IT Systems Integrations — Can they Sink your Project? A Business Perspective

IT systems integrations are part of daily job routine for technical departments but for business representatives, it is usually a completely new experience (and even uncertain ground). The cooperation between these two teams is challenging — on the one hand, the business department is often unable to articulate its needs precisely, which results in bewilderment, when the process turns out to be time-consuming and complicated. On the other hand, the representatives of the technology department focus on the technical aspects, forgetting about the business needs, which are the starting point and overriding objective of conducting the integration.

To answer the question posed in the title — integration may sink any project, and even cause more damage if it is not considered at the planning stage and undertaken properly. How to ensure that this key element of IT projects brings real benefits? What should business representatives pay attention to and why? This article will answer those questions.

When will you encounter IT systems integration?

Today’s business reality is an ecosystem of many specialised systems and applications. Projects often operate in a distributed data structure at the interface of systems such as CRM, ERP, CMS, PIM, CDP, which makes it difficult to exchange, process and analyse data. The integration of IT systems aims to enable the exchange of data between different solutions, ensuring the seamless use of available resources: files, data or information at the same time.

In reality, hardly any project does not require integration. This process is necessary in cases where you are planning, for instance:

  • launching a new website, mobile application or online shop,
  • implementing a new e-commerce platform,
  • implementing a new business process or modifying an existing one, for example online sales, credit application,presentation of a new offer,
  • implementing so-called “360 customer view”.

How to plan an approach to integration in a business project?

As I have already mentioned, an efficient integration should be — above anything else — well thought out. To ensure that planning goes smoothly and succeeds, it is worth considering following the steps described below.

Integration strategy

Systems integration is both a technological and a business challenge, making the dialogue between teams invaluable. It is imperative to consider both business and technological needs. Lacking this holistic approach (and as a result mutual understanding) is a common mistake, leading to a product that does not meet stakeholder requirements. Therefore, collaboration between technology and business departments should lead to:

  • establishing the business objectives of the integration,
  • identifying the problems, which integration will solve,
  • identifying both business processes affected by the change and all the systems influencing the project,
  • verifying the status of available integrations that can be addressed during the project.

At this stage, it is also crucial to select all the stakeholders in the integration — to establish the company departments that will be involved in the project and to determine the decision-makers for each aspect. It is a good idea to create a list of issues to be discussed between the business and technology departments — this type of list may include answers to questions such as:

  • How many systems and which of them will exchange data with each other? Will more need to be included in the future?
  • Who is responsible for managing each of these systems? Are they all under the company’s control or are some managed by external partners?
  • Where will the so-called ‘golden record’ be located to create a ‘single version of the truth1’ for all systems and data?
  • What specific data will be transferred between systems? Will it be a one-way or two-way exchange?
  • How will the systems identify the data, for instance what will be the unique identifier of the data object that will allow clear data synchronisation?
  • Is the data exchange to be automatic or on demand? If automatic, how often is it to be carried out?
  • Do the systems covered by the project currently allow data exchange? In what form?
  • If an API is available, does it have up-to-date documentation or will it need to be ‘worked out’?

The conclusions of all of the above analyses should be documented. Discussion of these issues will help to develop the desired scope of work, the approach to integration, and consequently, a comprehensive plan for further action. On the basis of this, it will be possible to make an initial determination of the workload and time required to realise the integration.

The analysis and strategic plan at the business level should also include a so-called ‘happy path’, which is a default scenario without exceptional conditions or errors. Next, it is worth considering what problems may occur during integration and to develop a scenario for how to react — if only to determine who is notified of a problem and how.

Examples of systems to be integrated based on the e-commerce platform implementation

An example of a project requiring numerous integrations is the new e-commerce platform implementation. In this case, it is highly likely that the business owner of the project will need to include integrations with the following categories of systems: 

  • product system (e.g. PIM) — responsible for the shop’s product catalogue and assortment, including attributes or price management,
  • payment system — usually from external suppliers,
  • logistics systems — may include systems from external suppliers, including courier companies,
  • warehouse system — handling the warehouse and product availability,
  • business systems — e.g. CRM responsible for customer management or systems managing a contractor database.

Even such a superficial analysis proves that a project to prepare integration in the scope described above will involve many company departments. It should therefore be properly planned.

Integration architecture

Integration architecture is a multi-level description that combines business, functional and technological perspectives. The aim of this phase is to outline the appropriate framework for carrying out the integration — realising it in a way that it works according to the business expectations defined earlier. The approach to integration and the structure of its various components, as well as the way it is built and future development, are essential elements of the integration architecture phase.

What layers does an efficient integration architecture consist of?

The business layer defines and describes the business processes that will be reflected in the integration. Additionally, it indicates how data flows through the various business processes. This step should include the creation of a process and data flow diagram as well as a business data model.

The application layer shows how the processes defined at the business layer level will be implemented by the software. The most important aspect of this part is to describe the systems in terms of the processes they perform and the functions they provide. The purpose of this stage is to create a logical model of the application and module architecture, a technical integration model, and a sequence diagram.

The infrastructure layer ensures adequate performance off the data flow process. It focuses on the creation of a network diagram and a hardware architecture diagram.

Integration design

This stage consists of a transition from the general level of architecture to the detailed design — the description and planning of the implementation, including the details of its functions and data structures. The substantive involvement of the business department usually ends in this phase; the integration design becomes the responsibility of the technology departments. It should be formulated so that the integration-related implementation work can be put in motion quickly. Security and performance specifications, testing procedures, and any monitoring procedures and tools for the integration produced should also be included and described. It is also worthwhile to foresee and describe response and escalation procedures related to potential integration malfunctions.

Integration implementation and delivery

The next stage involves the necessary work related to building, testing and launching the integration. This work is usually performed by the technology department, as it directly affects the correctness of the integration preparation. However, since this article focuses on the business perspective, I will not delve into the production work, as I am sure that IT departments experienced in this area possess much more knowledge. As a representative of the ‘business’, I have repeatedly experienced the value of working with a competent team of technical experts: their knowledge and skills are a guarantee that this phase will be carried out in accordance with the art and can be fully relied upon.

Maintenance and post-implementation development

Business processes evolve over time, requiring some updates to adapt to changing circumstances, such as shifts in the market situation. The same applies to integrated applications; you need to be constantly ready to adapt them to ongoing changes, which is why, after implementation, each project naturally enters the next phase. Then, a particular budget must be set for maintenance, regular updates and further development of the integration platform. You also need to think about procedures related to the continuous monitoring of the quality of the data exchange and allocation of needed resources for this process.


From the end-user’s perspective, good integration of IT system is imperceptible, guaranteeing a smooth and seamless use of the platforms. Following the steps outlined in this article increases the chances that the planned integration will succeed. On the other hand, ineffective communication between business and technology departments and lack of skill during planning can become obstacles to a key project and even undermine the entire elaborate digital transformation strategy. Therefore, it is worth making every effort to ensure that everyone involved in the process is well-prepared.

If you want to make sure that the IT systems integration in your future or existing project runs smoothly, contact us via the form below.

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  1. In this case, the ‘truth’ is understood as the source that data users go to if they want to make sure they have the correct and valid version. In this way, they do not have to learn the entire internal structure of data storage and systems. For example, when referring to customer information, we get the data in a standard defined by the company — independent of the individual IT systems. ↩︎
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