5 Keys to Integration

Published by Judson M. Stone, Director - Senior Account Executive, Business Development
March 17th, 2015

System_Integration_1A key element in the most recent T3 conference back in February in Dallas was integration.

Now the process to integrate can be executed in multiple ways for a client reporting solution such as First Rate.  Here are five key steps required when defining an integration plan for your firm.

  1. Define the business requirements – this may seem quite simple yet we find over and over firms are integrating platforms without executing due diligence in defining the core business requirements being addressed through integration.  A simple exercise is to list the reasons WHY and then add details to the reasons which ultimately will determine the foundational requirements.
  2. Determine volume – the volume of user access is key to a corporation’s integration plan.  Based on the size of ‘big data’ within organizations it is difficult to underestimate the required power needed to meet user expectations.  Repeatedly, corporations find integration is complete then they turn to a pilot group to test.  Immediately user acceptance testing uncovers long wait times and unfriendly pauses in the workflow based on designs that did not include volume considerations.
  3. Focus on usability – the standard term in today’s environment of accessing data is ‘dashboard’.  Frankly the effect of this terminology can undermine the most useful access points to be considered by a firm.  A firm or even specific users within an organization may find that a ‘dashboard’ – though slick and powerful – does not meet the stated requirements outlined in step one.  Do not get caught up into having a firm create a ‘dashboard’ on your behalf and then realize months later that the usability does not meet your user communities objectives.  There are other forms of integration which can be utilized to meet the expectations; extracts, scheduled reporting, APIs, contextual launch, single sign-on (SSO) etc.
  4. Review Risk – as we continue to learn how federal oversight is growing with a focus of PII risk, it is key to ensure that your data connections and links between platforms installed locally, accessed in the cloud or externally hosted are protected.  Be vigilant, require vendors to answer the hard questions concerning PII security and their investment in keeping unauthorized access limited.
  5. Execute DOS – following a defined process is key to determining the best approach to create an integration plan.  Remember, not every defined solution in the marketplace is best for you and your firm.  Reaching out to industry experts such as First Rate to determine the ‘best’ approach for your firm should follow the familiar Dangers, Opportunities and Strengths (DOS).  Learn from your vendors on the ways they integrate, then with their help create a list of Dangers, Opportunities and Strengths for each integration pathway.  Though this exercise can be viewed as too slow and methodical the end result will meet more expectations than investing in a single solution without due diligence.  After creating the DOS then weight each solution in alignment with your requirements and select the best approach.
About the Author: Judson M. Stone, Director in Business Development, has been with First Rate since 1995. Jud works as an Account Manager developing new and current opportunities with prospects, clients and strategic partners. Stone has served in multiple groups at First Rate, working as a Performance Analyst, Product Developer, Business Analyst and most recently as Development Manager in Professional Services. Connect with Jud on Twitter @judson_stone and on LinkedIn.

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