Integration Analysts are difficult to recruit, difficult to train and difficult to retain. For IT leaders, this is quite frankly a nightmare. In this article we’ll take a look at what you can do to ensure this critical talent is available to underpin the success of your integration projects.
Every IT practice relies on the integration of systems and data. There is no point investing in a new finance system or building a new digital capability if you can’t connect those things quickly and reliably to the rest of your business. If you do it badly, your projects will take longer to deliver, your outcomes and data will be unsecure or unreliable and your pace of innovation will forever set you behind your competition.
What is an Integration Analyst?
An integration analyst is responsible for ensuring that all applications and systems within an organisation can communicate effectively and share data without any data loss or corruption. They work closely with developers, business analysts, project managers, and other stakeholders to understand the business requirements and develop integration solutions that align with the organisation’s goals and objectives. The Integration Analyst therefore has a very important part to play in the success of your digital initiatives.
What does an Integration Analyst do?
Integration Analyst has loads of different tasks. We mention some of the key ones below:
Document your current integrations
An integration analyst will get to grips with your existing integrations. They will read and review any existing documentation so they can understand the integrations. They will communicate with product owners to build a picture on the value and importance of those integrations. They will look for what errors or flaws exist in current integrations and similarly look for obvious opportunities for improvement within those integrations. They will, either directly or with help, look at the code base of those integrations to validate the integration is what it purports to be and they will examine the error handling and alerts.
Gather future requirements
The Integration Analyst will gather requirements for future integrations by collaborating with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), Product Owners, Architects and Security Personnel. They will explore the architecture strategies of the business to ensure the proposed integration aligns to the overall architectural direction of the organisation. Your Integration Analyst(s) will be critical in uncovering and surfacing the dependencies of your integrations. They will present requirements back to key stakeholders and participants.
Design and delivery with the Delivery Team
An Integration Analyst will work closely with the Design and Delivery teams to bring about organisational change. This will include involvement in testing against early designs or prototypes. Your Integration Analysts will provide ongoing guidance to the Design and Delivery teams and they will be focused on continuous improvement within the project.
Example activities and outputs of an Integration Analyst
- Holding Workshops
- Building or populating templates
- Documentation (Cross referencing, mapping, non-functional requirements)
- Use of Confluence, JIRA, Postman, LeanIX, Sparx, Google Suite
- Diagramming, remodelling
- Attending meetings including Sprint meetings, retrospectives and planning meetings
What is the difference between a Technical Analyst and an Integration Analyst?
There are though, some differences between a Technical Analyst and an Integration Analyst. Let’s check them out:
A Technical Analyst will have a broader knowledge of many different areas of technology such as networking, hardware and software for example whereas an Integration Analyst will have a laser focus on integration, APIs and data.
It is actually quite common in many organisations for a Technical Analyst to be assigned the tasks of an Integration Analyst. Ultimately all businesses beyond the most simple startups will have integration needs, but they may not carry roles which specialise in it.
An Integration Analyst will do many of the same activities as a Technical Analyst and both roles require strong technical skills. Technical Analysts will naturally have some understanding of integration, although the level of detail and understanding will not be as deep. An example of this is the process and outputs for field level data mapping and transformation logic, this would be a common practice for an integration analyst, but likely a learning curve for a technical analyst. Integration Analysts will likely understand the broader IT systems and infrastructure to some degree but not as comprehensively as that of a Technical Analyst.
In summary, an Integration Analyst is specialised in software integration, while a Technical Analyst has a broader set of responsibilities related to IT infrastructure management.
So why is it so hard to find and hire an Integration Analyst?
The problem begins with the issue that integration as a discipline is often fragmented, overlooked and deeply misunderstood, even within larger organisations. Integration is the reason that so many projects are delayed and ultimately fail. Integrating applications and data is a huge part of any transformational project and not having the skills or capability to understand, document and design integrations is going to be a major factor in the demise of any project.
Much like the parable of planting a tree, the best time to invest in any critical integration roles is before the moment you need them. With this gap between the immediate need for Integration Analysts and the prior investment in developing your own talent, it is inevitable that demand far outstrips supply. As any amateur economist will tell you, this supply issue creates a cost issue and organisations can try and “brute force” the acquisition of integration talent by paying more than the next company. With that said, people that work in integration value an environment where integration is respected so sometimes money alone is not enough to lure the talent you need.
There are some other reasons worthy of consideration.
There are a distinct lack of courses/certifications in the discipline of integration, conversely there are plenty of more generic courses for technical/systems analysis that scratch the surface of integration. This can mean people that would enjoy and thrive in this space do not encounter this discipline in the formative stages of their careers.
The Integration Analysis discipline also suffers from a lack of more senior roles in the field. Roles like Integration Solution Architects and Enterprise Integration Architects are also not well established in the industry, meaning that a career path from analyst to design to architect within this field is not the most obvious career choice.
Our belief is that an understanding of the role of integration within digital transformation at CIO/CTO level is what is needed to change the current views of integration in the industry. Organisations with experienced CIOs/CTOs that realise that transformational success relies heavily on this discipline will create functions and therefore roles around it, increasing the specialism within the industry.
What can be done if I have to hire one right now?
Chakray exists as a specialist IT consultancy with an “integration first” view on digital transformation. We provide Integration Analysts in standalone roles to work as part of your team, or we can be more involved at a project level and provide a range of roles from Analysts to Architects and Developers to DevOps.
We work on a project, sprint or time and material basis to suit the needs of your operating model and project status.
Our Integration Analysts can work with you throughout the lifecycle of your project and beyond, or can simply work with you on a short term basis to ensure project continuity whilst you replace lost talent or develop your own in-house roles. Just contact us!