During the creation process of any type of product in any industry, there are always a number of set steps and work teams required that are specific to the industry in question. Sometimes however, these elements can also be adapted to any field, as long as you take into account the specific details required for the area in question of course.
For example: a department of a research company that investigates the effects of the different chemicals that make up toothpaste doesn’t appear to have a great deal in common with a department that designs the wings for an aircraft manufacturer. Neither has the team that develops the code for the latest smartphone apps with another team that make packaging for day to day commodities. Where I’m trying to go with this is that it’s obvious that each industry involves a certain type of work based on the products that it is centred around. Therefore, a number of departments, organisations and people exist, and they are focused on that particular goal: whether it be to create the most efficient plaque removing toothpaste; create wings that reduce fuel consumption while being cheaper to produce; make an app as attractive as possible for the end users without any errors; or to produce the best quality packaging in terms of size and capacity that is durable and also protects the product inside. In summary: work for your product, for your business in your sector.
However, throughout this continuous flow, specific to each sector, between the phases when a product is conceived and when it finally reaches the market, there are a number of common tasks. They all have their particular nuances of course, but all businesses have them. The first areas that perhaps spring to mind are the marketing department, or perhaps sales. All firms that sell products, even if the product could be defined more as a service, have these areas in common. But if we were to ask 100 people about integration on the other hand, I’m sure only one or two would mention it.
So, what exactly do we mean by integration? Going back to the analogies we mentioned in the second paragraph: there will be a team that has to figure out exactly how to package that toothpaste, they will try a number of different solutions, different components. There is also a team that literally receives the wing once designed, assembles it onto the aircraft, and performs a series of tests, which together with the rest of the systems, put the aircraft into operation. Also let’s not forget the smartphone apps; there is a team that installs the apps onto a number of devices to test them alongside the rest of the day-to-day functions of the smartphone. And finally the packaging; once designed it must be tried out on a range of products at different temperatures, monitoring what happens over a set timeframe. These departments are just as common as the marketing and sales departments; however they aren’t the first ones that come to mind for most people. These teams are the people that make the adjustments before a product goes to market; they find any issues that might arise from the work carried out in other departments aiming to improve the product and avoid any problems arising once it reaches the market. They must check that the different systems in a device are communicating correctly with the application that another team has just produced.
To sum up: Your product or service is placed in a real, but controlled environment, providing feedback about its function and suggesting improvements. The tests might seem like just straightforward blind tests, but there is more to them than most people think. The integration team has to fully understand the product, how it was made, and also all the other elements involved. A multidiscipline, global vision, while also being fully conscious of all the possibilities that exist within the organisation.
The integration team can achieve financial benefits for the company, whether it be by preventing a faulty product from going to market, by improving a small part of a system, by minimising the number of tests to be carried out on an isolated system when integrating various, or by simply improving the quality of the whole system through testing. They make the end product more viable and more user-orientated.
So, to conclude, let’s go back to the question we were going to ask 100 people, but putting it another way: How many times have you said to yourself “doesn’t anybody test this?” or “how didn’t they spot that?” or “how could this have been thought out so badly?” Well, the answer to these questions is in the integration team. Those companies that didn’t place enough importance on this team probably end up paying for it with unacceptable products or services. And we all know what that means…