Finding the Right Integration Partner, Part II: DiscoveryBy: Ameya Pednekar | April 13th, 2023
The importance of engaging the right integration partner cannot be understated. Oftentimes, it’s a make or break decision for any organization looking for guidance with their B2B integration. You need one that takes the time to thoroughly understand your business’ strengths and pain points–and one that builds a plan with your business goals in mind. The wrong decision can lead to wasted dollars and missed project deadlines.
For this installment, we’ll examine what happens after the kickoff call, how we approach requirement gathering and learning about our client’s environment, and what you should be looking for when it comes to a best-in-class partner.
After the kickoff call, the project manager will work to schedule some time for us and the client’s teams to walk through the requirement-gathering process. Typically, we lead this session to understand their environment, existing processes, applications, architecture, and current tools. We also work with them to understand their goals for performance, architecture, and integration.
Examining the Playing Field
Prior to that walkthrough, we review the statement of work (SOW) and generate a list of questions. These questions will be specific to the client’s environment and applications. This is a collaborative session and helps us understand the best path forward when it comes to preconditions and required software. In some cases, after a quick meeting with our client, they provide access after which we can start the discovery/validation process and report back to them.
Following the session, we populate those requirements into a Requirements Traceability Matrix (RTM). The RTM, which is based on the SOW, establishes clear goals and objectives for the project and serves as a guide for us throughout the engagement. It lists the current and future state of their environment and the proposed work we will complete.
It’s critical to validate access to all the servers that software will be deployed on for both installs and upgrades. This is due to the fact that each client has their own connectivity process and approved applications that have to be taken into account (e.g. some clients require compliance training before getting access to their systems). Once we’re in, we validate access to the specified servers, and verify their specifications, settings, etc. If the servers are not provisioned according to the requested spec, the best time to catch it would be right at the beginning of the project. For a fresh install, I like to run the utility scripts we have (after obtaining client approval) to create staging directories and validate OS settings.
While the servers are being validated, I make sure to check the compatibility of the IBM Sterling software needed before asking the client to download it. This is especially important if only some components are being upgraded.
Upgrading one component such as B2Bi will oftentimes require an upgrade to another such as SEAS or Java. We use the IBM compatibility matrix website and draw from our wealth of experience to determine the feasibility of an upgrade from the perspective of each application.
When in doubt, opening a PMR is the best practice. If inconsistencies are found they should be addressed with a PMR before the work begins.
Note: If there is a database version update, be sure your integration partner updates DB drivers.
Final Check Before the Install/Upgrade
Once you know what versions are required, we have our client download the IBM Sterling software being installed/upgraded while other verification work is going on in the background. The download can take some time and there may be discrepancies between part numbers for the software found on Passport Advantage (the site where clients download their media) and Software On Demand (the site available to us as business partners). However, oftentimes all the software you need is on IBM Fix Central. Be sure to evaluate any potential discrepancies on a case-by-case basis.
Containerized versions of applications are available through different means, and that is a topic we will address in our containerization blog post series. Did you know we partner with Red Hat to guide organizations on their modernization journey? Red Hat combined with our IBM Platinum Level and Supply Chain Expert status on the IBM Sterling portfolio can help modernize your IBM Sterling portfolio with containerized deployment.
Lastly, we make it a point to provide a list of networking rules required to be implemented for the project. This is more relevant to fresh installs than upgrades. We work to build out a concise sheet with all required networking rules and collaborate with your network team to test the rules so that inter-application connectivity is possible. Before we begin the install/upgrade, we make sure to validate the networking rules requested from the prerequisite checklist.
In your experience with technology partners, are there other steps you’ve gone through during the discovery process? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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