The 5 Essential Stages of Software Process Integration
Modern business in all sectors of the economy are these days becoming more invested in connecting their back office with their customer-facing services through integration of their enterprise software systems; largely because this connectivity provides greater, more valuable insight into the relationship between the company and the customer. With total system integration, customers can have real-time updates on inventory levels and delivery times, while you as a business can understand (and then predict) your market’s needs, habits and processes better than ever. When one considers the significant power of totally connecting an enterprise and its employees, it’s not so hard to understand the rising popularity of software integration! After all, there is no such thing as too much data when it comes to your business and the customers you strive to serve. And when that data is shared between all of your processes and departments, it becomes infinitely more valuable than before.
Software process integration is one of the most crucial steps you can take towards becoming a modern, customer-centric interconnected enterprise. So what is the gist of software process integration? Essentially, a process-integrated enterprise shares data from one enterprise system to the next based on each system’s role in an integrated process, information developing in value as it passed from one software to the next i.e. inventory data being passed to CRM so that sales reps have the most up-to-date information on your current stock, incoming orders and estimated delivery dates to provide to clients. Integration of this kind supports a seamless quote-to-order process within your company—so how do you go about a successful integration and reaping all the benefits for your own enterprise? Read on for the five stages that every prosperous process integration undergoes.
Business Process Modeling
The first stage of any successful software project—integration or implementation—should begin with a thorough model of your business processes. Business Process Modelling does not just consist of taking a ‘snapshot’ of your current systems, but a detailed map of your desired processes; a living model of what you want your business to look like in the future. If you are trying to improve upon your current system and make it more efficient, it is useless to merely build out your software around the system that you want to change. Instead, carefully map out goals for your project—how do you want to consolidate certain processes and empower employees with this integration project? With the future in mind, you can then successfully plan and prioritize the key features of your project and get your software process integration working exactly the way you need it to.
Building use cases for your integration project is one of the easiest ways to increase user enthusiasm and user adoption for the new software system. Use cases are in-depth, fully mapped definitions of how specific users will interact with the integrated software and then use it to achieve their goals. Your cases need to be through and expansive to truly encourage user adoption and for your team to understand how the project will positively benefit them. You are hopefully integrating your software to better connect, and thus benefit, every employee in your team from the shop floor to the sales team. Consequently, drawing up a positive use cases for every team will naturally get them excited about all the ways software process integration is going to make their lives easier—and make it easier for you to get the whole team on board before the go-live date.
The transparency of your Software Process Integration project must be a constant focus for your entire team, especially during the implementation and training process. Without collaboration, an enterprise integration will naturally occur and progress in silos, as it encompasses multiple and often very disparate departments within your company. If the goal of your project is to better connect your business, then of course this is the opposite of what you want to happen. How much communication does your shop floor and your sales team have currently? Without full software integration, it is likely very little—this is what your connection is aiming to fix. Everything about the project needs to be accessible, on the table and open to collaboration from all of the employees the integration will affect. Not only will involving your team members from Day 1 make for easier training on the platform, it will also encourage user adoption post go-live. If someone feels they have had a significant hand in how the software process integration was built and knows that their contribution has helped the larger team, they will inevitably be more likely to get involved in making sure that the project is successful in the end.
Training on the integration platform and data entry within it needs to start early on and be totally immersive for your staff. It may be tempting to take the easy route and just set aside a couple of a days and a few employees before go live to run some routine tests on the software process integration, but this is an invitation for software disaster further down the road. Suddenly, all the money you thought you saved through that half-hearted testing is thrown down the drain (likely along with more) when your integration fails and you have no safety net in place or any idea how to rescue lost data and customers. To truly ensure software process integration success, you really to send your new software system through the wringer. Throw every possible disaster scenario you can think of at it, making sure you have a safety net in place for your data and your business in any possible situation, be it a security breach or a downed server. Only after you ‘beat up’ the software and its connections can you tell if it will come out OK on the other side. That way you can the approach go-live day with total confidence in both your software and your team.
If you have followed all of the previous stages closely, then the go-live of your software process integration should really be a non-event. With continued maintenance, change management and adoption techniques already in place, employees will be convinced that the process integration is truly the solution for your business, driving revenue and cutting costs within the business all while focusing their work ever more strongly on the customer. Your business will be more collaborative and knowledge-sharing than ever—enjoy those benefits!
A well-integrated business will find it much easier to scale as they grow, every department and process developing in tandem,rather than you having to untangle a complex web of systems just to alter each one individually. Putting the time into meticulously mapping out your software process integration to specific, measurable and realistic goals will only save you a massive amount of time and dollars in the long run when your project goes live without a hitch and is quickly adopted by enthusiastic employees who have all had a say in the structure and running of the project. It’s always better to be preventative when it comes to software project failure rather than having to put out the fires afterwards.
For help with software process integration or a helping hand for outside advice and expertise (we have 18 years of it) on your next project, contact an expert at Datix today. Alternatively, click here for a demo of our own software integrator, Datix Connect.
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