Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Overcome Systems Integration Challenges

By: David Schuchman
Princeton Technology Advisors, LLC
      Innovative Solutions for Your Growing Business

Difficulties with the integration of systems is a challenging obstacle organizations face when planning growth. Sometimes systems you need to integrate reside on different operating systems, use different database solutions and computer languages, and may be legacy systems that a vendor no longer supports. So how can you ensure a successful systems integration project?

Agree on business needs
Integrating different systems almost always involves addressing the needs of multiple departments. It’s crucial to build consensus among all departments as to what are the core business needs, and identify the priorities of those needs. Without clarity around the requirements and priorities, the solution can become a messy process that leads to project overrun.

Analyze and review all technical requirements
Identify the installation and integration requirements each system has to run smoothly and properly. This will include operating environment, input data and format, output data and format, reporting, error handling, and operator intervention. In addition to identifying each specific requirement, identify the differences of those between the integrating systems. Where you identify differences, create a specific plan making each point compatible and reliable.

Document everything
Embrace detail. Information that does not seem important at the beginning may prove critical further down the line. You will need to refer back to the documentation as issues and new requirements arise.

Access skills needed to perform the integration
Take stock of the skills, backgrounds and timely availability of the in-house resources already accessible to you. Then, determine the skills and availability that you need to complete your project. If there are gaps between those two reviews, consider bringing in new hire staff, external contractors or technicians from the product vendor. In addition, plan time to train or hire staff that will provide needed post implementation operational support.

Expect the unexpected
As the systems integration project progresses, people may uncover new needs or unplanned issues. Review each new need and issue against the agreed business needs and priorities before changing the project scope. Update the documentation when you agree on a scope change. Plan to separately perform the deferred new needs to post implementation.

Agreeing in advance to the goals and priorities for any systems integration project, along with proper planning, are the keys to its successful implementation and acceptance.