System integrations should be seen as a part of business development and not only as investments as still seen in too many organisations. Seeing system integrations as an integral part of business development fits especially well in the agile business environment, where they are not worth planning for the existing business environment. Instead of this, they have to be planned for the future with a capacity to adapt to the continuously changing business environments and needs.
I’d like to share my key learnings from system integrations. My learnings are from the media business, which is rapidly changing from product based business to service business.
- Customer needs. All starts from the customer. The customer needs and behaviour preferences need to be understood thoroughly and correctly. Only after that can the organisation start to develop the services the customers need, and only after that can the systems be integrated to combine the existing services into the new ones. The system integration processes today need to take into account the role of the customers much more than in the past. The customers’ role in interacting and creating the content themselves in the media business is growing fast.
- Criteria for decision-making. The most important part of system integration process is to agree on decision-making criteria. This is where the approval from the business development is needed, and where they need to agree on wanting to utilise the maximum benefit from new technologies.
- Testing and measuring. In a recent system integration program we had at Sanoma, we had a traditional checklist of 500 points, which we continuously kept on checking throughout the process. The system integration progress was also measured and interdependencies monitored. Finally, before the launch, we tested whether we truly were ready to launch.
- Partners. Partners, such as a printing house, banks and service providers, need to be part of the system integration team. Their comments and development ideas need to be included in the overall plan in order to guarantee the flawless customer experience in the end.
- Costs. Because system integrations can be very costly, it is important that the system integration enables better business once it’s ready. This core idea needs to stay on focus during the whole process. This includes business cases and agreed measurements.
The current business environment strongly promotes agile methods. Even though the benefits from agile solution development are undisputed, we cannot forget the basics. Agile development does not mean we can forget the comprehensive user acceptance testing and solution sign-offs from the business representatives. System integrations are very technical but the impact for business processes needs to be clear in mind.
Sanoma Media Finland is the leading Finnish multi-channel media company known for its leading brands. Sanoma Media Finland offers information, experiences and entertainment through newspapers and magazines, television and radio as well as online and in mobile media.