Our Top 9 Tips for a Successful Systems Integration

Our top 9 tips for a successful systems integration – it’s never easy, but it doesn’t have to be a mess!

We have been working on integrating systems for many years now – mostly around ERP, CRM, Finance, and EAM systems. For anyone looking at integrating systems, here are a few pointers that may help:

  1. Review the systems you do have, do a full mapping of what (if anything) is currently connected, and what systems are available.
  1. Understand the communication technologies available (Web services, CSV, TXT files, etc.) within the systems you do have and/or planning to implement – the good news is that most modern software uses webservices, and if it doesn’t, then I would seriously reconsider using it at all.
  1.  discussion on whether you have internal knowledge of the systems you are integrating. Many customers integrate new systems and have to rely on external parties to know how their system is going to be setup, including what all the integration points are. The reality is that you need a partner who not only knows the product you are implementing, but also knows how to integrate within your current environment.

Check out our implementation approach!

  1. Treat the project like an implementation – use the following waterfall methodology but use an agile process where possible (more below), the process should include at least the following stages:
  • Design
  • Build
  • Training
  • Test (UAT)
  • Go-live

Integration projects must have a structure; however it is best to be agile in the approach. Designs are  conceptual and most people won’t understand the detail until you get to testing, therefore expect changes and updates so time block these to stop scope creep.

  1. Consider how the data will be transferred between the systems. Do you want constant live updates, a polled process where the transactions / data are fired across at set times, or even a manual trigger process. What drives the frequency of updates is usually reporting requirements, so consider it from that perspective.
  1. Have a look at the staff available. I would allow for 3 role types to be involved from the client side to include:
  • SME (Subject matter experts) – someone who has specific knowledge in key functions or processes
    • Provide specific details on the ‘as is’ process
    • Explain why things are done the way they are done
    • Support the generation of ideas to challenge current practice
    • Test the ‘to be’ way of working including ‘what if’ responses and reporting requirements
    • Educate, train, and test end users & provide go-live support
  • Process Leads
    • Challenge waste
    • Design and develop the ‘to be’ processes and ways of working
    • Gather and document ‘day in the life of’ scenarios
    • Test processes and ways of working – including ‘day in the life of’ and ‘what if’ scenarios
    • Determine reporting requirements
    • Document the processes and ways of working
    • Coordinate the cleansing of data for their process
    • Propose to the Board the process and way of working including refined business benefits
    • Propose job roles and responsibilities for the Board to ‘sign-off’
    • Educate, train, and test SMEs and End Users & provide go-live support
    • Champion and drive continuous improvement of the business processes
  • Technical staff
    • Understand the technology and how to build connectors
    • Write required reports
    • Write alerts and configurable workflows (after training)
    • Set up and test end users, user groups, and security
    • Amend (if required) connectors
    • Configure networks
    • Administer the software infrastructure
  1. Some integration and middleware solutions offer standard connections for various systems and technologies out of the box. Don’t be fooled, these tend to be limited in scope and will do the basics such as pass a PO or transfer a master item, however you often require something more complex and this is where the value of an experienced implementation partner becomes vitally important.

Check out our Integration solution!

  1. The most successful factor in all projects is having a consultant available who understands the systems being implemented, as well as the integration solution. In fact, without this, the design will be pretty useless and the project will most likely struggle.
  1. Another area to consider is the alerts and tracing of faults. Interfacing will fail at some point, mostly due to bad input errors, so being alerted of issues and easy tracing of the issue, and being able to drill down to review the errors is key. The reporting should handle constant exception based error reporting to ensure your systems are always aligned after Go-live.

Interested in implementing a successful integration project? Get in touch with us today!