January 20, 2016
Integration is known as the layer that facilitates data flow between applications. Sounds simple, right? Not quite. Many cloud based project go live dates have been pushed back due to errors within an integration build. Often times, systems go live with manual workarounds that will require integration work at a later date. This can become costly. As your support costs overrun, your ROI decreases.
With the right approach, integration can be accomplished within the overall project timeline to make the project itself easier, run smoother, and not interrupt your ROI.
Here are seven key guidelines for managing the integration workstream, allowing you to successfully go live on time and on budget:
1) Identify all the integration requirements
In a cloud based P2P implementation, the “OK2Pay” feed (which is a critical data element) is often identified late within the project timeline. Last minute changes can create havoc in the development testing phases of implementation and lead to timeline and/or budget overruns. Taking a more disciplined approach to work through all end-to-end use cases and identify integration requirements at the start of the project will avoid last minute changes, resulting in minimal impact to the overall project.
2) Expedite the infrastructure setup
Integration rides on top of infrastructure, and often, either that infrastructure does not exist or it requires some level of security approval for cloud based integrations. Many enterprises have their own processes in place, and this setup can take time. However, if the expertise of a third party is involved in the integration, then the complexity is magnified and upfront planning must identify process steps necessary for successful setup.
3) Design the integration
Requirements are requirements, right? Not quite. Sometimes business process design requirements can make integrations difficult, depending on whether or not that effort is accounted for. So, what is there to design? There could be more than one integration method available, or the method could be a flat-file. It is not a one-size fits all solution. Each business object can have a different integration approach. The first step to determine the appropriate integration method is to list out the options of which is most reliable. Once you choose the method, then designing the data mappings comes next. Take note that mapping is easiest when there is a solid understanding of the business process along with the subsequent supporting data structure that flows through the integration. If an error handling process is incorporated, the overall system will be more user friendly when and if errors occur.
4) Pick the right build platform/tools
Once the integration is designed, it’s time to build. Middleware tools generally speed up the integration build but they can be costly and may even have their own limitations. Make sure the platform/tools chosen can support the integration requirements, otherwise the build phase will be complicated. Almost all middleware tools are double-edged swords that speed up some aspects, but limit others. When designing integrations, it is crucial that limitations are understood and accounted for, otherwise these limitations and their respective workarounds could eat up all available resources and jeopardize the project timeline.
5) System Integration Testing (SIT)
End-to-end system integration testing is highly recommended to ensure everything works collectively. If suppliers are loaded properly into the P2P system, then the invoice payment feed should be able to reference the proper suppliers downstream. Often, the SIT is mixed with User Acceptance Testing (UAT) which will get muddied with failed integration test scenarios and not business scenarios and may impact the branding / credibility of the project. A SIT before UAT will allow the separation of integration issues from real business process issues during UAT.
6) Status and Communication
Integration is usually a parallel workstream to design and configuration. It is critical that key development and build milestones are tracked and regularly communicated with key stakeholders to ensure that the development is on track. Integration is usually also developed by IT departments with shared resources and competing priorities. If dependent milestones or key integration points are not identified upfront, planned, and managed, the project timeline and cost can overrun.
7) Utilize available resources
Sometimes clients hesitate to enlist an implementation partner with a wealth of experience and history in planning and executing integration builds. This can result in delays during the design phase, unreliability of the tools, and rebuilds or rework of issues throughout the integration workstream. It is vital to engage this expertise upfront.
Incorporating all of the above elements will ensure that your integration will not be a hurdle for project implementation.
The Shelby Group is a market leader in implementing cloud based P2P solutions that integrate with a variety of ERP platforms. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for your upcoming P2P initiative.
The Shelby Group