7 Tips for Successful Governance of a System Integration Project
Application portfolio managers and business analysts in an IT environment are being asked to redesign business processes based on the new capabilities enabled by mobile, social and cloud computing. Despite pressure from line-of-business managers for new strategies and approaches to traditional business issues, many IT departments resist change due to risk aversion, financial restraints and short-term thinking. In many cases they lack the agility within their IT infrastructure needed to update systems efficiently, manage data securely and integrate processes effectively across the enterprise.
System integration projects that leverage new social, mobile and cloud capabilities risk becoming overly complex, lengthy and expensive. By adopting a reasoned approach to IT governance of system integration projects, your chances for success will increase dramatically. Here are seven tips for successful governance of a systems integration project:
1. Recruit executive sponsors and keep them on board
Every project needs a champion – someone who will advocate for the project, understands its benefits and can corral cooperation from change-weary managers and employees. An executive sponsor brings the vision and energy necessary to effectively instill corporate change. Fortunately, the enthusiasm level for mobile, social and cloud computing strategies and tactics remains high and IT will often find a refreshing willingness of traditional line-of-business and C-level executives in sales, marketing, manufacturing, finance and operations that has not always been present in other past IT initiatives aimed at more mundane needs such as service-oriented architecture where the benefit relied on a technical viewpoint. Your executive sponsor or champion is your key partner in any systems integration project. Get their input from the outset and utilize their clout within the organization to get the cooperation you need.
2. Plan for incremental success
Regardless of whether you use agile or scrum project management methodologies, early and frequent successes are essential. Too many projects are cancelled midstream simply because their results are shrouded in mystery. You may want to have an initial proof-of-concept project that shows the viability of your underlying integration approach, so that you can keep the project moving forward to the final result without suffering waning enthusiasm. Plan for a series of small successes that put reasonable results in front of all interested parties to the project.
3. Never overlook security
While it will be tempting to strike quickly and beat the competition in delivering new customer experiences based on social, mobile and cloud computing, never put you or your customers’ data, privacy or security at risk. Never. There are several smart decisions you can take to improve your chances of secure system integration projects; keeping the integration server behind the firewall, encrypting all transport layers, and leveraging a strong mobile data management (MDM) platform are among some of the more obvious approaches. Follow the requirements of your security plan and adjust it as needed to anticipate new threats.
4. Approach integration systematically
Too many enterprises rely on manual programming to connect point-to-point integration of enterprise systems today. While this is manageable in the short-term with small numbers of systems involved, it becomes virtually impossible in the context of cloud, social and mobile integration. For one thing, the discrete nature of mobile business processes is leading to an explosion in the number of apps. This is compounded by an equivalent explosion in the number of APIs, all of which must be disambiguated through data transformation and messaging approaches. Choose an integration platform with a good balance of application adapters and technology adapters that can manage the communications needed between all of the APIs in your enterprise IT environment.
5. Listen to the “Voice of the Process”
The role of the IT Business Analyst is to help his or her organization envision business processes and implement the best automation of those business processes using technology. This means that the business analyst is involved in a communication process that helps them to best understand business users, extract the “voice of the process” and clearly document current and future state processes in a way that demonstrates value. Listening to the voice of the process is essential in governance of a successful systems integration project. Use case diagrams and specifications help to document current and future state processes that are critical to project success and a reasonable setting of expectations.
6. Build monitoring and performance management into the project
Social, mobile and cloud computing are contributing to an explosion of business process related data and metadata. Along with fault-tolerance, resilience and elasticity, monitoring and performance management capabilities are an essential component of the integration platform supporting your system integration projects. A requirement for guaranteed message delivery makes integration monitoring vital. Integration monitoring tools provide IT managers with the ability to visualize and report on the performance of integration processes. It is in this dimension that successful governance of a systems integration “project” continues long after implementation.
7. Quantify the benefits
Understanding and justifying costs is essential to project success. Integration projects have ongoing maintenance costs, so it is essential to provide both an initial project cost-benefit analysis and to validate these assumptions following implementation. It will be easier to justify projects where infrastructure and labor costs are clearly controlled from the outset. Overly complex middleware involving multiple middleware layers can become extremely expensive. Look for a single-stack integration and mobile platform from which you can manage your project.
Even more important, look to your own business processes to justify value and show benefits. My work with a number of well-known brand name manufacturers in the sporting goods and apparel industry has shown me that IT projects can deliver almost instant ROI to an organization by opening up new sales channels while reducing infrastructure costs simultaneously.
Integration can bring significant value, and not necessarily where you expect; so rather than being concerned about the costs, think about the cost advantages you are missing. In creating business process models to document your enterprise patterns, flow diagrams are typically used to illustrate the basic steps of a business process. Most approaches to system integration focus on the logical steps in the business process but sometimes fail to analyze value. Value stream mapping allows you to document the business flow while at the same time taking time to annotate the added-value or cost inherent in each constituent step of a process.
Regardless of whether you decide to outsource your integration project or manage it yourself, these tips for successful governance of an IT project will help assure project success.
Glenn Johnson is a Senior Vice President at Magic Software Enterprises, Inc. Active in the software industry since 1984, he frequently speaks at industry conferences and writes for numerous publications.