwise it is rarely searched for systematically. This could be due to a lack of awareness of the risks and process significance of shadow IT in companies (Fürstenau et al. 2016). Second, it becomes clear that the problem in particular often lies in governance. Companies could regulate this by identifying and evaluating the systems (Zimmermann et al. 2017). Thirdly, the analyzes show that companies are aware of the importance of culture. The right culture is an important key element within the scope of a desired digitization (Eden et al. 2019). An open-minded culture in which employees themselves encourage integration systems should be the goal of every company. Fourth, it is important that companies consider the time it takes to integrate shadow IT. A preselection based on criteria such as risk, size or the clustering of different systems is helpful to reduce the effort.

The example introduced at the beginning of the medium-sized automotive supplier with the heterogeneous specialist IT landscape can now be viewed from the perspective just described. It is important to clearly identify the integration project both when analyzing the decision and later when carrying out the project. It must be clearly communicated in the analysis that a uniform solution for capacity planning is to be found, which integrates the personnel and machine data and includes them in the planning. The example describes that there are several redundant systems with the same or a similar functionality. Thus, one driver is the reduction of this unwanted complexity. However, this complexity had existed for a long time. However, digitization and the resulting desire for automated production is only the concrete trigger for the search for an integrated solution. This shows the great relevance of digitization as a driver of integration projects.

When looking for a solution, the company must consider the advantages and disadvantages of integrating the systems. Advantages would be, for example, the cost reduction that results from the automated planning and the saved resources of the team leaders. In addition, the complexity in the architecture is reduced by eliminating the different systems and there is company-wide transparency about planning. The maintainability of the systems increases because there are not several individually developed systems, but a standardized one. The elimination of manual data entry increases the efficiency of the processes. Disadvantages would be, for example, the costs that would arise from software implementation and connection or individual development, as well as the ongoing operating costs of the system for the IT department. In addition, the autonomy in planning the individual lines is reduced. The individual users could feel a loss of individuality. The comprehensibility of the calculations could decrease, which could lead to resistance to the system. Although the goal of automated production suggests the integration of the systems, the company should still keep an eye on the advantages and disadvantages mentioned and take them into account when selecting the technology as part of the further procedure. A survey of the users of the current system and an analysis of the functionalities of the individual individual solutions are necessary. Building on this, it is important to select a suitable system that meets the needs of production as well as possible and also keeps an eye on the requirements for connecting the new system. The project should involve team leaders and dispatchers from the start to ensure that the implementation and use of the new system run smoothly.

Conclusion, recommendations and outlook

This article highlighted the role of IT integration in times of digitization in companies. The results show that digitization plays a major role as a driver of IT integration and will continue to do so in the future. The growing number of elements of a corporate architecture and thus the increased number of participants represents a major challenge. Companies have to include the various stakeholders in IT integration projects and communication measures in a target-group-oriented manner. The results also show that flexibility is an important factor for IT integration. This is reduced by IT integration, which, however, serves to increase standardization and homogeneity. In addition, flexibility is particularly important when it comes to reacting quickly to changes in the market. Companies need to find the right level of flexibility with the help of technology decisions. Furthermore, the culture in companies is a particularly important factor. IT of the departments is to be included in IT integration projects. The culture should be used for this so that departments themselves report possible integration candidates and there is close cooperation with the IT department.

The findings contribute to the scientific discussion, as the topic of IT integration is currently of great importance and this will continue to increase in the coming years. It is therefore important to deal with the influence of digitization on IT integration. Research on the management of corporate architectures should investigate the balance between standardization and individuality. However, the relationship between these also works in reverse. New company topics such as artificial intelligence are also transforming integration technologies, which should also be considered in research.

For readers from practice, relevant insights lie in the importance of the factors that are described as soft and in the creation of a common language to communicate with the right stakeholders and to create an open culture. IT departments should talk to specialist departments regularly about integration potential. Departments must be able to approach IT departments and report integration candidates to them. For this, it is necessary to raise awareness of which systems are worth integrating. You should also establish a governance that clearly regulates the responsibility for the systems of the departments. This article shows that IT integration represents a current and future challenge in companies and will therefore continue for a long time not old hat is.


  1. 1.

    In common parlance, the terms digital transformation and digitalization Often used synonymously for change in companies (Legner et al. 2017). In this post, therefore, the word digitalization used.

  2. 2.

    The experts received no payment for their interview.

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