BizTalk Integration Process
All BizTalk integration projects carried out by Fild.NET are implemented based on the same repeatable process which consists of several steps described below.
Activities before signing the cooperation agreement
The cooperation usually starts with a personal meeting – at the stage preceding the signing of an agreement. During the meeting Fild.NET’s consultant analyses the client’s problem and suggests a solution based on BizTalk Server. When an agreement is finally reached as a result of the consultations – regarding both the suggested solution and business matters (e.g. how the project is to be paid for – per hour or for the completion) – subsequent activities run along two lines. Fild.NET’s senior developer, responsible for technical issues, determines with his/her counterpart on the client’s side all the technical details of the planned BizTalk project, such as which VPN is to be used (the client’s or Fild.NET’s), tools for video-conferencing (e.g. Microsoft Lync, Skype, Google Hangouts) and for the exchange of materials (e.g. SharePoint). At the same time, Fild.NET’s sales manager assisted by a lawyer draws up a contract and makes sure that the cooperation terms are acceptable to both parties. Until the moment the contract is signed, most communication between the client and Fild.NET takes place remotely (by phone, e-mail, video-conferencing).
Drawing up interface specifications
To commence a project we need a list of interfaces to be created as well as their detailed specifications. Both documents are prepared on the basis of Fild.NET’s templates. The “List of Interfaces” document defines interface names and IT systems between which the interfaces are to enable data exchange. The “Interface Specification” document, in turn, describes the necessary steps to be taken to enable data exchange. The document specifies such aspects as the general context (including the diagrams of a process), the functional and technical scope of the interface, field mapping and validation, error handling, the type of development (new or modification), scheduling rules and dependencies, required set-up and test plan, estimated development time.
At this stage we also categorise interfaces as simple, medium and hard. The basis for the classification of interfaces into each category is primarily the number of mappings associated with a given interface. In general, about 70 percent of all interfaces to be created during the project are categorised as simple, 20 percent as medium, and 10 percent as hard.
Both the list of all interfaces as well as the detailed specification of the first interface are prepared jointly by Fild.NET’s senior developer and his/her counterpart on the client’s side. In the process the client’s representative learns how to draw up the specifications of the following interfaces. He/She is then supposed to prepare them himself/herself. However, Fild.net’s senior developer can be of assistance if the client’s representative encounters any problems. Each prepared specification is then verified by Fild.NET’s senior developer. After he/she confirms that he/she understands all the information contained therein, the interface enters the development phase.
Interface development and tests
The development process begins immediately after the first interface specification is prepared and verified. Meanwhile, the client is working on the following specifications, taking about 1-3 days per each interface specification. When a specification is completed, the document is verified and our development team starts its work, at the same time developing other interfaces based on previous specifications. Creating a simple interface takes approximately 1 week, medium – approximately 1 month, hard – about 1.5-2 months. Depending on the client’s requirements regarding the time frame of the project, the interface development can be carried out by a few to a dozen BizTalk developers.
The development as well as testing is performed on the client’s servers. After a working prototype of an interface is created, it is moved to the production environment. Meanwhile, other interface specifications come from the client to Fild.NET’s development team and then they are programmed, tested and moved to production. With this iteration approach to the project it is possible to see its results very quickly.
Documentation and post-project support
After moving all interfaces to the production server, Fild.NET draws up technical documentation regarding each created interface. This documentation, upon request, may also contain instructions for an administrator concerning the maintenance of BizTalk Server.
Following the project completion, a service agreement is drawn up and signed, unless the client requested it at the earlier stages of the project. The agreement guarantees to the client the scope of assistance it expects when using the delivered BizTalk solution.
When carrying out maintenance services, Fild.NET uses specialised software, such as e.g. the Kanban project management system (which also offers special features in the area of software support) as well as such tools as SharePoint (for the exchange of data) and Microsoft Lync or Skype (for video-conferencing). All of those tools can be adjusted to customer requirements.
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