5 best practices for a successful systems integration project

This article discusses five best practices for a successful systems integration project. The five practices include establishing the right scope, involving all stakeholders early and often, leveraging existing technology investments, focusing on user experience and change management, and developing an effective communication plan.

Summary: Systems integration projects often fail because they’re not properly planned or managed. To effectively service your business users with integrated systems, you need to follow certain best practices when planning and implementing systems integration projects in order to mitigate risk and achieve success. Five such practices are discussed in this article: establish the right scope; involve all stakeholders early and often; leverage existing technology investments; focus on user experience and change management; develop an effective communication plan.

Five Best Practices for a Successful Systems Integration Project

Integrated enterprise systems are no longer a convenience or best practice, they are mandatory to keep pace with competitors. But this mandate has not eliminated the risk of failure in implementing an integrated system. According to Gartner Group, 70 percent of information technology (IT) projects will be challenged. The top reasons for project failure include scope definition and lack of stakeholder engagement. If integration is your next initiative, follow these five practices to maximize your chance for success:

  1. Establish the right scope – Define the boundaries early and accept that you cannot do it all well at once; balance breadth versus depth when defining modules; leave room for change; set measurable acceptance criteria; make sure there is technology-agnostic design.
  2. Involve all stakeholders early and often – No stakeholder is less important than another; the analyst needs to listen before they speak; engage more experienced business units up front; know which decisions are required by leadership, IT, or legal, etc.; let each stakeholder prioritize their requirements with you.
  3. Leverage existing technology investments – Identify which of your enterprise systems have common data elements — particularly CRM systems that can be reused for product master data across sales channels; establish best practices for reusing application components through open APIs rather than custom coding; look beyond traditional enterprise system candidates before embarking on a new implementation project.
  4. Focus on user experience – Business users are very different from traditional IT users; business users don’t care about: security, single sign-on, disaster recovery, and high availability; they just want their job to be easy and effective.
  5. Develop an effective communication plan – The best practices in this article work only when the teams involved implement them effectively; lack of engagement leads to problems later in the project life cycle; develop a communications plan that includes multiple channels (face-to-face, e-mail, phone/voice mail); monitor progress by calling random stakeholder groups; keep everybody up to date with weekly summaries.

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