When we see different businesses approaching integration projects, we can often follow success and failure back to some very early on decisions. These decisions sit well within the strategy stages of the project and more often than not, failures come down to a distinct lack of strategy.
When you don’t have strategy, time money and people disappear down the drain!
A big mistake that many IT teams make, is that a thorough to-do list or project plan, does not constitute a strategy. When I engage with businesses who are on the brink of integration chaos and I ask about their ‘strategy’, I am often presented with a spreadsheet of technical tasks, test and migrations… rather than a genuinely strategic documentation of the goals, risks and assessments of the intended work.
When the Why and What of an integration projects are missing, we just end up with an endless list of How, which rarely aligns with a tangible goal or benefit to the business. In this scenario, time is invested quickly and heavily into bottomless amounts of work. No consideration or constraint is given to capacity of the people working on it, and things to come to an end when the people involved just burnout from not see the results they wanted.
What are the objectives of a great strategy?
An effective integration strategy starts with the Why question and focuses on supporting known-goals to the businesses and end customer. For example; if you are an eCommerce company selling apparel on line, you may well be focusing on the buying experience and how that impacts customer loyalty. If you have a number of cloud-based services that support the UX of the website, checkout processes, order management and re-marketing tools… how those tools connect and talk to each other is going to be a huge piece of the puzzle.
Your integration projects should be focused on bringing those systems together and improving the customer experience. Rather than, simply integrating existing systems for the sake of ‘efficiency’ or ‘capability’. By researching, documenting and validating these aspects of your work, you can increase your focus on creating value through technology and integration and gain more support from the wider business for the changes and improvements you want to make.
What does a good strategy look like?
As mentioned, a strategy is not a to do list. Instead, in needs to be a structured way of articulating what you are going to do, why it should be and done and then a simple illustration of how… but the finer details of that can be reserved for the project managers and so on.
So, how do you put together and present a strong strategy for service integration? It starts with researching and understanding what the business is working on, then documenting that in a such a way that the key stakeholders in the business can look at, review and confidently say “YES! IT gets what we are trying to do!”
From there, you want to understand which systems, teams and processes you are using which are currently underpinning the success of these major business goals. The next assessment to document from there, is where do these existing systems need great integration and connectivity to perform better? But demonstrating back to the business that by investing in the connectivity between their CRM, Marketing platform and eCommerce technology, you can greatly improve the business metrics that matter to them most, you will get by and support for the work you want to do.
This style of understanding the business, seeing how the current technology is either supporting or holding back progress and then demonstrating how investing in integrating that technology will facilitate the improvements they want… is how you create fantastic IT strategies that grow the business and make it more competitive.
What does it contain?
Let’s take a look through the different components your strategy needs to consist of and start making the process of building a fresh strategy feel doable and achievable.
1. Long term-vision for integrations
Firstly, you want to demonstrate that you can think ahead. Yes, there are going to early wins in this piece of work, and you want the end customers to feel the benefits as early as possible. But integration could be an ongoing and continual improvement, so what is the long-term vision for this work. Again, attributing this to the long-term visions of the business is great.
So, if you’re a media company trying to compete with the likes of Disney or Netflix etc… How will establishing a more mature approach to integrating your technology make you that much more competitive? If ‘these’ teams and tools and talk to each other better, what will the business be able to do with that to start gaining a bigger share in the market space? Articulating long-term and business centric goals is essential to making your integration strategy valuable to others.
2. An approach to improvement
As mentioned, a good approach to integration is one of on-going improvement. Referring to the CSI chapters of ITIL® and the core principles of agile and DevOps, will go a long way here. Many business and IT teams still make the sense of seeing integration as something you do once and then it’s done. In reality, you need to manage and measure your success more naturally and see Integration as a core IT capability that can scale, improve and mature overtime. With this in mind, you want to position integration that requires steady and ongoing investment. You want to end the process of requesting ‘$250,000 for your latest technology integration project, and instead be focusing on ‘we want to increase our monthly integration costs by $10,000 and dedicate an additional member staff to maintain and improving what integrations can do the business and customers’. This shift in language and approach, will make your stakeholders pay much more attention to the benefits of integration.
3. A lot about PEOPLE!
This is not just about fixing the disconnect between IT and business. This is about making the people, teams and behaviours side of service integration and it is a significant part of your success. If you build integrations between CRM and Service Management Tools, but nobody values and utilises those integrations to improve their work, your integration has failed. It is not a matter of quality within the technology.
But it is about the behaviour, adoption and collaboration at a person/team level. In your integration, you will want to include as much as possible how people will engage with the changes you make to both software and process. But more than this, you want include the observations you have made as to how people work, what is slowing them down and how you aim tailor your technology changes around how they work.
Thus, enable and fostering better team work, collaboration and customer-centricity. When IT talks in these terms, business leaders listen.
Get in touch
If you’d like to talk to an integration specialist about any of these ideas and challenges, you should get in touch with our expert team today, who will be very happy to hear more about your integration goals and guide you towards success.