This week on CIO Playbook with Jeffrey Hurley, I am discussing the integrator’s dilemma. The challenge technology professionals face when working to integrate third party applications in their environments
The Proven Process
When we look to bring on a 3rd party technology solution we are looking for the most cost effective time to market approach to getting the system implemented in our environment and our business teams incorporating this technology into their process
The Approach: The Integrator’s Dilemma
The integrator’s dilemma comes into play when you and the vendor are working out the initial negotiations. Attempting to come up with reasonable estimates for total cost of this new technology and looking for the best approach to getting the system in.
Not having complete information at the time of contract negotiation many of the professional services teams will work to avoid a fixed price for implementation. Especially if you have an existing “heritage” environment that must be addressed as part of the success criteria. If you are implementing into a greenfield the basic implementation becomes straight forward. However, the majority of opportunity for third party technology to make an impact is in the developed markets where the common underlying system solution is competitive neutral. in other words implementing a third party solution will keep you market competitive by delivery market needs and a lower cost than maintaining an in-house developed solution.
For an organization to be “reinventing the wheel” with in-house development in a global marketplace would be tantamount to setting itself up for failure. Only in the areas where there is clear competitive advantage should an organization be doing custom development. And as a technology leader, you have the responsibility for designing a solution that is easily replaced when the competitive advantage becomes “market normal”
Planning your implementation always starts with determining the “source of truth” for data in your current systems. Will your system, that you are implementing, be the “source of truth” or will it be pulling from alternative systems that will have the “golden copy”. Often when an organization begins an integration project it quickly discovers that there isn’t a single “source of truth” and that many departments and functions are using their own version of the data.
Part of an implementation should involve establishing a single “source of truth” for the organization.The particular implementation you are doing will not be responsible for changing all systems to the identified “source of truth” rather the idea that this can be established is an excellent outcome and the organization and technology can move in the direction of the established “source of truth” over time.
Now ever integrator and software vendor should have an established and battle tested plan of integration that entails, installation, “out-of-the-box” configuration, data loading, and system integration APIs. A practiced integration system should have a TAR file that can deploy all components and the execute a script to populate a working system with the basics.
It is at this point that we move to the implementation phase. Starting with system configuration for user groups, offices, security rules, workflows, basic screen and GUI. While these steps are going on a parallel exercise should be taking place that is focused on the data loading involving hierarchy design, aggregation, and cleansing activities.
Being ready to deploy to the full user base can take anywhere from a few weeks to 18 months depending on the magnitude of the system you are deploying and the amount of integration or data conversion that will need to be done.
Often in the larger institutions the legacy systems are what holds the organization back. When a new system is brought in, getting the existing data and workflows into the system are so onerous that it makes sense to start fresh with the new system. Changing the workflows to match the new system’s approach. Then copying the historical data into a reporting database rather than attempting to convert it into the new system. The resulting outcome leverages the market leading practices and allows the organization to release the “old way” of doing things.
The deployment phase becomes the key to getting the organization moved over to the new business process and technology solution. This is about “go-live” with your user base and training your users as they are on-boarded. I mention training because one of the larger challenges a help desk function faces is “user error”. User error is caused by lack of or abbreviated training.
It is during the deployment that you are building a support process of the long term maintenance of the system and the user base. This is your data governance, how communications will happen, and on-going training. Optimization will be focused on deepening these areas.
When the integrator is deploying the system the goal is to ensure maximum value for each user group in the organization. Often this will entail specific training for the particular user group be deployed to.
It is during this deployment that user input should be collected to identify the optimization, integration, and enhancements for the next phase of the project. The advanced functionality and analytics are often included in the second phase of the integration project.
Once your system is deployed to the user base the work is not done. Now it is learning how to optimize the solution for your organization’s environment. Maximizing the return on investment comes from recognizing the opportunities to alter the standard configuration or leverage the new data collected.
The modern systems architecture is designed around the capturing and analyzing of data. If you are implementing a new solution the optimization will be focused on determining which data elements are providing the most value in understanding your customers, your organization, and the efficiency in your processes.
Finally, moving from integration to on-going business as usual will bring the integration program to closure and move into the phase of managing your system for the organization. This will entail the on-boarding and off-boarding of users, training, enhancements, analytics, and upgrades. Investing time and effort into getting the support right and continued optimization will continue to provide your organization with the advantages it sought in implementing the third party solution.
The Integrator’s Dilemma
Almost all system implementations have some form of the software development life cycle as their basic layout. The question really comes down to the organization’s uniqueness, data quality, and legacy systems. If these three can be properly managed throughout the process the planning, implementation, deployment, optimization, and support will get you there. However, it is more often a challenge in one of the three areas that is cause for cost over-runs or delays in the project.
Strong leadership from technology and business management will help to advance your organizational goals and reduce the dilemma of an implementation.
Photo Credit: Michel. “Wisest Advice.” Flickr. Yahoo!, 26 Dec. 2014. Web. 12 July 2015.