Systems Integration is the way of pushing and pulling data between different business databases and applications so that it can be shared and accessible inside the workflow where it is most needed. The power unlocked by this is significant.
“As data managers, our ultimate goal is to ensure all data relevant to the organisation is available and accessible when it's needed so that timely and informed decisions are made and communicated, adding value to the organisation.”by Lucy ObornProduct Manager
Integrated systems share information and data across business. It is used for artificial intelligence and included in a report, reduces the number of programs you have to master, as well as many other applications. The result is a broader analysis of related, cross-referenced, and specialised data — a game-changer for decision-making.
Being audited by a government authority on your company’s assets can be stressful. They need to check your records to see that your claims of your rehabilitation or expenditure reporting, as per your obligation, is correct and reconciled. Nothing to worry about, right? If you’re sweating right now, it may be because you know that your data was manually reviewed, summarised, culled and corrected rather than being tracked in an auditable, reliable and convenient manner. Wipe your brow, friend. I may have an answer to your woes.
If you’re reading this article, you are probably aware of the advantages of Systems Integration and want to implement such a project. If so, I want to share my four most important tips to do this the right way.
1. Bring the data to the User!
What’s the point of all of this data if the people who need it can’t see it? Similarly, what’s the point of making it so difficult to access?
I am an advocate for considering the Users ‘native environment’ – their workflows, their systems, their space. If you want your geological team to consider the required versus actual expenditure when they plan their work programs: ask them where they want it to come through, and whether the data needs to be filtered, summarised or categorised to ensure relevancy and prioritisation of risks.
I think it’s critical to map the decision-making process when it comes to data integration projects. Rather than emphasising tools, let’s consider the flow of analysis and what data should be present or excluded to achieve effective business decisions.
2. Speak to your system providers
This seems like a common-sense approach, but I am sometimes baffled by the examples of integration projects where this is not done. Quite often, I see decisions being made to implement systems without considering how the data is stored. Can you integrate it with your other systems? How is this done and is it by push or pull? What happens when your subscription ends – do you keep the data?
The problem with overlooking these fundamental questions is that often, some planned work doesn’t need to be done, or systems shortcomings or the subsequent ‘chop-job’ creates unnecessary and potentially disastrous outcomes downstream.
Further, if you need to modify your systems to enable integration and data retention, speak to your providers first. They may have done it before, or are currently in the process of implementing the facility.
This can improve outcomes by:
- Drawing on their ‘lessons learnt’ – what mistakes have been made, and what has been done well?
- Reduce downstream risks including incompatibility with standard upgrades; and
- Reduce immediate out of pocket expenses, which may be the case if their development will soon be available!
3. Use a Strategy Map to represent the entire system integration program
Quite often, your immediate integration project is a piece of a much larger program. It’s incredible how a top-down view can open up the entire playing field, reveal gaps and highlight opportunities for early delivery of results.
When planning a data integration project, it’s common to oversimplify the workflow: “we’re gonna marry this with that and share it with those and voila!”. A good project manager will tell you that it’s never quite so simple.
I can speak from personal experience of how creating a visual flow of project components can help to identify potential risks and game-changing interdependencies. A diagrammatic view can highlight problems or advantages that haven’t been considered when a plan is formulated using a linear, word-based approach.
Furthermore, accessing the big picture during implementation is an invaluable tool to ensure efficiency, help with resource allocation and communicate your goal to the whole business.
4. Continuous Data Improvement
“Implementation complete? Well done! Crack a beer and take a brain dump. Job’s done!”
Or so we’d love to think. As we all know, that’s not how the story ends. We need to schedule reviews and follow-ups to ensure our new integrated system is functioning as it was intended and that any bugs are squashed. This is a pretty universal consideration these days, right?
Maybe so, but I am a nagging advocate for not just scheduling implementation reviews, but providing a work plan and quality review tools that point back to the original objectives. After all, it may not always be the same team that implemented the change that is tasked to review it. Taking a forward-thinking approach to review schedules gives me peace of mind that outcomes are underpinned by intentions.