On a recent TharsternTV episode about integration, our chief integration ninja, John Murphy, declared that only 35% of the work he carries on an integration project is related to technology! The other 65% of the work involves communicating with and managing people.
So why is this? Why is the human element more important in a technological project than the actual technology itself? Read on to learn about the 5 people related problems that you need to be aware of when embarking on an integration project and how to solve them.
1. You can’t achieve a truly integrated workflow without your software partners
When embarking on the type of integration project that’s typical for the printing industry, it’s critical that you create a collaborative relationship with your external software partners. In the majority of situations, you won’t be able to deliver the project on your own, even if you have development skills in-house. So spend the time to get to know your software partners, and share your technological vision with them so they’ll feel excited to be part of your journey, and will go that extra mile to help you achieve your vision.
2. People don’t like change
Not everyone welcomes change and so unless you deal with it properly, there will be some people in your company that will be resistant to your project.
That’s why you need to communicate with the whole business about the vision of the project, what’s involved, any disruption they might experience, the effect on their department, and so on. Make this communication regular and transparent, and keep reinforcing the vision and the benefits it will bring to your employees.
3. Cross-functional teams don’t always agree
To deliver a successful integration project, you need to create a project team that includes people from all the different areas of your business that will be affected by the integration. This will inevitably bring with it a difference in priorities and opinions. While this is a good thing, you still need to keep the project moving so make sure there’s one person on the team who has the authority to make the final decision. From the start, they should lay out the ground rules that once a decision has been made, everyone must rally behind it.
Here at Tharstern, we have a set of internal commandments we follow, one of which is very fitting for this situation: “Be prepared to disagree and commit”. What this means in essence is that if we’re in a situation where we feel passionately about an idea or plan of action, but our colleagues aren’t so sure, we ask them to trust us and “Disagree and commit”. And if someone asks us to do the same, we should return the favor, giving them our full support, no matter what the outcome. There are exceptions to this approach, of course, but on the whole it works great for collaborative projects, and we can definitely recommend giving it a go for integration projects.
4. Without ongoing collaboration, your project can fail
Once you’ve achieved your vision for your integration project, don’t disband your team and stop there! Integrated workflows need continual review to make sure they stay working, and you should always be trying to build on your last success and improve integration even more.
We advise holding regular workflow meetings, where your integration team gathers to review the performance of your past projects and how your workflow can be improved even further. To make sure these meetings go ahead, schedule them into everyone’s calendar and highlight the importance of attending.
5. Without understanding and training, people will revert to old ways
You shouldn’t expect that everyone understands the integration and how it will affect their particular role, even if you think it’s simple. So spend some time sharing your knowledge and delivering any necessary training to the people who are touched by the integration. That’s how you will make sure your workflow is working the way you want it to, and nobody is taking shortcuts or reverting back to old ways.
A final word
The success of an integration project hinges on the attitude and commitment of those involved. Technology is not infallible and the difference between one company’s success and the other is the attitude that their people have towards it.
At Tharstern we often see situations where there are two companies running the same software and equipment and printing the same types of jobs, and yet while one company is massively successful with integration, the other company is not. The differences between these two companies are always people related.
So if you’re about to embark on an integration project, try and devote at least half of your planning time to the people involved in (and who will be affected by) your project. And try and get everyone as motivated and excited as you are – life will be considerably easier for you if you do!
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