IT systems need to talk to each other but achieving integration can be complex and challenging. Careful planning is key with an emphasis on fully documenting the requirements before you start implementing.
It’s always important to define the problem you are trying to solve. We often see integration projects embarked upon to provide data from one or more locations for management use.
But you have to consider - do I need point-to-point integration?, middleware for one or more systems? or do I need a data warehouse fed by data from multiple locations? There are merits to all three, but they are all doing different things and solving different problems.
- Keep the business need at the forefront of your objectives. Make sure the integration provides a return on your investments for users.
- Map the data flows fully, much like you would with a process. It is essential to know what the integration does and where the master data is stored.
- Avoid duplicating your data across multiple systems where possible. The aim is to be efficient.
- Understand what application programming interfaces are available from your suppliers and what their limitations are.
- Do you have the skillset to develop the integration in-house? If not, getting help from an expert can be more efficient.
- Consider the future support for the integration and make sure you have agreements in place.
- Integration can offer the risk of security threats. Ensure your infrastructure is designed to meet information security standards and that your suppliers are contracted so too.
- Test, test, test. Make sure testing by key users and subject matter experts is given enough time in the project plan. Having defined your requirements and mapped your data flows, its essential to test all the permutations. Define your exit criteria clearly, testing not only the function but the performance of integration too.
Kerry Martin – Associate Consultant