The goal of any software integration project is to bring together separate systems so that it becomes easier to monitor company operations. As many companies start to rely on cloud-based applications to power elements of their operations, they are ending up having hybrid systems. This is a situation where some applications are hosted locally while others are cloud-based. This has further increased the importance of integrations to ensure seamless communication between such applications.
When many companies think about an integration strategy, they often confuse it with a to-do list. A list of tests to conduct and other technical tasks is not a strategy. Instead, the integration strategy ought to cover details such as the goals of the project, the inherent risks, the risk mitigation plan, and how to assess the success of the project. How, then, should companies start software integration projects?
1. Develop a Long-term Software Integration Plan
Integration is an ongoing process for any business. Therefore, your business should develop a long-term plan well and beyond the initial small wins that users will experience early on. Whereas integration has a lot of technical tasks to do, a list of business goals is likely to help you develop this long-term plan. For instance, should the integration help your company reduce the time it takes to serve clients? Should it help grow market share or cut down costs?
When drafting a proposal for an integration project, a company should not phrase it as an event. Rather, the funding should be provided as an ongoing facilitation fund, perhaps disbursed on a monthly basis.
2. Form a Software Integration Strategy Team
It’s important to have an integration strategy team with the right composition. Normally, an integration architect will head the team and they need to have experience in handling such projects before. The team should have representation from the various business units that will be affected by the project. The high-level roles of the strategy team will include identification of integration needs, setting goals, and picking the right tools to use. Before the start of any technical work, the integration architect will help craft a project design.
3. Consult All Concerned People
The complexity of the project matter does not matter as much as the utility provides to people. Your software integration strategy must encompass people. The project objectives should be based on a study of how people interact with the current systems. Chokepoints in their workflow should be identified and they should also be consulted on improvements they would like to see.
People should be aware of what the integration project seeks to achieve. This will create enthusiasm for change. New integrations often mean that staff might have to learn to use a new interface to complete tasks. The management should have them excited for the new technology.
4. Examine Current Integration Shortcomings
If your organization is using more than one system already to accomplish various tasks, there is some integration already even if it’s happening manually when you download files from one system and use them elsewhere. Identify your current position regarding integration and list down your shortcomings. There are certain questions that could help you find out.
First, does your company have a methodology for current integration? A methodology ensures that integration happens in a standardized way and yields the expected results. If it’s non-existent, your company is vulnerable to such things as data leaks.
Other questions to ask would be the assignment of responsibilities. Clear lines of responsibility need to be drawn to avoid assumptions and neglect of duty. Do the people tasked with carrying out technical tasks have the capacity to undertake them? If not, the company may have to invest in training to bring in people with the right qualifications and knowledge.
5. Pick the Right Technology for Software Integration
One would imagine that picking technology solutions would be the most important element of an integration strategy. No. The choice of technology should only occur once integration needs and project objectives have been set. Technology should offer the most efficient way to get there. As highlighted, utility trumps complexity. Technology chosen for integration projects should offer efficiency and security at a reasonable cost.
7. Anticipate and Plan for Challenges
Most integration projects will have an issue that will be revealed during tests before going live. It’s important to make provisions for this in terms of time allocation together with other resources. There needs to be a quality assurance plan as part of the bigger software integration strategy. Your business needs to be on the lookout for some common challenges that plague software integration projects. Here are some of them.
Underestimation of Project Complexity
A common mistake that businesses make is to fail to appreciate the complexity of software integration projects. They fail to look into important details such as the technical skills required to carry out project. They end up looking for the right talent once a project stalls. Oversimplification of a project might also lead to failure to plan timelines well, document the project, or assign clear responsibilities.
Changes to the Operating Environment
Businesses make the mistake of designing an integration project to work for a single point in time. However, an agile approach to an integration project would be more suited to cater for changes in technology. Under this approach, the business rolls out versions of the integration solution on an ongoing basis. Each update also fixes problems that may have been uncovered with previous ones.
Unwillingness to Share Information
As companies seek to implement integration between systems used by different departments within the organization, they may run into a protectionism problem. This is where some stakeholders oppose the move to grant other departments access to their data. One reason for this would be the fear of losing control. To overcome this, integration projects require the goodwill of senior management in order to get past such hurdles.
In some other cases, IT departments may be opposed to using a third party-built integration solution and insist on building one themselves. This might lead to investment in an expensive project that may never see the light of day. Contracting a third-party vendor who specializes in building such solutions is the right thing to do. They will build a custom solution faster and more efficiently.
If your business needs a software integration solution, consult Transcendent Software. We are an IT services and development company. We build and roll out software integration solutions for businesses that want a hybrid of a fully cloud-based IT infrastructure.