How to Avoid Integration Headaches

When I am at trade shows, I often hear questions about “ability to integrate” asked by attendees in trembling voices.  The trembly voice gives away the fact that this organization has fallen victim to an integration nightmare.  It is all too common.

I’ve managed over 100 integrations between myStaffingPro and HRIS systems, assessment companies, job boards, payroll systems, and even other ATS companies.  Here is what I’ve learned:

1.  Ask about integration points and the willingness to integrate before you buy.  Software companies ideally should offer standard web services for transferring data.  Make sure to ask how much it costs to integrate, and have one of your IT staff look at their standard integration specifications.

2.  Determine your business reasons for integrating first.  What are you hoping to accomplish by integrating?  How much time and money will it really save you?

3.  Once your business reasons are defined, schedule a conference call or meeting with ALL the stakeholders on the integration product.  This normally includes you and anyone else who will be managing the project on your end, an account manager and IT contact for each vendor, and an IT contact for your company, if the IT department will be involved at all.

It’s important for all stakeholders to understand the underlying business rules before determining the “hows.”  This allows for better buy in, and also inspires the IT professionals to offer the very best option in integration.

4.  Unless a standard integration model is sufficient, schedule weekly conference calls/ meetings while specifications are being hashed out.  Take your time in this step, as it will prevent future surprises.

5.  As part of the specifications, make sure to build in transparency about how the integration is working.  This involves providing feedback to the end users, logging transactions, and giving key people in all companies access to review the ongoing success/failure of the data transfers.

6.  Carefully review the final specs and quote.  Unless the integration uses standard web services, it will and should cost some money, as integrations between systems is taxing on both server and bandwidth resources, and on the time it takes for both IT and customer service to support and troubleshoot the integration.  But the cost is usually small compared to the time and money saved in avoiding duplicant data entry.

7.  Ask for timelines, and have every stakeholder agree to them.

8.  Schedule ongoing calls/meetings with key stakeholders as the project progresses.  This is the MOST IMPORTANT step for ensuring a successful integration.

9.  Once development is complete, test, test and test! 

10.  After completion, make sure to thank everyone involved with the project.

Happy integrating!

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