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The challenge of integrating software solutions in mining
26.01.2022

The challenge of integrating software solutions in mining

In the current context where the API economy is becoming more valuable, there is a growing need for companies to interconnect through this technology, not only those seeking an enabler to turn the company or organization into a platform, but also traditional companies with complex processes that need to atomize (specialize) the services provided by their systems to their processes. The challenge of integration brings a number of considerations when facing an integration project.

Integrating involves automatically communicating two systems through a flow of information, which can be unidirectional or bidirectional, through messages that must be properly interpreted by the receiver.  However, although the receiver must interpret properly, the sender must also have some considerations to facilitate this interpretation, so the task of integrating two systems includes an agreement and joint work between the sender's team and the receiver's team.

When you need to integrate one system with several, things get a little more complex, let's say you need to integrate your system with 5 others, where the integration flow must also be synchronous (it has to have a certain order and dependencies), so you must coordinate in design, development and testing with 5 teams, from different organizations, with different response times, technology, practices and methodologies. If you add to this the fact that the core business of these companies is different and not necessarily technological, you will have a considerable challenge from the leadership, management and technical perspectives.


Management: 

In a scenario where several teams converge around a project, managing the impacts of the activities of one on those of the others is critical. It is possible that each of these teams has its own schedule and resources, and its own technical challenges, so making all of them fit together in pursuit of a single large project is a titanic task. There are many variables that can affect integration projects, from aspects of infrastructure, access, security, design agreement, to the availability of team members to join the testing when the other teams are ready. Therefore, from this perspective, the key to guarantee the success of the project is to achieve a coordinated and fluid management among the team leaders, where communication and leadership, which we will discuss below, play a key role.


Leadership:

In our opinion, the leadership challenge is centered on three fundamental axes

  •  Being prepared for change

Undoubtedly, changes are a daily occurrence, every day we face either small changes such as moving a meeting due to a sudden priority task or because a relevant participant cannot be present, or changes of greater impact, such as having to modify the design of an API due to the unconsidered data needs of some of the actors that integrate with our system. Working with Agile philosophy, frameworks and methodology allows us to live always prepared for change and to be able to deal with it without it being a dramatic or critical situation. Additionally, having visualized the risks and generated action and contingency plans in case of activation of any of them, also puts us in a very good position in this aspect.

  • Communicate effectively:

In a project you work in a group. As we saw earlier, integrating usually requires more than one work team, so we can say that a kind of community is formed around a project. In the same way that couples exchange their stories and desires for the future, people build communities, connecting and relating to each other, thus making contributions to this community, transferring values and knowledge. Therefore, the key piece in this is communication, since it is the means we use for practically all human activities in collective, therefore, it is not surprising that it is a key element in leadership.

Effective communication is a term that focuses on the quality of communication within the scope of interpersonal communications, which implies responsibility to listen with openness, with appreciation and reciprocal respect, and also implies speaking responsibly with a direct language, with emphasis on the purpose, taking care of the forms and respecting to do so at the appropriate times. From a leadership point of view, it is also very important to always seek to be respectful, coherent, congruent and consistent, in order to generate the necessary trust in the team to work together towards the same goal.

With quality communication we will not only feel better, but we will avoid confusion and ambiguity, because if we make orders and offers with clear conditions of satisfaction and deadlines, or if we offer something we do it knowing that we have the right skills and we have the necessary time to deliver,  if we do not try to impose our own ideas on others, there is no doubt, as experience shows, that both the execution of activities and the work environment will directly benefit, and therefore the quality of life of the people who make up the team, our project community, as well.

  • Managing diversity:

The challenge in this sense is to value the differences rather than trying to achieve homogenization, or that the rest adapts to one. Make the most of the diverse talents, do not expect everyone to do things the same way, but open up to the enrichment that is achieved when everyone contributes with their own talents, in this sense, we must also maintain a permanent active listening with both internal and external team members, a thorough understanding of the ways of operating of the rest of the teams and always seek to converge towards the common goal.


Technical: 

There is a modality where companies are willing to integrate in a pre-established way (standardized) and there are others that have more specific requirements that require adaptation or customization so no standardization is applied, made from scratch, this is more common in niche applications, as in the case of those used in the mining industry, delivering a higher level of complexity to integration projects.


Why is it important to integrate?

  • Traceability: To obtain visibility that allows you to react quickly, you must have real-time information, and this scenario is not possible without integration.
  • Specialization of systems or services:  Avoid megasystems that cover all production and business processes, being able to have an ecosystem of more specialized systems in each process, much easier to maintain, evolve and scale.
  • Automation: Allows the reduction of manual tasks, which are completely replaced by integrations, such as for example the digitations of ore qualities delivered by laboratories in mining.
  • Improved customer experience: Allows to specialize more and more the services offered by the systems making them more efficient and easier to use.
Autor: Antara

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