Home' Facility Perspectives : Vol 10 No 4 Contents FACILITY PERSPECTIVES | VOLUME 10 NUMBER 4 23
SOFTWARE + INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY |
FMs shouldn't underestimate the complexity
of integrating even two standard systems.
Integration involves analysing what each
system can support; working out the possible
connectivity methods; looking at what one
system can provide and what the other
expects, and, if these are different, working
out how to translate data from one system
to the other; and ensuring that the integrated
system can deal with, and support,
Integration is not a trivial exercise, and
the process can take anything from a few
days for a simple integration, to a number of
weeks or even months.
Understanding the technicalities
Having someone on the in-house team who
can keep up with and challenge suppliers
about the technicalities is important. FMs
don't need to be well versed in code and
systems jargon, but it helps to have support
from someone with technical expertise.
There are industry-accepted, best-practice
methods for integrating systems, such as
through web services, interface tables and
interface files, plus publish and subscribe
style integrations for large enterprise clients.
The best method of exchange will need to
be decided, and it will form the basis of a
contract between the systems. This contract
should clearly define conditions such as what
data is expected, where responsibility lies for
incorrect or missing data, latency, exceptions,
non-availability issues and more.
Any possible compromises that may arise
will need to be agreed upon. For example, it
may be impossible to integrate around
two per cent of the system. So, would the
FM be willing to work on a manual solution
Other factors to be agreed upon include:
3 how data from the third-party system
should be imported (automatically or
with human intervention, such as the
click of a button)
3 how frequently data should be imported
3 what degree of data validation is
required (for example, if a new cost
code is added to an accounting package,
should the CAFM application be
automatically updated, or should the
system reject it as unknown data until it
has been validated?).
Invest time in carrying out up-front due
diligence, and considering all the possible
scenarios where there is room for error. This is
not only advisable, but could also save you a lot
of time and money.
A key part of this is choosing reputable
suppliers who will complete the work in a
set time frame, and to a price that includes
extensive due diligence and testing. Other
suppliers may claim to be able to complete
the programming work in just three days -- but
when the system then breaks down, the client
may need to pay more to get it fixed, and from
there costs can rapidly increase.
It is far better to be aware of potential
problems before they arise. After undertaking
detailed analysis to understand the complexities
of the project, you may even decide that the
cost of the integration outweighs the benefits.
After installation, there could be teething
problems. So, ensure that a service or
maintenance element, for an extended
period of time post-installation, is factored
into the overall agreement.
Also ensure that there is a strategy in
place to cover systems being upgraded and
replaced. Identify and be very clear about
where roles and responsibilities lie, and
about how upgrades will be supported.
Costs versus benefit
If performed well, the benefits of integration
to the business can be significant. But, in
some cases, the costs of integration can
outweigh the benefits, and this should be
considered carefully beforehand.
Integration does not always suit small to
medium-sized organisations. Processing one
request, or processing 1000 requests, makes
no difference at all to the software. The
work lies in getting the systems to integrate
successfully in the first place. Integration
cannot be scaled back to fit an organisation's
size and budget.
Will an integrated solution reduce the risks
and save enough on labour to warrant the
investment? It's not a given that integration
will pay back. So, it's necessary to examine
why you want systems to be integrated, and
to make sure that the numbers add up.
Once the integration is complete,
constantly monitor the systems for any errors
and notify the suppliers if issues do occur.
The integrated systems will produce a vast
amount of data. To ensure the full benefit of
the integration and to gain the best return on
investment, work with the business to use
this data effectively and to ensure that the
IoT delivers real payback.
This article is based on a white
paper, Reducing Costs and Increasing
Efficiency: Integrating CAFM Software
with Organisational Systems. For a
complimentary copy, go to:
Service Works Global CEO Gary Watkins
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