An effort to link the member databases of the AICPA (which uses an Oracle system) with those of 50 state societies has stalled because of integration problems. About half of the state societies use the Custom Data Systems' Association Management 4 membership package. What technology approach would you have used to accomplish this goal? What is the primary objective of this project? If it is to provide a single location to look up information about all of the CPAs in the United States, then they should have built a data warehouse as opposed to trying to connect so many disparate systems. Each individual membership system remains responsible for the data such as additions and updates. Each membership system feeds the data warehouse on a scheduled basis.
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Elmwood Park, N.J.
We would choose a standard platform for all state sites to switch to. We would have then built a single service that would upload the data in an XML format securely from the states to the AICPA. The AICPA would host a service responsible for "pumping" the data into Oracle. The other choice would be to choose two or more different existing systems we would support then construct a service that would upload the data from each of those systems to the AICPA in an XML format securely. The AICPA would host a service responsible for "pumping" the data into Oracle. Either way, they have wasted significant money for no reason. They should easily have performed this integration for much less than $2 million dollars.
Shelby McCurnin, CPA
I think that the leadership of the AICPA should actually type each name into the new database. That way, the membership might actually get some benefit out of these people.
Balaban & Schmidt
Daytona Beach, Fla.
Over the years, I have talked to and met with hundreds of companies whose database project fell well short of the desired results, often with disastrous results. The state CPA societies should have sought out a proven solution rather than trying to create their own. The Microsoft solution called RIOS is a great example of a product that has been around for years and would have met the needs of the state societies beyond their imaginations. RIOS allows Microsoft to list all conferences and sessions within each conference.
Accounting Software Advisor
The time has long passed for the integration of these kinds of systems. There are mid-market solutions available, at a much more realistic cost, that can handle this program better than the "big guy" approach. Until the state societies and the AICPA realize that they don't need to spend tons of dollars for a solution, realistically look at what the mid-market has to offer, and understand that they can totally integrate their solutions, there will be a continuation of the we need a "big" package mindset. There are some very strong mid-market solutions available that operate across platform, across the SQL database and use standard Web browsers for dashboard business portal interfaces.
We approach projects of this nature by implementing an integration tool, such as BizTalk Server 2004, that connects business processes more closely with integration development to eliminate challenges around communication. This provides business users and developers end-to-end visibility for the integrations. Committing to an integrating technology layer also allows for greater control over data movements, mappings, and data source and destination formats. The integration technology handles transforming the data, eliminating the need for any two systems to be aware of one another. Each system only needs to produce an extract of data needed for consumption by the integration layer. The integration layer then feeds the destination source and enforces workflow validations, exception handling, and reporting.
The Rand Group
This sounds a lot like a Microsoft BizTalk solution: you have completely disparate systems that need to communicate with each other on a real-time or real-enough-time basis.
Bryan L. Wilton, CPA-CITP
InterDyn Progressive Group