Is your company gearing up for an ERP system implementation? If so, have the system integrations been thoroughly scoped and planned? Planning and building integrations is not typically as “seamless”, “easy”, and “automated” as the product marketing brochures make it out to be and could delay or add unexpected cost to your ERP system implementation.
Consider another similar scenario, you just set up your newly purchased home entertainment system and want to play your favorite Beastie Boys music video from your iPhone on the TV to try it out. You turn on the TV, boot up the surround sound, and discover that the music cannot be played. Unbeknownst to you until now, your TV model does not support Apple products and your stereo does not support audio from Apple products (both facts the salesperson failed to mention when you were purchasing the system).
You likely are not going to disassemble and return the entire system just because it does not integrate with Apple products. Instead all you need to do is hop on Amazon, purchase an adapter that supports Apple products, incur some additional costs, wait a few extra days, then you are finally able to jam out to Brass Monkey through your new entertainment system.
Similarly, you should not overlook the systems integration when planning your implementation if you want to experience the benefits of unified business applications. Answering the following questions will help plan your integration and reduce the likelihood of being blindsided by missing functionality or unforeseen costs during implementation.
- What business applications will be used in addition to your ERP system? What applications are the system of record or “source of truth” for your master data (customers, items, etc.)?
- If your company does not maintain an application inventory, creation of a business applications list should be included as one of the first steps in the implementation planning process. Do not forget the HRIS, Payroll, CRM, Banking, and Reporting applications.
- What specific data needs to flow between the two systems? Are the integrations one-way or bi-directional?
- Data journey mapping can be a useful exercise for visualizing the connections and documenting the flow of business information.
- Are there any new applications being implemented concurrently with your ERP system? Will the new applications need to be integrated to the existing non-ERP applications?
- Managing additional application selections and then implementations can distract your project team from the core ERP implementation. Be aware of any critical path items that affect the new applications.
- How will the application be integrated? Who will build the integrations?
- Three broad categories of integration exist: software API (usually created by the application vendors), integration platform (provided by a 3rd party such as Dell Boomi, Informatica, Jitterbit, etc.), or manual flat file import/export.
- Which integrations are needed for “Day 1”? Which integrations could wait until the new system is stabilized?
- Use transaction or data flow volume, criticality to the business model, and estimated frequency of integration use as the guiding principles.
- Have the integrated application owners and decision makers been identified?
- Well-defined application and integration roles and responsibilities and an explicit integration governance process help drive progress and identify potential resource constraints early in the planning process.
- Does your ERP system have a dedicated test or development environment to support integration building?
- Consider purchasing an additional environment to have separate environments for testing and integration development.
Planning future systems integrations side by side with the implementation of your ERP system, enables you to more accurately predict ERP implementation project effort, timeline, and cost. Identifying critical path integration items will help you avoid unpleasant (and potentially costly) surprises during the middle of the project or following go-live.