The purpose of this blog series is to describe the top 12 steps to ensure a successful software implementation. The first five steps, Planning, Process Design, Solution Design, Configuration, and Customization were discussed in my previous blog posts.
This post is about Integration, which I describe as time spent to construct processes to move data from one system to another to meet the business requirement as determined in the Solution Design. The outcome of integrated software applications is the reduction of manual data entry of the same information into different systems. The benefits include an overall acceleration of the pace of your business along with increased accuracy and completeness.
Integration of software solutions requires a mix of skill sets. You will require software expertise in both systems, expertise in the integration software and technology, as well as an understanding of the business data. For example, if you are integrating customer information from a Customer Management system to a Financial System, you will need project resources who know each system, someone who understands the data that is needed in each system and someone with the technical skill set to set up the technical aspects of the integration. It is common for the integration requirements of a project to be handed over completely to a person who knows the integration tools. This is not recommended.
Time will need to be spent by the business users to map the data from one system to another. Documentation of the mapping and the rules around the mapping will need to be created. Rules such as when to add records vs update records, what to do if the data is legitimately deleted or cancelled in one system or the other, etc. Careful consideration needs to be made regarding how Master Records are treated as opposed to Transactional Records.
Timing of the integrations is also key. Do they need to run immediately in real time or can they be scheduled? If scheduled, what is the frequency? Once the design of the integrations is known (data size, frequency, volumes, etc.) the technology to support the integrations will need to be determined, acquired and implemented. The most important thing to remember when it comes to integration is that it is never too early to start. Integration planning and design should take place simultaneously with the overall system implementation to ensure the required data is included in the Solution Design.
What you will find when you are finished integrating the software is that it is now part of your overall business process. It is not a standalone solution that needs manual intervention to become part of your business. To have a complete solution, you will still require reports to be created. Reporting will be the next topic covered in my blog.