How to build a system integration business case for automation, controls
When starting any system integration project, consider four fundamental components to business case development: business needs, situational analysis, recommendation and evaluation to create due diligence for project management.
- Justifying an industrial system integration project requires due diligence.
- Develop a business case as part of the system integration project.
- System integration project management should begin with considering business needs, situational analysis, recommendation and evaluation.
Problems are the driving force behind automation and operational technology engineering projects. Company leadership recognizes this need and relies heavily upon cross-functional teams to study feasibility and determine if a business case can be developed for system integration projects as part of effective project management.
Management uses a business case to quantitatively and qualitatively determine the economic feasibility of a system integration effort currently lacking in definition. The business case is a key input to the project charter and will be a living document throughout the life of the system integration project that serves as a litmus test against the engineering project objectives.
Within the initiation phase of any system integration project, four fundamental components to business case development need to be considered: business needs, situational analysis, recommendation and evaluation on the way to creating due diligence.
1. Determine business needs for a system integration project
Determining business needs is an important first step in the process of developing a solid business case for an industrial system integration project. Accomplish this by assessing needs, identifying stakeholders and identifying scope.
A needs assessment is a data collection process that identifies business needs versus wants and corresponds to the gaps between the current situation and the desired outcome. This manner of data collection involves understanding regulatory requirements, surveying stakeholders and analyzing historical data, as well as an important component of listening to the customers involved in the project.
Stakeholder identification is a process of engaging all key decision-making personnel to collaborate on determining the business need. Stakeholders often represent operations, maintenance, engineering, procurement, and environmental health and safety, in addition to a representative or champion from the steering committee or leadership. The challenge in stakeholder identification is ensuring all key personnel are appropriately represented and engaged early on in the system integration engineering project. Failing to involve all the proper stakeholders early on in initiation can lead to oversights and misalignments later in the project effort.
Identify scope by determining what work is required to achieve the desired business outcome or objective for the system integration project. Scope identification relies upon stakeholder identification to make certain there is early alignment with the business functions the project effort will impact.
2. Analyze the situation for the industrial system integration project
Situational analysis is important for an organization to recognize their objectives, goals and strategies. Determine root causes of the problem or the conditions to leverage in the case of an opportunity. Consider conducting a gap analysis on the identified business need versus the current organizational capabilities.
Discuss and capture the known risks, which may be high level at this point in the process and highlight factors that are critical to success of the effort, especially those quick wins and low-hanging fruit. Determine the decision-making criteria you will use to assess the course of action through the life of the system integration project effort.
Through situational analysis, classify identified components as being required, desired or optional. This further qualifies needs versus wants and is essential to the business case’s objectivity. Take the time and identify options during situational analysis. This ensures the business leadership you have considered and vetted all avenues to determine the best course of action relative to an investment. Further classify options as doing nothing, doing the minimum or going beyond the minimum to address the problem or opportunity.
3. Recommend options with risks, assumptions, constraints, interdependencies
The recommendation section of the business case is often synonymous with the conclusion. It states to the business the most feasible option to progress with. A recommendation of an option includes a summary of the results compiled in addition to the risks, assumptions, constraints and interdependencies associated with the chosen option.
The recommendation should highlight the success criteria used to measure the outcome of the option pursued. Depending upon the nature of the business case and organizational requirements, consider including high level milestone schedule as well as a RACI (Responsible/Accountable/Consulted/Informed) chart accentuating roles and responsibilities as part of the recommendation.
4. Evaluate the success of the system integration project
Finally, consider the evaluation part of the business case. The evaluation section determines the measure of success during the course of the project effort, handoff between project and operations and the operational impacts beyond implementation. This statement and supporting information outline how you will measure the long- and short-term benefits of the project deliverables.
Justifying a system integration project with due diligence
By following the steps identified above, a team can ensure it has performed due diligence in developing the business case for a system integration, operational technology project. Moreover, company leadership can be assured the business case is objective in nature, watertight and aligns with organizational goals, objectives and strategies.
The more objective, concise and data-driven the business case is for the system integration project, the more efficient the process will be to determining the payback of an investment, whether it be return on investment (ROI), net present value or other financial efficiency metric. The culmination of these components in a solid business case will allow for leadership to render a “go/no-go” decision effective.
Ryan Courtney, MEM, PMP, is project manager, Matrix Technologies Inc. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media, email@example.com. This was adapted with permission from a Matrix Technologies blog post on building a business case.
KEYWORDS: System integration project management
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Ryan Courtney, MEM, PMP, is project manager in the PM division of Matrix Technologies Inc.
He is responsible for successful completion of projects across various divisions within the corporation from initiation to closure. With extensive background across industries, he has implemented many successful projects globally, as client and consultant in Electrical Engineering and Project Management roles. He joined Matrix in 2018. Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. Learn more in the Global System Integrator Database Matrix Technologies listings.