How healthy are your institution’s integrations? You probably have many integrations (and the list is probably getting longer) such as your Admissions CRM to Student Information System integration or your Travel and Expense software to your financial ERP software integration. It is difficult to determine when to change your integration method or if one needs focused attention. You do not want to make the switch too late. From our experience we recommend that all integrations get an annual assessment no matter if it is a home-grown integration or an integration supplied by an outside vendor. The systems you are integrating are changing all the time and the ways to integrate them change as well. Therefore, you need to review on a regular basis the integration methods you are using and see how healthy they are.
Some suggestions: If you do not have a data system inventory, we suggest you do this first. If you do not have your integrations between data systems documented, we suggest you do this next. This will aid in your annual integration assessments.
Areas to Assess - We’ve identified 5 areas in integration to assess (time and cost, resources, flexibility, performance and risk) and questions to ask which will help with the integration assessment.
Here are the areas and questions:
1. Time and Cost – Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much time and money are we spending on the current solution?
- What is the yearly non-support cost of this integration, if applicable? Is this cost acceptable?
- Are there bugs in the integration that need to be fixed and what is the effort necessary to fix?
2. Resources – Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much time is necessary to maintain this integration? Is this time spent acceptable?
- How many people are necessary to support this integration?
- Are these internal resources or they outside resources that require a cost?
- Are these high-level individuals?
- Is it difficult to get their time?
- Do we have at least one or preferably two resources that are available to make changes?
- What is the yearly support cost for this integration? Is this cost acceptable?
3. Flexibility – Ask yourself the following questions:
- What needs to be modified if any of 2 systems being integrated are upgraded?
- Due to requirement changes or just another phase of the integration, are their data fields that need to be added to the integration? And if so, how easy is it to make the change to the integration?
- If you have an outside company providing the integration method, how many upgrades have they supplied the past year, and did they provide quick, effective support when called?
4. Performance – Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are the folks on the front line satisfied with when they are getting the data from the integration?
- Do the folks on the front line trust the data they receive from the integration?
- Does your integration method have ways to monitor the integration and are there errors logs that can be checked so that issues can be resolved quickly?
5. Risk – Ask yourself the following questions:
- How do you adjust if the integration currently used becomes broken?
- Is there a backup plan or disaster plan if the integration no longer works?
Scoring – For each integration you have and for each of the above areas do the following:
- Give yourself 2 points for each area if you are doing well
- Give yourself 1 point for each area if you are OK but could use improvement
- Give yourself 0 points for each area if you are having major issues
For each integration total up the points (maximum 10 and minimum of 0).
Here are some thoughts on your integration health score:
- Institutions that have a score of 9 or 10 means that this integration is doing well and that there is no reason for a change and no need of any immediate action.
- Institutions that have a score of 7 or 8 means that you are doing fine but there are some issues that need addressing. Add these tasks to a project list to get completed before next annual assessment. This might include additional training, hiring an additional person to the IT staff, searching for an outside resource that can be used as a backup or going to a new release of the integration software the institution is using.
- Institutions that have a score of a 5 or 6 means integration is good for now but there are significant issues that need addressing. Institution should start evaluating other integration options and create a plan to switch.
- Institutions that have a score of less than 5 means integration replacement needs to be a high priority and a plan to switch to a better integration method should be created.
We hope that this annual assessment helps improve your system integrations. Focus on the most critical integrations and the integrations that have the lowest health score. Feel free to comment back to this post if you have other questions you ask when you assess your integration method. Check out our video on this subject.
IData is expert in integrating higher education data systems including ERPs, SISs, CRMs (such as Slate) and financial solutions (such as Concur). We have connectors and our IDataHub enterprise service bus that makes integration easy. IData also has experts that can assist with data governance, reporting and other technology services on an as needed basis. Feel free to contact us and let us know how we can assist.
(image credit StockSnap_GSBJXWRSDV_integration_healthscore_BP #1090)