Where to start with a large-scale integration

Where to start with a large-scale integration

Embarking on a large-scale integration can be a complex undertaking, particularly when it involves working with multiple systems, processes and data sources. The whole project can quickly become challenging and without careful planning, there is the potential for big, and potentially quite expensive, issues along the way.

So why attempt a large-scale integration? The positive outcomes and benefits could include enabling real-time data processing and decision-making and leveraging the investment in existing systems, thereby extending their useful life and reducing manual data entry effort and the associated potential errors.  

There are a few key steps companies must take to ensure a successful large-scale integration. In this blog, we will talk through some of them.


What is a large-scale integration?

Put simply, integration is the process of bringing together two or more systems. A large-scale integration is slightly trickier to define: for an integration to be deemed large-scale, you will likely have multiple systems involved and/or multiple business processes or workflows to integrate – for example, the integration of a payroll system and an HR system. You may also have data flowing in both directions that needs to be kept in sync in both systems, and that two-way data exchange can also make it a large-scale integration. 

A large-scale integration is very rarely a simple process. In many instances, a company will begin an integration process thinking it’ll be straightforward, only to realise that it is actually a complex large-scale integration. 

There are a number of things to consider before beginning the integration process and a few of these are not necessarily things companies have planned for or considered, including different failure scenarios, performance criteria and whether the integration needs to be synchronous or not. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all situation and, due to the unique nature of each integration, it can be difficult to do things in a purely agile way.

ClearPoint works with organisations at various stages of large-scale integration, get in touch to find out how we can support you in implementing a large-scale integration.


Successful planning involves planning for failure

When planning a large-scale integration, a key step involves considering all the different failure scenarios. This is a step where companies often get stuck as they don’t know everything that could become an issue down the line. For example, what happens if the data goes missing or if one of the systems is down? What if systems are running slow? Does the queue back up? What is the implication of one system being out of sync? How should monitoring and alerting be implemented for these failure scenarios? 

The number of question marks in the paragraph above shows just how many things have to be considered to avoid issues — and those are just a few examples. 

Among the things that commonly lead to unexpected issues are things like data quality, lack of validation, differing date/time formats and not defining which system is the master and which one is the downstream system.

Because of all these areas that can cause issues within the large-scale integration process, it is important to plan the integration carefully, taking all of these potential issues into account. 

One of the key elements of the initial stages of the integration process is the creation of a proof of concept and the testing of all the different failure scenarios. 

Another important aspect relates to ownership as integrations often involve different departments or even different companies. Who owns the integration?  Who is responsible for end-to-end data integrity? And in a failure scenario, who gets called? This is something to define in the planning stages, not when problems arise.

Managing risk is also a key part of the process. There are a number of questions companies need to ask during the process, including, but not limited to:

  • What is the timeframe for this integration? Is there anything driving a timeframe?
  • Do you expect systems to integrate in real-time? How instant do you need it to be?
  • How do you ensure end-to-end data security and privacy?
  • Sometimes the integration between the two systems becomes its own third system. Are you willing to simplify your environment?
  • Ultimately, why are you doing this large-scale integration? What other options are there?

The answer to this last question, in particular, can often unlock different ways of doing things. Sometimes, an integration can enable a whole new business process. Often, it’s the result of mergers and acquisitions, but it can also be a cost-saving measure.


The key to a successful large-scale integration 

Integrations have an ongoing lifespan, as even after “go-live”, they need to be monitored and maintained. 

There will also be a need for ongoing updates, which, while necessary, can lead to issues. Often the systems will get upgraded at different times and an upgrade can break the integration. A regression test suite is key to de-risking upgrades.

When it comes to a project of this nature, the best approach is to not do it all at once.

Instead, organisations should stage the integration, breaking it down into different processes. Can you choose something that is low risk first before working with the most critical data? If it goes wrong, can you roll it back? Is there an easy way to recover the data and try again? 

A solid roadmap should address all this and outline the proof of concept, testing, validation and go-live times.


How ClearPoint helps

ClearPoint specialises in working with organisations at various stages of large-scale integration. From planning through to integration – ClearPoint offers expert advice around architecture, provides clear guidance on the most appropriate integration technology, and writes integration code, alongside functional testing and performance testing.

Ultimately, ClearPoint’s input will depend on the needs and expertise of the business embarking on the integration process.

ClearPoint will often provide specialist expertise to the integration team, supplementing their workforce with a hybrid team.

Get in touch with ClearPoint today to find out how we can help you successfully implement a large-scale integration.

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