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A concise introduction to integration problems – Part II: How to solve them

This is the second of our two-part series on integration problems. Click here to read Part I: How to Spot Them.

So, you have identified that your company has integration problems. Morale is affected, reporting is overly complicated, you can’t plan for the future, and customer service is suffering. So, what can you do about it?

Look Before You Leap

When looking to fix integration problems, you have a spectrum of options: at one end is a long series of fixes to individual issues; at the other end is a major, transformational project.

Either way, strategise first! Before you do anything, your Board should consider these questions:

Be aware that this discussion can reveal personal tensions in your organisation. In most cases, when systems aren’t integrated, it means that departments aren’t communicating with each other — so this kind of discussion can be quite stormy, as departments may blame each other for your company’s struggles.

Avoid the blame-game. Aim for a dispassionate acceptance of the current realities and the need for change. Then figure out who will have ownership of the solution.

Putting Together Your Integration Dream Team

 You need focus to solve integration problems. So, start with a competent team that has resources and authority. Appoint a Director to be accountable and give them a twelve-week time frame within which solving integration problems is their priority.

Why twelve weeks? Because the time period needs to be long enough to actually make a difference, but short enough that business-as-usual issues can wait, so this project can genuinely be a priority.

The initial focus should be on creating a list of issues with (a) estimates of the three-year business impact of each, and (b) an assessment of how readily solvable the problem. From this list you can select, say, the top three or four problems with a commitment to solve or substantially reduce them in twelve weeks.

How to Take Small Steps Forward

Remember that integration solutions are on the spectrum between individual fixes and a big, transformational project. It may be tempting to think big — but it may not be necessary! For each issue, consider the following:

More Serious Redesign Projects

If it turns out that more serious redesigns are necessary, you’ll need an even more strategic approach. Go back to the beginning and consider how to reorganise your business to suit the needs of your customers. For example, automate manual activities wherever possible, unless it makes commercial sense or provides enhanced service that your customers value.

Then start thinking through the main processes, key performance indicators, and options for back-end systems. (Naturally, if you reduce the number of back-end systems, there will be fewer technical integrations, so there should be fewer sources of potential problems.)

A word of warning: some vendors market their solutions as a single brand, when, under the bonnet, they actually provide multiple products which are not fully integrated. So, one “product” may actually be composed of many partly integrated pieces of software.

The solution may then lie in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Basically, ERP takes all of the core processes you need to run your company — finance, HR, manufacturing, supply chain, services, procurement, and others — and integrates them into a single system.

The goal is to provide all the separate aspects of your business with the same information in real-time. And the result can a huge springboard to scalability and growth.

You can read Part I: How to Spot Them here.

For more posts on ERP and Integration issues, visit our Knowledge Centre.

Freeman Clarke is the largest and most experienced team of part-time, or fractional, IT leaders. We work exclusively with organisations looking to use IT to grow their business. For an informal conversation, contact us and we’ll be in touch.

AI and its impact on business

Companies from Amazon to Aviva are investing in future technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI), changing their businesses, and filing patents to protect their new ideas. They aim to radically change how they work, to redefine good service, and to massively reduce their costs. This is concerning for domestic, mid-sized businesses for whom this kind of innovation can feel out of reach.

This briefing aims to sort fact from fiction and to separate what’s hype from what’s happening. It also provides some real-world examples drawn from our own clients. We look at the opportunities this opens up for ambitious businesses, the accessibility of machine learning tools / AI services from the likes of Microsoft and IBM and automation of business processes.

To read the full article on what impact AI (Artificial Intelligence) is having on business click on the thumbnail below.

This article contains practical business examples of uses of Artificial Intelligence (AI) including machine learning, software robots, machine vision, automation and natural language processing. It discusses business strategy, especially for mid-market and SMEs, in particular mentioning legal and logistics, AI suppliers, and how to get started.

Visit our Technology Roadmap for Growth Knowledge Centre which includes all content related to this topic.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.

The Hazards of Scaling Up Your Business (and How to Avoid Them)

Imagine this: the co-founder of a multi-million-dollar HR management software company with almost 500 employees likes to micromanage to the point he and not the HR department has sole approval over employee benefits.

Likewise, when any of those hundreds of employees requests time off for holidays, it’s he and not the HR department that says ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

The company doesn’t have a dedicated IT employee to fix computers or printers because that same co-founder believes its gifted engineers should be able to resolve any IT problems that occur—no matter if doing so pulls them away from developing products or resolving customer problems.

Far worse, a massive influx of business means the company can’t keep up with licensing its insurance agents in each of the American states in which it operates. News leaks out, and the company is embroiled in a scandal with the prospect of millions of dollars in fines. The CEO co-founder is asked to resign, which he does.

It might sound far-fetched, but these are just a few of the problems the US HR software company Zenefits experienced during its accelerated growth or scale-up stage, according to Claire Suddath and Eric Newcomer of Bloomberg. [1]

To read the full article written by The FD Centre follow this link.

One of the benefits of working with Freeman Clarke is that we are part of the Liberti Group. As a whole, the group provides part time Directors in IT, Marketing, Finance and Legal, meaning you have access to a wide range of expertise for which you may not have an internal resource.

For further advice and to find out how a part time Finance Director can transform your business visit or call 0800 169 1499.


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Graeme Freeman
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