In today’s day and age, when firms want to stay ahead of the game, their systems need to function synchronously. Software that is not integrated and thoroughly tested results in significant increases in cost and resource consumption.
Defining systems/application integrations is the first step in explaining its importance. Understanding the business needs and determining the best technical strategy for implementation is a key component to the success of any software integration. Here are some important points to consider:
1. Choosing the best software for a need
Knowing the range of products available for is important, as is knowing which options are best. Reach out to independent integrators/consultants, who often are not tethered to any one vendor; they act in the best interest of the client and advise based upon their experience in the marketplace.
2. Improving the quality and reliability of an integration project
No person knows everything. Software integrations need to take into account the mechanical/technical, process, and business intelligence issues and ways to integrate those disciplines into a working solution. A common mistake firms make is acquiring software without involving the technical team. Improve the overall quality and cost of integration by including the technical team from the onset.
3. Having the right skill set
Project management, quality control, and execution require different skill sets. Software integration requires all of them. Prepare a comprehensive plan for initial deployments and updates to incorporate each of these components. Proper planning, testing, and execution result in long-term savings.
4. Saving on implementation costs
Should a firm use independent system integrators? If a firm does not have internal expertise to deploy, test, and remediate, it should evaluate its integration strategy and consider taking advantage of outside assistance. Doing so could potentially save the cost of hiring someone and allow an expert with a vast knowledge base to handle the implementation.
5. Accounting for time and resources
Track and learn from the beginning. Use experience from the firm’s previous software integrations to continuously improve those practices. Apply a budget to an integration project, whether you are using internal or external resources. Software integration has an end user/firm-wide business impact. If it does not work properly, the loss could be substantial. A firm should be accountable and track historical practices to minimize repeated failures. Whether software integration projects are fixed or variable, the firm should manage costs, labor, and materials based on a prepared plan and budget. Software integration projects should always include product definition, scope, and an associated cost structure. When internal staff members implement a project, there is often minimal accountability. An attitude of “it’ll take as long as it takes” can exist, and, in turn, budgets and schedules often suffer. Use a project approach for software integrations whether they involve a new application or an update; the benefits will be significant.
Sue Keno is the vice president of Keno Kozie Associates, a leading national IT integration and support consultancy that has provided integration and Help Desk services to law firms for more than 25 years. She specializes in client management, document management, and application services within the law firm environment. She earned her undergraduate degree in business at Elmhurst College.