Systems Integration and Interface Development
Systems integration is a logical concept that allows a unified system to be created from components that were not expressly designed to work together. Components of a completely integrated system are often individual systems on their own. An integration project normally requires the integration of separate specialized systems, hardware and software, and infrastructure technology into a cohesive whole. The requirement for integration can arise for a number of reasons.
An example of this would be: Another vendor’s specialized accounting software must be added to a different vendor’s ERP system, while maintaining the integration of a 3rd vendor’s planning and allocation system. In this scenario, we would be taking three individual systems from three different vendors, and integrating them together into a more complete unified system.
In the Retail, Manufacturing and Wholesale industries there are two main thought patterns related to systems integration, and the software and systems used to operate their respective businesses. On one hand some corporations select a single vendor for all facets of software required. This enables them to use the continuity of one database, one set of logical rules under which to operate, also giving them a single vendor to deal with for support needs, upgrades, etc. The issue with single source is that most often, the customer must modify their business to accommodate the software application being provided by the vendor. Additionally, as with most things in business, not all facets of the single source software will be state of the art nor will they typically meet all of the customer requirements. In many cases, the single solution has been built based on an original capability, and additional capabilities have been added through acquisition instead of internal development, not always as cleanly integrated into the overall solution as it could be.
On the other hand you have corporations selecting what is classified as “Best of Breed” Applications. These software applications are considered to be the best suited to need by discipline, accommodating both the client’s needs and requirements. In other words, the client selects the very best software package which matches their manner of conducting business and their requirements, and then implements that software in conjunction with the other “best of Breed” applications, specifically selected for their organizational environment. When companies choose this methodology to acquire their business software they need a company whom has experience in developing the software which will enable various different software applications to communicate, share data and also transmit data to and from in a friendly protected manner with efficiency and integrity.
As an example, a retailer may have a Merchandising Application from one provider and select a Planning and Allocation Application from another provider. These applications would have been selected as the outcome of a thorough business analysis gathering resulting in business requirements documents that were then turned into an overall requirements document for the capabilities of these systems. The ending product selection is a very good fit for this retailer. The two applications must be able to communicate and share data between each other in order to provide the level of intelligence and service for the retailer. This is where we as a systems integration and development company come in. We can lead or assist in the package selection, the business requirements definition from initial analysis through vendor selection, implementation and integration with existing systems into that cohesive whole. The key to all of this is the ability and experience in developing not just the code needed to enable this smooth communication and output, but also the background in business requirements gathering, and a firm understanding of business systems needs and functional capabilities.
Not many Retailers choose to invest in the expertise and talent needed to perform systems integration within their own environments for a project that may only last a few months. They would prefer to select the software with assistance and then allow the integration company to work hand in hand with their supporting IT staff to develop the software needed to accommodate the interaction between applications. This ultimately enables the output the retailer was planning for.
Within a good client/systems integration partnership, all parties must be talking to one another readily and willingly. There is a tremendous amount of intelligence exchange and the group must work together as one in defining the requirements whether this be business requirements or technical requirements. They must work together in designing the integration, planning the implementation, testing and re-testing and then dealing with the exceptions which arise from any project.