How to plan a successful software integration
Can you remember the days when turning on your PC meant having enough time to make coffee, have a chat and probably have a scan of the paper as well?
Well, a recent survey suggests that despite much improved hardware, we are still wasting huge amounts of time on inefficient systems. In fact, according to The Access Group study, nearly half of UK employees waste three hours or more a day, which over a year costs the average UK business at least £28,000.
One of the biggest culprits when it comes to inefficiency is a failure to integrate interdependent systems effectively. Removing data duplication and increasing productivity through joining up systems is easier today than it has ever been. This article outlines the simple steps to a successful software integration.
Be clear about goals
Take the time to think through what is required fully before you start. Often the demand for integration will come from one specific area of the business. Naturally they will be most interested in their own requirements so make sure you include all the stakeholders from the start to get a clear picture of what is needed for the whole business.
It is important to think ahead. Most ERP software contracts are set out for a minimum of three years or longer, and a lot can happen in that time. What will the business look like by then? What new information are you going to need on a daily basis, who is going to need it and where and when will they want it to be available?
Find the perfect change manager
Do not be too solution orientated. You need a good business reason to start transitioning your business processes. Finding the right change manager, sponsors and project management structure is key to building momentum. A lack of authority in your sponsoring group or project manager will lead to the project getting bogged down in a host of minor issues.
A common mistake is to appoint the most technically competent person assuming that they have the skills to manage projects effectively. A good project manager can always rely on other’s technical skills, but technicians are often used to managing tasks rather than mobilising resources.
Find the perfect partner
Who is the best person to provide the integration for you?
It is easy to think of the project as a one off event, but you will need a solution that adapts with you as a business and with the software you are integrating with. Look for a provider who understands both sets of software as well as your own needs and can ensure that the integration will work with all future software versions.
For some larger ERP systems, there are off the shelf integration packages available. Off the shelf solutions can offer a clear cost saving compared to a bespoke integration, but is it the right option for you?
At a glance…
Sweat the small stuff
The devil is in the detail. Work through as many scenarios as you can in depth and make sure you include the integration provider in these conversations early on.
If you go with an off the shelf solution you are limited as to how far you can customise what you get, but if you go bespoke, make sure that the provider understands your end goals as well as the technical specifications.
Control the scope
Once you have empowered your team with sufficient authority and direction to bring about change, you need to ensure the delivery phase is carefully controlled. Keep track of agreed decisions in a formal decision log.
Change can get out of hand, so adequate versioning and escalation procedures for the new processes are needed. Write these down in a formal project control framework to ensure that any changes are handled consistently and properly thought through beforehand.
Beware the breakup
Nothing lasts forever. As much as you should plan to partner with software providers for the long term, it is important to plan for what happens when you change one or both systems.
When considering replacing any software, think through what other software is dependent on it. Often a business will have one expert who knows everything about a specific integration, which is fine until they leave, so make sure you keep a central log of all integrations and the key contacts for them.
FMIS software integration
FMIS software can be integrated with most leading ERP and finance systems. We partner with a number of providers including Sage, Deltek and The Access Group. If you would like to find out more about integrating your systems, please call us on +44 (0) 1227 773003 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.