Ensuring that disparate IT systems work well together can be quite a challenge. When various IT systems work in synchronisation, they can communicate with each other. This then empowers the company to eliminate unproductive silos, improve operations and throughput, boost efficiency, and of course, reduce costs. To achieve all these goals, systems integration and integration services can be a game-changer.
Systems integration connects various IT subsystems into a single, larger system. Since this system functions as one, the organisation’s various systems and components can “talk” to each other and enhance information flow. System integration consolidates data from multiple applications to provide a single source of truth while eliminating the need for manual data re-entry. It can connect the organisation with third parties such as suppliers, customers and shareholders. It helps streamline transaction mechanisms, resolve disconnects, and achieve the overarching functionality required by the organisation. Furthermore, with the extensive security measures provided by integration systems, firms can share specific information with third parties to promote open communications and build trustworthy business partnerships.
Systems integration is ideal for businesses looking to consolidate legacy IT systems and independent subsystems to avoid the time and effort required to share information among them manually. Several system integration methods are available, including point-to-point integration, vertical integration, star integration and horizontal integration. But regardless of the method used, the organisation can ensure a successful implementation by working with a Systems Integrator – usually, an integration services company with advanced expertise in planning, implementing, testing, maintaining and upgrading corporate IT systems. To do so, they follow a systematic step-by-step process with four main phases. This is the systematic approach to how we do this, and is a key part of our consulting framework:
1. Sales Engagement and Handover
This step (which normally involves a handful of short meetings) is where the customer and the systems integrator (at this point, normally a pre-sales engineer or a technical sales person) discuss high level objectives, approximation of costs and attempt to define what success looks like from a layman’s perspective.
The pre-sales engineer iterates through our sales engagement checklist, asking the right questions, collating answers and interacting with technical resources on both sides in order to validate the right fit between integrator and customer.
The outcome of this initial engagement is what the pre-sales engineer will sit down and pass on to their Lead Consultant. Whilst it may seem obvious, this step ensures that the pre-sales engineer (or sales person) has done their job diligently, gone through our sales engagement checklist, asked the right questions, and has all the necessary information for a Lead Consultant to then begin the integration journey. From past experience, there is nothing worse than interacting with a sales person, and finding that the technical team knows very little about what was promised or agreed upon.
Any systems integration project requires extensive planning and analysis to ensure successful implementation. This always starts with gathering the requirements that the project needs to address. The outline should also mention any operations or business processes that the company wishes to improve. Since there is no such thing as a “standard” systems integration project, the Systems Integrator will make an effort to identify and clarify the business’ specific needs. Business analysts will analyse these needs to determine the operational and technical feasibility that will satisfy those needs.
In some cases, what the business wants may not align with their needs. By closely collaborating with and trusting the Systems Integrator, the company can clarify the necessary information to achieve their vision. Based on the requirements gathered and their analysis, the Systems Integrator will identify and gather the most appropriate services, systems and configuration that enhance business performance and usability.
Designing the software infrastructure and system integration architecture is time-consuming and highly challenging, particularly without a System Integrator’s help. Before engineers start working on implementing the systems integration project, solutions architects and lead consultants work closely together to workshop ideas concerning the new system’s design and functionality. They build a strong foundation by creating detailed blueprints and plans indicating how the various systems will integrate and aggregate data. They also outline system tests, system integration methods and logistics underlying the system architecture design. This helps both sides visualise the process, and ensure the solution aligns with the customer’s tech landscape and business mandates.
The System Integrator will do their best to build a well-designed and affordable system by striking a balance between innovation, risks, and costs. With a proper architecture design, all systems will seamlessly integrate and function efficiently as a whole, without any data losses during transfers.
The delivery stage is where the actual integration occurs. It usually consists of multiple sub-processes. Moreover, a great deal of precision and attention to detail are required to get it right, making it the longest and the most challenging phase.
Before final deployment, this newly integrated system goes through multiple rounds of testing and validation, first as a Proof of Concept (POC) to SMEs, and then for UAT testing with a select group of users. Test engineers fix any bugs, and the system undergoes operational testing one more time to ensure the final solution is errorless. With the System Integrator’s help, the company management can start training users to understand how the new solution will work. The integrator’s team of experts will also document how different systems will function together. This documentation can also become part of user training and onboarding.
An advantage of working with an experienced System Integrator instead of buying an off-the-shelf solution is that the former can also support the solution in the critical early period after go-live. If the organisation detects new bugs or requires a new feature or component for the solution, the System Integrator can take care of these requirements and fixes immediately. They can also run scheduled diagnostics and perform regular maintenance checks to enhance the system’s performance.
Creative Folks’ Integration Services
We have over twenty years of experience and knowledge integrating various systems and platforms, and can collaborate with you on your next system integration project. No matter your tech needs - product information, marketing content, e-commerce or B2B data - we can evaluate your landscape and develop the integrations you need.
To learn more about our capabilities and our solutions, please visit our Integration Services page and get in touch.