Integration 101: What’s Your Role?

No integration project exists as an island.

It takes collaboration from the Business Application Expert, the Integration Specialist, the Technical Application Specialist, and Project Managers to be successful.

So, what role do you play in your organization’s integration? Let’s look at these positions and what each needs to bring to the table to make the integration project a win for everyone.

Business Application Expert

When systems are integrated together, the departments using the systems may be affected.  How the departments are affected is governed by the use cases and user stories describing the integration.

The Business Application Experts are the people who creates those stories. 

They are the day-to-day users of the system and the integration directly impacts them positively. The user stories they tell describe the information they need to better do their jobs. When that information comes from a different system, then the user story describes an integration. 

For example, if you’re integrating marketing automation and CRM together, your Business Application Experts would be your Marketing Director and your Sales Manager. The Marketing Director may want the integration to sync Contacts between the marketing automation and CRM to make list building easier and more accurate. That’s a user story/use case showing the information that will help her do her job better.

Having the participation of each party in this scenario ensures that everyone understands how the integration affects them. It also gives them a voice to speak up about any data features/functions they feel strongly about. They are the ones who will use the integration most, so the resulting capabilities need to match what’s important to them.

Does your Services department use the CRM too? Then the head of that department also should be involved.

The integration requires a fine balance of these participants: involve too few and you risk integrating inefficiently; involve too many and you risk muddying the waters with too many opinions.

If you’re not sure which Business Application Experts to involve, ask your integrator. They’ve done this before and they can advise you on the key players.

Technical Application Specialist

What is the Technical Application Specialist?  Frequently, they go by names like Admin, IT Administrator, IT Business Analyst, or Developer. They own the key technical knowledge of the application. While the Business Application Expert knows we want to turn Quotes into Orders, the Technical Application Specialist knows that Quotes can consist of Quote Headers, Quote Detail Line Items, Products, Inventory Tables, Product Catalogs, and Customer Catalogs. Orders would have a similar set of tables.

The Technical Application Specialist breaks down the high-level use case to the next level, uncovering the nuances of data within each.

Integration Specialist

The Integration Specialist takes the Technical Application Specialists’ and the Business Application Specialists’ knowledge and builds an integration bridging business and technical considerations.   Integration Specialists are concerned with how data must be transformed from one system to the next. 

Transformations can be simple like moving Field 1 to Field A or truncating Field 1 and moving it to Field A.  On a secondary level, transformations can be slightly complex, such as breaking a Time Stamp Field into two Date and Time Fields.  Transformations also can be conditional, like moving Field 1 to Field A if it is greater than 0, otherwise move it to Field B. Complexities can also manifest where Fields are broken and assembled based upon coding.

It is the Integration Specialist’s job to make sure this is done correctly.  They also need to understand if this needs to be a real-time or batch integration, what the impact on the application performance will be given real-time or batch, and what data governance rules need to be supported.

The Integration Specialist is also the expert on the integration platform used to integrate the systems. 

The role of Integration Specialist is usually filled by either an internal team member, your integration partner, or both. 

Project Managers

The Project Manager’s job is to keep everyone moving in the same direction without having them kill one another. 

They coordinate resources, track budget, line up expert help if needed, coordinate testing, ensure use cases and user stories are complete, and resolve any problems that come along the way. In many cases, an integration may have multiple project managers fulfilling different aspects of these roles. Your integration partner may provide a Project Manager for you, but you may also need to assign an internal Project Manager. Discuss your options with your integration partner.

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