In many organisations digital solutions are deployed to improve operational effectiveness and to promote better ways of working. Eliminating outdated and inefficient processes and utilising new technologies allowing greater collaboration, automated workflows, and faster access to business data are some of the benefits that can be achieved.

System Integration

What is often over-looked until it becomes an issue are the challenges of integrating solutions into old technology and old processes. The 2019 State of Ecosystem and Application Integration Report says that poor integration could cost organisations up to $500K a year. These losses result from operational inefficiencies through lost orders, missed SLAs and lost revenue opportunities.

Challenges can include mismatched data types, systems not supporting modern protocols, security inadequacies or simply cost. For example, SAP use proprietary BAPI interfaces which work well if you are integrating other SAP systems, but not well if you are attempting to use anything else. Often the challenges lead to integration being shelved in favour of dual keying data into more than one system. Once dual keying is accepted it can often be left in place for a considerable time which in turn leads to human generated errors.

Longer term strategic planning vs short term solution benefit

The system integration conundrum for many organisations lies in weighing up the cost and time required to undertake the necessary landscape/technology stack review and to develop a simplified integration strategy versus the cheaper and quicker system integration with workarounds/patches approach.


In many cases the proposed digital solution satisfies an immediate business pain-point or need which can make for a compelling case for the fastest deployment option. Workarounds and patches serve a purpose in the short-term to alleviate limitations, however inadequate process and systems integration also can increase complexity and costs over time.
The seamless connectivity of enterprise data is a key enabler for digital transformation success and requires careful planning and a staged approach.
System Integration planning should consider the following two-stage process:

Stage 1 – Assess the current operational landscape (AS-IS)
  • System landscape review - review and identify all the systems, including legacy and middleware, identifying each systems purpose and its connectivity (or lack of) to other systems. This should only be a high-level preliminary review based as for a large organisation this type of analysis could takes many months if not years just by itself.
  • Business Process Mapping – having up-to-date business process maps will identify manual processes and workarounds that are currently in place and will also highlight where operational improvements can be made.

Stage 2 – System Integration planning (TO-BE)
  • Operational landscape simplification – identify improvements and eliminate the manual processes
  • Data integration review – review and understand your data integration needs. This will identify the interface types required for system integration. An up-to-date data model will be a key output
  • Middleware consideration- identify the appropriate middleware to enable the planned architectural changes, where possible using existing middleware if the capabilities are sufficient.
  • Future vision – the output of the System Integration planning is an input to a digital transformation roadmap.


The benefits of a simplified systems landscape

The benefits of a better integration ecosystem include:
  • Elimination of costly manual processes
  • Automation of critical transaction systems
  • Greater visibility of end-to-end data flows
  • The potential replacement of costly legacy systems where integration may make systems redundant (such as when dual keying)
  • Increased revenue thorough improved business processes
  • Better decision making
  • Adoption of new business models
  • Easier integration with external systems allowing greater supply chain integration
  • Ability to scale digital transformation efforts
  • Maintain lower ongoing costs


System Integration planning is an important element in enabling digital transformations and the realisation of an integrated platform that allow for a faster realisation of your transformational goals.

An integrated system will streamline your processes, reduce costs, and ensure efficiency.

Not reviewing and simplifying your system integration landscape may lead to poor decisions being made and not being able to harness the full benefits and growth opportunities of digital solutions when deployed.

Please share your thoughts on this discussion topic which is a key enabler to successful business transformations.


The Data Historian is a time-stamped database that stores Real-Time operational data that can be accessed and used for a wide range of purposes such as visualisation, event tracking, production reporting, and consumption by other systems for Advanced Analytics and Asset Performance Management. Market Research Future ® report that The Global Data Historian market is estimated to reach USD 1.4 Billion by 2024.

With the onset of new and disruptive technologies, data lies at the heart of these transformation initiatives. With improved computing and network infrastructure the demand for data has grown increasing the importance and value of a data/industrial historian in Data Management.


Operational Excellence opportunities

Operational Excellence is the realisation of executing your business strategy effectively and reaping the benefits of Continuous Improvement initiatives. There are many focus areas that contribute to this objective such as a leadership engagement, commitment to quality, and a strategic focus.

The Data/Industrial Historian enables the capture, storage, and usage of plant data for a variety of things. The list below highlights just some of the operational focus areas that data stored in historians can be used for:
  • Process Automation
    • Advanced Process Control
    • Real-Time Optimisation
    • Calculations (e.g. detailed operational calculations or composition estimators for inferential control of distillation columns)
  • Visualisation of Operational and Production Data for analysis and troubleshooting
  • Operational Dashboards and Reports
  • Production and Event Tracking
  • Environmental Auditing
  • Asset Performance Management
  • Predictive Maintenance
  • Big Data and Advanced Analytics
  • Digital Twin technologies
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence


Digital Transformation Enablers

Initiatives such as Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) have great value potential for the process industries and manufacturers. At the core of these technology solutions are data platforms and data management. With the right strategy, technology selection, and delivery approach, lie the promise of scalable and tangible cost benefits and the unlocking of new business opportunities.

