Managers at a large international organization with hundreds of locations around the world received a mandate to centralize its processes and controls. Historically, the organization had no system architecture, and its processes were driven from the field by local facility representatives.
But as a manufacturing organization, it was under immense pressure to maintain production. The managers interpreted their mandate as a necessity to complete the job quickly and “just get it done” to minimalize potential disruptions.
Nigel Waterton, senior vice president of corporate strategy and development at Aronson Security Group, advised differently. He and his colleagues advised the organization to slow down and make a comprehensive plan.
“But they wanted to get going,” Waterton says. “Without a plan involving key stakeholders inside the organization both at headquarters and local facilities, expectations were misaligned. It went badly.”
“Integration is something that we all do but it really doesn’t describe what we are. … We spend more time today engineering and thinking through the whole problem of the integration.” —Nigel Waterton, Aronson Security Group
At ISC West 2016 in Las Vegas on April 5, Waterton and other presenters discussed issues to consider during complex integration projects to avoid such bad endings. Such issues include the accessibility of data, the interoperability of systems and collaborative vendor partnerships.
Paul Boucherle, principal at Matterhorn Consulting, joined Waterton and two other panelists to tackle these issues during a session produced by the SIA Education@ISC and titled “Taking the Edge Off of Systems Integration.”
“It’s about the sophistication of integration and different systems and how they fit together, and the challenges integrators may face,” Boucherle says of the ISC West session. “What are the challenges of taking legacy systems and upgrading them to more modern technology from a technology standpoint? And also from standpoints of people and process?”
Waterton adds, “The challenges of anything today is really the ‘why.’ Why do you want to do this? What is the impetus?”
And so prior to undertaking any large integration project, an organization must contemplate what that change will mean for its business operations. “If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail,” as the adage goes, says Waterton.
Every integration project requires a good plan as a foundation along with a good understanding of the needs of the client and the client’s stakeholders, he said.
“Integration is something that we all do but it really doesn’t describe what we are,” Waterton says. “Integration is a function inside of a process. We spend more time today engineering and thinking through the whole problem of the integration.”
In the past, some integrators and their clients may have seen the installation of a system as the beginning and the end of a project. But experienced integrators have learned to engage through a cycle that includes planning beforehand and follow-up support afterward.
The ISC West session intended to make such matters top of mind for attendees: to discover how working with the right partners to help consolidate systems can improve efficiency without unnecessary complexity; to simplify new services and technologies utilizing good program management and by prioritizing developments for deployment; and to create new opportunities to become a trusted advisor by bridging the gap between technical solutions to operational excellence and efficiency.
Waterton recalls a large state institution that took the time to heed his advice on a project. When putting out a bid, the institution published a request for proposals (RFP) that sought the lowest price only. But Waterton and his colleagues advised that the approach was wrong.
Measure the criteria of the integrator’s competency, they urged. How many technicians do you have? What is your training cycle? Your certification level? Your corporate culture? Do these things align with what you’re planning? Can you measure effectiveness at the beginning, middle and end of a project?
The state entity rolled back the RFP, listened to the advice, and devised a new bid using a different metric for success. The resulting project was wildly successful.
“You can take the short and narrow route, and that’s going to give you problems, or you can go long and slow and craft out the true expectations of what the integration truly means. Then, you will be much more successful,” Waterton says.