Systems Integration for Clinical Research: 3 Questions to Ask

By Ann Kreeger | Program Manager, Forte Research Systems
December 21st, 2016

Summary: Systems integration is a team effort and important questions must be addressed internally before embarking on a new project.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Systems integration can provide many benefits for clinical research operations. The benefits can range from saving time and reducing errors by eliminating duplicate data entry to increased visibility and easier reporting. However, integration projects require a team effort. Before undertaking such an effort, it is important to first consider some key questions. Here we list questions and recommend practices that have resulted in success for multiple organizations.

1) What is the purpose of the integration?

Ask the right questions: It is important to first determine the goal of the integration and to ask the right questions. What is your organization trying to achieve? What type of integration option is best to help you meet that goal? Asking these types of questions upfront will help ensure the right project is identified.

Bring the right people to the table: It’s necessary to bring the business and information technology (IT) teams to the table early in the planning process to clarify the goal of the integration and pinpoint the right solution. The business team may be motivated by ease-of-use and more efficient processes for research staff, while the IT team may be focused on moving data as seamlessly as possible between systems. While the motivations may vary, it is important that the overall goal of the integration is clearly understood by all parties involved and motivations for each team are aligned.

 2) Who should be involved in the process?

Identify decision-makers: To ensure the integration project moves forward, it’s important to define who the approving authority and decision makers are for the various functions. For instance, who makes the final decision on the type of integration? Who approves the budget for the project?

Create a working group: There may be individuals outside of the core business and IT teams that need to be included in a working group. For example, an engineer may be needed in addition to a system administrator, depending on the complexity of the integration. Be sure to include a representative from both vendors.

Delegate responsibility: When undergoing an integration project, there will be a large amount of discussion, development and testing. For this reason, it is important to identify who is responsible should there be changes or necessary fixes. For example, if a configuration for an interface needs to be defined, changed or fixed, who is the individual that needs to be notified and will be responsible for making the change? This is important to determine at the outset, so team members know the correct individual to contact should a situation arise.

 3) How will information about the integration be distributed?

Appoint a dedicated project manager: Have you identified  an individual who will coordinate communication for various needs, facilitate meetings, and make sure deadlines are met. The organization must appoint a designated project manager to coordinate the many tasks and responsibilities involved with an integration project.

It is also important that the changes resulting from the integration are adequately communicated to those who will be affected.

Share your experiences with systems integration

Listed here are some of the questions we commonly ask at the outset of an integration project. However, this list is not exhaustive, and there are many ways in which organizations have found success when undergoing an integration project. Have you recently undertaken a systems integration at your organization? Are there additional questions to consider and practices you would recommend? If so, add your recommendations in the comment box below.

To learn more about integration options for organizations using Forte Research Systems’ OnCore Enterprise Research system click the link below.

This article was originally published on July 24, 2013. Special thanks to Liz Brown for her contributions to this article. 

About the Author

Ann Kreeger is the Program Manager of Project Management at Forte Research Systems and is responsible for leading strategic planning of complex projects, defining new implementation offerings, and mentoring team members. Ann works with customers using Forte's OnCore Enterprise Research system to help streamline implementation processes. OnCore is an Enterprise Research System developed through collaboration with leading research organizations. OnCore provides proven functionality for supporting efficient processes at academic medical centers, cancer centers and health care systems.

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