Now that enterprise mobility is becoming a reality, online collaboration is on the rise, and new cloud services are coming on board, enterprises find themselves with an increasing need for systems integration projects. However, systems integration projects that leverage new social, mobile and cloud capabilities risk becoming overly complex, lengthy and expensive. Here are six strategies for ensuring that your systems integration projects get off to a good start and stay on track.
1. Recruit Champions from Management
Management needs to provide their input from the beginning and be viewed as a significant partner. Champions inside the affected business can articulate the benefits to their colleagues, which also helps sell the project to users. Avoid blame culture by fostering a strategic view and attitudes of openness, cooperation and problem-solving across management and all departments on the project. Make sure all complexities are discussed with vendors and subcontractors so roadblocks can be identified early and can be avoided.
2. Justify the Costs
Systems integration can be expensive, both in terms of tools and man hours, but don’t forget the huge benefits of improved business processes and real-time data when calculating the ROI. I worked with a large shipping insurer, which as a direct result of gaining access to real-time data, was able to dramatically reduce its rate of theft and losses which in turn led to a significant reduction in its insurance costs. Most approaches to system integration focus on the logical steps in the business process but sometimes fail to analyze value. Value stream mapping allows you to document the business flow while at the same time taking time to annotate the added-value or cost inherent in each constituent step of a process.
3. Make Sure All Security Challenges are Addressed
Now that sensitive data in backend enterprise systems can be available via a smartphone, it is critical to understand all of the workflows and when sensitive data can be compromised. The risks of data breaches are even higher due to employees using their own devices and private cloud services. This requires a shift in thinking from security data to securing processes. On mobile alone, there are a range of ways to achieve this, from securing the device with passwords, MDM solutions, and geofences, to securing access to the applications, often through containers, and finally securing the data itself, through encryption and ensuring it is not stored on the device.
4. Use Relevant Integration Tools
Not all tools are the same; making sure that you fully understand what you need today and what you might need tomorrow will help you choose the most relevant ones.
There are two main types of integration tools. On one side you have data synchronization /upload tools; and on the other is process-based integration. If you’re after ETL or data synchronization, then a data synchronization tool is ideal; but if you want to integrate workflows or processes, then you need a process-based integration tool.
Third-party tools (especially those which have vendor-certified application adapters and a variety of technology adapters) have the advantage that they are optimized to integrate diverse technology stacks. So if you are thinking of integrating technologies from multiple vendors or want to keep your options open for the future, it’s worth looking into vendor-agnostic tools, as these provide best-of-breed capabilities out of the box.
5. Have a Series of Small Successes
Integration projects are typically wide-ranging and complex, following a grand strategic vision of how the company should look. Regardless of whether you use agile or scrum project management methodologies, early and frequent successes are essential. Plan for a series of small successes that put reasonable results in front of all interested parties to the project.
6. Take into Account Monitoring and Performance Management
Social, mobile and cloud computing are contributing to an explosion of business process related data and metadata. Along with fault-tolerance, resilience and elasticity, monitoring and performance management capabilities are the key additions to integration solutions. A requirement for guaranteed message delivery makes integration monitoring vital. Integration monitoring tools provide IT managers with the ability to visualize and report on the performance of integration processes. It is in this dimension that successful governance of a systems integration “project” continues long after implementation.
System integration projects can be the most difficult to plan, execute and manage. But when simple guidelines are followed, the risks can be minimized and the enterprise can benefit more easily from improved technologies and applications.
Glenn Johnson is the senior vice president of Magic Software Enterprises Americas.
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