How to successfully handle procurement system integration

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Source to Pay implementations typically involve several different systems which need to communicate with each other. The integration phase of the project is the process of deciding which systems need to be involved, what data needs to pass between them, and developing and testing these interfaces.

Integration is often the most complex part of a cloud-based procurement implementation and can cause costly delays to the project if it is mismanaged.

Best practice principles for a successful integration include:

  • Base integration decisions on your business processes

  • Integrate only what’s necessary to support processes (don’t integrate just because you can)

  • Assign the right people with the right skills and availability to this part of the project

  • Keep integrations as simple as you can

  • Start building as early as possible

  • Actively manage progress and issues that arise, particularly as several providers may be involved

Treat the integration stage of the project as a sub-project of the main implementation. Adequate preparation will ensure that the scope, timelines, and costs are clearly understood up front. The integration plan should be aligned with the design, build and testing phases of the overall project.

Depending on your current IT landscape, additional technology may be required. Your business processes and requirements documentation will define what you want to achieve but selecting the correct integration technology is critical to delivering it.

To select the right technology, the best practice is to run an RFP, with requirements specified so that system integrators or middleware providers can formally respond to your needs.

Integration is all about data – what data is needed from source systems, where does it need to go, and what, if any, transformations need to be made to that data.

Understanding these flows is fundamental to the design of integrations and there are some guidelines to follow to ensure your integration design satisfies your requirements, but is not over complex.

In the past, integration options were more flexible, as on-premise systems tended to be highly customisable. As solutions moved to the cloud the scope for design decisions became more limited. As a consequence, it is now possible to overlap the integration design and build phases with the S2P phases.

Testing is another very important aspect of integration. Integration testing follows the same template as the functional testing, but owing to the complexities involved, and the consequences of inadequate testing of this part of the solution, some more discipline and rigour is required.

Integration is complex, so do not under-estimate the effort involved or the risks of getting it wrong. Start preparation at the very beginning of the project, identify the right people to be involved and form them into an effective team.

If you keep your integrations simple, test them rigorously, and design them for low maintenance and support overheads, the chances of your Source to Pay project succeeding will be increased.

If you are interested in integration for your Source to Pay project, our consultants are more than happy to have a chat!