Psychology and System Integration

The more value a system has for a company the more integration with that system will be performed. When companies grow and processes change due to internal or external changes, more integration is carried out. Integration is a field that developed significantly in the last 10 years. Tasks are more transparent and communication is easier. Technology/Design principals like SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) have been the major accelerators in getting a coherent view through the industry. Here are some recommendations for handling integration projects.

What is Integration?

Integration is making two or more systems “talk” to each other. The interesting thing about integration is that it isn’t two different systems that understand each other, but two different teams that try to agree about how they see the world. Both teams already have a model of the world in their information model.

The Psychology of Who is Integrating Against Who

When integrating two systems, it’s common for team A to feel that they are doing team B a favor because team B is integrating into the team A’s system, and therefore have more to gain from that integration. Team A feels that their information model is the one that team B should adapt to.

Sometimes both teams get the same feeling that they are doing the other team a favor.  This causes irritations as each team tries to present evidence that their view of the world is the correct one.

Is it a problem to adapt to the other systems view of “the world” / information model?

If the other team has had more integration experience (either by building them or integrating to several systems), it is probably a good idea to let their view of the world teach you. While your system might be easier to adapt to and your team is more agile than theirs, the other team has to make sure the information model works for a lot of different systems.

How to avoid this?

If this becomes a problem for both systems, meet with the other systems owner and do an effect analysis together. Which benefit will each system gain through integration?  Are there any cost benefits or new possibilities? If there are new possibilities for any system, include the people who will gain most by these possibilities.

A business developer might see how and if these possibilities might be “harvested”. If there are no new benefits by integrating, no efficiency gain, no cost reduction, or any new possibilities that can be harvested, integration is discouraged. Another alternative is to get upper management / executive support, either enterprise-wide or between the organizations. Present the new possibilities that integration will bring. It’s always good to have “executive blessing”!

How to use this to benefit your team!

If you fear that your project will be the one that has to adapt to the other team, you can manipulate the situation to your advantage. But do it with caution, because these aren’t exactly “kosher” recommendations.

  • Conduct the meeting with the other team in your office or conference room. The other team is in your territory and you’re hosting the meeting.  The meeting host can set the agenda for discussions.
  • Be proactive and send out the agenda before the meeting.  That way, it’s easier to chair the meeting. If you are conducting the meeting, the other team will feel that they report to you.
  • Take down minutes of the meeting and send them to all meeting attendees.
  • If the meeting is via phone or video conferencing, (live meetings) use your account and pay for the facility.

Hidden Stakeholders

Integration projects tend to have hidden stakeholders. Since there are two organizations to be integrated, one has no knowledge of the other. all stakeholders. For the success of the entire project,  it should be made clear that every stakeholder is involved at the beginning of the project. Unfortunately, business people show up only during the testing phase when they should have been present much earlier. In large organizations it also common that there is a specific security department, it becomes very strange when they are not involved early. I has responsible for delivering as system as a supplier to and a week before product delivery the purchaser called and ask if we could have a workshop with the security department and discuss the design and solutions. The purchasor had the prior day accepted all acceptance test so we feelt like this was a bit late in the process to start discussing security design principles might have been better to done this earlier in the project.

The most important success factor in integration projects

The largest factor is relationships – accounting for 53% of success (According to the standish rapport).  For integration projects this becomes more important especially when it is carried out between different organizations, each with their goals and views of the world. Communication and building relationships must therefore be done at every level as well as obtaining upper management’s support. Hold regular meetings – for example every Friday after lunch. Things tend to happen on Friday morning when people promise deliveries or need to prepare.