This is the second in a series of blog articles to be published by the HEUG Board of Directors, Integrations Work Group. We hope that these articles inspire and encourage member institutions to think carefully about integrations and the necessary practices and disciplines needed to manage them effectively. If you missed the series introduction or first blog entry, you can find them here and here. Comments, questions and healthy debate are all welcomed.
You’ve taken stock of your integrations, you know how many you have, if they’re incoming, outgoing, bi-directional, you know what information is being exchanged, etc. The next step is to ask why you have them.
Creating new integrations (interfaces) is a fundamental function of implementing virtually any new system since very few, if any, systems are totally stand alone and don’t exchange information. So when the system goes live, it is unveiled with shiny, new interfaces, and additional ones are created as forgotten requirements are remembered and new ones are identified. Over time, these integrations run and run and run; maybe they continue to serve their original purpose or maybe they are tweaked/overhauled to carry different data. And in some cases, they run but no one is quite sure why. Is the data available elsewhere? Is the data needed anymore? Would other data be more beneficial? Have there been changes to the business processes that they were designed to support?
This is where a business process review comes in. It allows you to create new integrations and modify existing ones in a methodical, deliberate manner.
You are able to follow the process through the organization, answer critical questions: Why is it being done? And just as importantly, why is it being done in the current manner? Maybe there’s a better way.
Specific reasons to conduct a BPR are to:
- Identify and manage risk
- Discuss what happens if you create a new integration
- Determine risks if you don’t
- Look for what can go wrong
- Develop accurate estimates of effort
- Determine how long the integration will take
- Decide if you can do it in house
- Seek any needed outside help
- Define scope of the implementation
- Avoid scope creep
- Explain why you are taking the proposed steps
- Watch for attempts to change just for the sake of change
- Develop answers for “but we’ve always done it this way”
- Set realistic expectations
- Involve all those who understand the business need
- Thoroughly explain the rationale for the current process
- Develop reasonable goals
What will you get from a thorough review of your current business processes?
- Reduction of risk
- What you are changing
- What you are creating
- Why you are taking the proposed approach
- Smoother implementation
- Clear roadmap to your destination
- Broader base of support since your key employees are involved
- Increased customer/end-user satisfaction
- End users are involved- they are the experts
- Because of the broad support throughout the process, people have realistic expectations
I heard a funny story on the radio:
Interviewer: why do you bake your cookies in a 9X11 inch pan instead of on a cookie sheet?
Mary: I don’t know; my mom baked them this way. Mom, why did you use a 9X11 inch pan?
Mom: I don’t know; your grandma baked them this way.
Mary: Grandma, why did you use a 9X11 inch pan?
Grandma: Because when your grandpa and I were first married we had a tiny stove in a tiny apartment. It was the only pan that would fit.
We are in a time of massive technological changes. Many of us have used the same cutting-edge-for-their-time technologies and processes for many years. Judicious use of Business Process Reviews can stop us from “baking cookies in the only pan that would fit.”