I’ve said that what we do is a combination of house-building and town-planning. Town planning sounds easy, stick some houses in, join them up with a road and voila: a new town. I haven’t spoken to any good town planners but I can imagine that it’s not that simple. You have to know what makes a community work; have the big picture, map out the roads, organise the bus-stops, know where the sewage system runs and know how all these things will impact the community. A city is not an accident but the result of coherent visions and aims1
Approaching integration is much the same. You’re joining up lots of different elements; understand how those things interact and how that interaction impacts other things. You need to make sure the data gets to the right place in a timely fashion; You need to understand the business and the problems that you’re trying to solve. Integration is both separate from and part of your infrastructure, so you have to plan it accordingly; having to lay a new sewer pipe because your existing one is too narrow for the number of houses is not a nice situation to be in.
The success of your integration depends on how well you anticipate changes; both known and unknown. It needs to be flexible enough that you can change parts of it without too much disruption. This is doubly true if you are attempting to build a vertical community. It’s easy to land-grab and build bungalows; but when you need to convert those bungalows into high-rise flats, can you do that on the existing infrastructure? Creating value on top of the integration that’s been done is how the community is going to become successful. If you can’t then you haven’t done any integration.
You can choose to have integration touch all parts of your business, or just a small part; it can be both shallow and wide-ranging, narrow and in-depth or any combination inbetween. What you shouldn’t choose is how you approach integration but that’s a topic for another day.
1 Leon Krier – The Architecture of Community