Modern enterprises depend on information systems for most, if not all, aspects of their operations. Enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, business intelligence, service oriented architectures with web services, and enterprise portals must function together to enable employees, partners, suppliers, and customers to interoperate efficiently and effectively. Errors, incompatibilities, jarring changes in interfaces, and many other kinds of failed integration can result in dissatisfaction and, in the worst case, lost business and decreased revenues. The complex amalgamation of systems that enable an enterprise to function requires that new technology integration be undertaken very carefully.
At many companies, new technologies must adhere to an evaluation process that is designed to mitigate integration problems. As an information system is being designed and developed, the requirements of the solution are identified. An initial evaluation of all potential solutions is performed using white papers, independent reviews, and vendor documentation. A thorough paper-based evaluation usually takes one or two weeks to complete. Using the results of the paper-based evaluation, two or three best candidates are selected for on-site analysis. Arrangements are made between the company and vendors to bring systems on-site, where a full integration is performed and documented. The integrated systems are evaluated against the project requirements and the best solution is chosen from the analysis as a recommended solution. The on-site evaluation can take six to eight weeks to complete, with the principle time being spent negotiating terms and conditions between the business and the vendors.
During the fourth quarter of 2008, a client had an urgent need for a new storage solution. The per volume capacity requirements for the project meant that the client’s existing storage solutions would not be sufficient to meet the requirements. A project was initiated to evaluate, acquire, and install a new storage solution. The urgency of the client’s requirements did not fit with the amount of time required for a normal evaluation. The project team made a decision to reduce the time to delivery by skipping the on-site integration and evaluation. A storage solution was selected based on a paper evaluation of storage systems that met project requirements.
Unfortunately, the selected solution encountered numerous integration problems, including issues with Active Directory, anti-virus, and backup system integrations. The troubleshooting, analysis, and resolution of these issues resulted in delays in the deployment of the system to customers. The resulting delays added several months to the project schedule. The solutions to the integration problems were varied, from vendor software changes to purchase of additional backup hardware. The lack of integration between the new system and existing systems was costly in terms of project delays and costs.
Careful analysis and evaluation of systems is crucial for a smooth and pain free deployment. Systems analysts must ensure that new technologies integrate with existing systems. While bypassing the work required to conduct integration testing may seem like a viable option, the decision carries significant risk.