An interview with John Wood, Director - EMEA, Axsium Group
A Workforce Management solution is, ultimately, only as good as the data that you put into it. And, there is no one more important to the process of collecting all that data than a third-party system integrator.
Most end-users of a WFM solution have no idea what a system integrator is, or what they do. In fact, if the SI has done their job properly, and the WFM solution is operating seamlessly within a larger IT structure, then they are virtually invisible. However, it takes a lot of work and skill to ensure that seamless functionality.
WFM solutions require specific data sets to perform their functions: time card information, payroll reports, and absence reports. If all of this information is being created by the same system, then the work of the SI is fairly straight forward. The reality is that most organizations use several disparate IT systems to collect and track this data. That makes pulling it all together a gargantuan task.
This is particularly challenging when an organization is depending on a manual legacy system for generating things like budget data. It is still not unusual, even in some of the largest organizations, to find that budget data is being collected and managed manually through a spreadsheet program. Ultimately, these organizations will likely automate budget processes but without consideration of whether the system being used is a good fit with other systems within the IT infrastructure leaves a less than holistic view of the entire ecosystem.
How does an SI sort and re-organize an array of disparate IT systems to make them all work together to provide the data needed for WFM solutions?
The first step is to identify all of the disparate systems that produce the data necessary for the WFM solution. This includes obscure, customized reports produced by legacy IT systems. The SI will then work with the organization to establish various parameters for the new system, including accessibility, performance expectations, scalability and resilience. Planning for redundancy will be essential, along with ensuring that the right hardware is purchased.
Perhaps most importantly, the SI will have to plan out the process of migrating data from other systems into the WFM solution. This involves intensive troubleshooting to ensure functionality, but also to create a system that can be upgraded quickly in the future and with as few bugs as possible.
The SI process unfolds in a measured, thoughtful manner:
: identification of all of the different sources of data within the existing IT system.
Analysis: identification of the data needed to ensure functionality of the WFM solution.
What “size” of system is required. Sizing is determined by examining the client’s requirements, the number of end users, the number of sites and the servers needed to maintain the entire solution and insure optimal performance.
Moving the actual data to the new solution, and then testing to ensure it is responsive and accurate.
: If the SI has done a thorough job, then final implementation should be seamless.
: This is the process of turning off the old system/process as to eliminate the maintenance burden can be more difficult than one would imagine. These must be carefully and cleanly removed and/or archived with precision.
The best evidence of an effective System Integrator is a seamless implementation, with minimal disruption and when the client team is shielded from the lion’s share of the effort.