A Stepped Approach to Business Application Integration

A Stepped Approach to Business Application Integration – Part 1

When performing discovery and requirements gathering for a new business applications project, it’s vital to get a sense of the stage the organisation is at with its current data and processes to ensure that the solution being proposed suits the client’s needs as accurately as possible. Below we have listed rough “steps” that a client might be at, along with the strategy for development and the potential progression of the solution as the client needs change. One of the major advantages of low code business application solutions is that we have the option to create applications in this phased approach, preventing the potential need for a very large undertaking of initial work and allowing orgs to get to a level of solution without potentially overextending to unnecessary requirements or unnecessarily expensive licensing.

Blank Slate Scenario

An organisation is creating a new department to manage projects. There is no plan to migrate existing project data, the information will be from scratch when the process and system has been developed.

This scenario is the most versatile in what solution can be proposed and will depend on the client’s roadmap for the new department. If this is a pilot project focusing on the process with the potential to grow in the future, the strategy would be to develop an initial small-scale application, such as a SharePoint List or even an Excel Online spreadsheet for capturing a minimal amount of data and using PowerBI to provide reporting.  

However, the blank slate phase is in a unique position that, if the budget and commitment to a solution is present, a more complex application can be developed from the start to prevent the need to follow the stepped approach, meaning a solution like Project Online or Dynamics 365 Project Operations could be implemented from the outset.

Capturing Data Scenario

A single user within an organisation is responsible for tracking invoices. This is currently done via a spreadsheet on the user’s machine. The organisation requires greater visibility on invoice information to other users, however, there is no plan to expand the group of users who will be managing the input of invoices.

In this scenario, the goal should be to focus on what the client requires and meet that with a minimal amount of development. As they have set out that they currently have no intention of increasing how many users will create or update this data and have not outlined the spreadsheet as an issue, we should focus on providing the ability to give certain other users visibility of this data. This can be done by moving the spreadsheet to Excel Online and using it as a data source for reporting in PowerBI. Access to these reports can then be granted to the necessary users, without the need for a change in process for the user tracking invoices.

This also does not limit the potential for moving on to a more complex system in PowerApps or Dynamics 365 Sales if the org finds that needs to be expanded to in the future.

Increasing User Collaboration Scenario

The sales manager within a small organisation tracks leads using a spreadsheet with reports on leads that need to be followed up on a weekly basis. While this has been successful for the single-person team up to this point, the team is now hiring 4 additional sales team members who will also now be creating and managing leads. This team will potentially increase in the future so the client requires a robust solution that will scale as needed.

The increase in user collaboration within this scenario means that moving on from a simple data capturing tool will be the best course of action to future-proof the solution as more users are added. While converting the initial spreadsheet to Excel Online may be adequate for a small increase in user collaboration, with the potential for many users modifying data regularly, moving to a solution such as a SharePoint Online list with version history, a PowerApps solution, or even moving to Dynamics 365 Sales would be the suggested course of action, depending on the appetite for expanding the complexity of the process in the future.

Expanding Data Capture Scenario

A PMO team has been managing their project portfolio using a simple list of projects with basic detail relating to each of them, including overall project cost, planned project start, and end dates, and expected project start and end dates. The organisation wants to move to get a view of resource work on the current projects, as well as a more formalised schedule to ensure milestones are being hit in a timely manner.

The main point of focus in this scenario is the expansion in the type of data we are capturing. This will require a more complex data structure than the simple list data structure can provide. Rather than attempting to force a new data structure using the existing technology, which may not be possible in any case and will possibly result in a low user uptake, migrating to the more purpose-built solution such a Project Online or Project for the Web and developing and additional customisation as needed will be the best situation for this client.

Org Wide, Multi-Module System Scenario

An organisation is in the process of integrating another organisation that they have merged with. While reviewing the data being captured by both organisations, many differences in types of data being captured by the CRM and ERP systems have been noted. The client would like to centralise this to remove redundant systems being kept for single purposes, as well as to ensure that all team members can get the same view of all data.

This scenario focuses on the idea of merging data types that may either have matching info, somewhat matching info, or may be entirely different. This is by far the most complex scenario listed and will require an extended initial discovery phase with all stakeholders to define all data that needs to be captured. When this has been completed and signed off on, a review of potential solutions will be laid out. This scenario will most likely involve taking a selection of modules available within a system like Dynamics 365 that best suit the client requirements and will ensure a single point of entry for users. However, this will probably not suit the client requests perfectly, so entities will need to be created and modified to satisfy the requirements as needed.

If you would like a 1:1 demo or an overview of how Biz Apps could benefit your business, contact the team today.

Ian Jones - Biz Apps Solutions Architect

Ian Jones - Biz Apps Solutions Architect

Ian has been working with Aspira for the past 9 years, with a heavy focus in developing solutions for business using Microsoft Technology. He works as a solutions architect with the business applications team, delivering solutions using SharePoint, Dynamics, Project Online and the Power Platform for a variety of clients across many industries.

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