17 Jul 2017
How to run a successful application integration project
How do you ensure that your integration project is going to be successful? So many IT and business projects go wrong because the people involved miss out some critical elements. While no two integration projects are exactly the same, there some common issues that help make projects run more smoothly, on time and within budget.
Flowgear’s Professional Services and Tech Support teams have helped many customers with their integration projects, and they have compiled a set of recommended practices that organizations should adopt.
1. Really understand your requirements
You need to define your current state in detail, and then your future desired state, also in detail. If you have done that then you should have a good understanding of your business and technology requirements and the path to get to the desired state.
Part of defining the current state is to really grasp how your business rules and processes work, and to specify if and how those will change to achieve the future desired state. It’s not uncommon for executives to have a high-level vision but not much detail orientation – that detail knowledge is essential. Therefore, make sure you have the people who know the details – that doesn’t necessarily mean the same as technical know-how.
When the inevitable, unanticipated changes crop up in mid-project, an understanding of the details will also help in finding ways to deal with the changes – whether it’s a scope change, an undocumented process step, or a change in priorities/ procedures.
2. Appoint a custodian
Each integration project should have a custodian. This is the person with on-site responsibility who acts as the single point of contact to manage issues, and who will understand both detail and technical subjects.
If your integration project involves working with business partners, this is an especially important project role as the custodian should be the person who keeps the project on track.
The custodian is not the same as the project manager who doesn’t necessarily need technical knowledge, but rather co-ordinates people and activities. A number of sources separate the roles of custodian from that of a steward but the project manager may often assume the role of the steward.
3. Team involvement
For any business change project, unless you have everyone personally involved your project will encounter difficulties. In an integration project you have to ensure that you get input from everyone on the team. The reason is that a project can only be scoped properly if all the issues and details are identified – this won’t happen unless everyone’s input is fully documented.
4. Manage staff changes
You can start a project with all the right people, but on projects longer than a few weeks it’s possible that some staff may leave. Unless staff changes are managed, your integration project can stall. So you must ensure staff changes incorporate a hand-over process to prevent project inertia when someone leaves and a new person comes in.
5. Take ownership
An important factor in the success of a project is the presence of an effective, engaged executive sponsor. The executive sponsor provides the authority and credibility needed for successful change that an integration project entails. Also the sponsor’s sustained presence from start to finish is necessary to build and maintain momentum.
While an executive sponsor will have a good understanding of the business, they may not have such a good understanding about the integration project details. Therefore don’t neglect the training the sponsor may need before the project starts. This will enable them to promote and protect the project when required.
6. Education and documentation
The training and education phase is often include near the end of a project. However, it’s also necessary to include it at project initiation to acquaint the project staff with the information they will need during the project. This might include education on business terms, processes, as well as technical issues. The training and education phase at the end of the project is for the rest of the organization to understand the new integration function
For documentation, make sure that it is appropriate. Don’t have one usage guide for everyone, but create different documentation for each role.
Good communication is key to the success of a project. The project team can determine what communication is needed, and how much time should be spent creating and delivering information. Setting up a communication plan helps to organize and document the process, types, and expectations for communications. This will include frequency of meetings – often weekly – but when nearing the go-live phase, meetings should be daily.
Why do integration projects staffed by talented people get into trouble, and why do project teams sometimes feel that the project is stalled or going nowhere? An integration project should bring benefits to the organization – otherwise, why bother? A project requires staff, experts and suppliers to come together on a temporary basis to carry out a one-off change that will lead the business to greater success. However, the hope of success meets with problems, delays and cost overruns that cause frustration and stress. By following the steps above you can ensure that your integration project keeps heading in the right direction.
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