From a data architecture infrastructure perspective, we now have more options available to us to store operational data that includes, on-premise, cloud, edge, and the data lake. Each option has its own technical merit and so there needs to be careful consideration and a enterprise strategy developed that considers the data, the operational processes, business requirements and future growth plans.

This will lead to determining an optimal data architecture infrastructure potentially utilising newer technologies such as cloud and edge infrastructure. This improved architecture can allow the integration of unstructured data and IoT data opening further opportunities to improve operational performance and streamline operations.


Having a clear plan and a targeted approach

So, what are the steps we need to take on this journey?

1.    Carry out an audit of your Data Historian as this will highlight how it is being used currently.
2.    Undertake an internal assessment of your operational activities as this will highlight opportunities for improvement and identify opportunities to improve or leverage the use of the process historian
3.    Establish a roadmap for making improvements that consider remedial actions, quick wins, and longer strategic objectives
4.    Undertake a pilot project and adopt an agile and scalable approach



With the substantial operational and productivity improvements that other newer technologies such as IoT, Advanced Analytics and AI can provide, at the core of each is data.

By ensuring your data is collected, secure, accessible, and of high quality, it provides the foundations to making tangible and scalable digital transformation improvements to your operations.

The benefits realisation will be reduced costs, better data-driven decisions, improved cybersecurity, and the creation of new business opportunities.

Contact us to see how we can help you with improving your Data Historian usage and increase your competitive edge.
COVID-19 is having a profound impact on all our lives personally and professionally, from the need to stay at home to minimise the spread of the disease, to the limiting of social contact to minimise the spread. There is now a gradual easing of restrictions in lieu of a vaccine, to try and ensure a safe return to anywhere near how our lives were before the outbreak of the pandemic. What we do not know at present is the speed at which we will be able to return to the same levels of activity levels before the pandemic.

What is the immediate impact to our working practices?

The challenge of this gradual ramp up is that for many of us we cannot carry out our everyday work activities in the same way as we did before the outbreak. For some it was the ability to have in person meetings and for others it was the ability to carry out their regular day-to-day work activities.
We are already leveraging technology for our communication needs as highlighted in the increased usage of collaboration tools such as Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams. Adapting to having a remote workforce has forced changes to our work practices.

What can we do to overcome these work-based challenges?

Covid19 articleRemote working practices calls for the increased need for digital solutions to achieve this new modus operandi. These new ways of working were a longer-term priority for organisations prior to the pandemic and now need to be brought forward.

For many organisations, there are still activities that are carried out manually involving personnel from different departmental groups. The implementation of web-based automated workflow solutions could solve the problem and provide value-added benefits in data quality, customised reminders & alerts, and timely approvals. Productivity would be significantly improved, and new solutions could facilitate the necessary collaboration required to complete the end-to-end activity.

For industrial sectors such as Energy and Manufacturing, utilising sensor technology and mobile applications to automate data capture workflows and improve work processes in maintenance routines and integrity management activities.

Implementing an Identity & Assessment Management (IAM) solution for example, would allow users to use a single log in to access their applications, rather than logging in to each system individually. Security profiles can be enhanced and the consolidation of user identities and passwords with Single-Sign-On (SSO) functionality make it easier for IT departments to audit where and how these user credentials are used.

How do we start on this journey of change in the workplace?

  • Work within your organisation to clearly understand the pain points. For most organisations, the answers lie within their workforce carrying out these activities in dedicated teams to drive the innovation. This approach will aid in the identification potential solutions, such as a need for the increased use of mobile applications or the implementation of cloud solutions that enable remote collaboration.
  • List out your strategic goals and the benefit of each. These can be ranked and prioritised so that you can go about undertaking those that can provide immediate benefit and large cost savings.
  • Have a roadmap to deliver the strategy to implement these changes, and intermediate checkpoints to evaluate progress, cost savings and other benefits gained.
  • Take an agile approach so that there is flexibility to make the changes required incrementally but also provides the ability to scale up having achieved an improved business formula.
  • The re-skilling of your workforce and the possible creation of new roles will be an important consideration to ensure your organisation is equipped to deliver new business models.
  • Clear and regular communication will be important as this pandemic has forced change upon us as a society and so there needs to be a concerted effort to help the workforce adapt to new working practices and maintain their well-being.


A considered and inclusive approach is required to make positive strides towards a new of working that maintains embraces a new way of working, leveraging digital technology that will facilitate the change and enhance your competitive edge.

What are your thoughts on the necessary changes your organisation needs to embark upon to address this immediate challenge of our time?


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