Decision-making challenges in system integration – insights from the Railforum conference

On Tuesday, 20th November we visited the Railforum conference on system integration in the railway sector. The objective of this event was to create a shared understanding of system integration in the railway sector by sharing knowledge and experience.

The event was organized as follows; after a short introduction to the conference stressing the importance and objectives of the Railforum event, a model was presented that outlined all the stakeholders involved in system integration, the services they provide and their potential interaction. Afterwards, four different cases were presented that shed light into the past experiences with system integration. Primarily it focused on the challenges encountered during the integration and how to deal with these challenges. Two cases were sector-specific, one addressed the challenges during the testing of the new Amsterdam metro line (North-South line) and the other case introduced the challenges encountered by NS during the introduction of new material for the sprinter FLIRT. It was followed by two presentations introducing the problems of system integration identified in other industries. One of these presentations was shedding light on the integration challenges of a racket explained by Airbus and the other one summarized the issues recognized during the testing of tunnels presented by the Dutch ministry for water and infrastructure. The conference closed with a panel discussion participated by all presenters and the public.

Since this review focuses on the decision-making in system integration, in the following some interesting insights from the conference are outlined. The focus is primarily on the generic model and the two sector-specific cases. Decision-making in system integration focuses on balancing time, cost, risks and performance by preparing for uncertain events in a multidisciplinary (often multi-organizational) environment. All those aspects played an important role in the presentations demonstrated.

The system integration model reflects quite a generic view, emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary and inter-organizational collaboration between key stakeholders in system integration in order to facilitate proper system integration. By creating a shared goal – to improve the performance of the railway system for customers and cargo companies by simultaneously decreasing the costs involved – the whole system can be optimized with a focus on collaboration and shared understanding. Decisions at one location of the system might generate a huge cost advantage at another location of the system. Thus, collaboration and communication is key to the success. Moreover, the government was brought forward as they influence decisions of all parties in the railway sector.

In the first case presentation stakeholders from NS informed about their experiences with the introduction of new material for the sprinter FLIRT. Problems related to the short integration time were encountered during the integration of the new trains, which resulted in not well-defined specifications (insufficient documentation) and trust issues between the organization and the supplier. More collaboration and alignment between stakeholders from NS and the supplier, STADLER, might have mitigated the risks of improper integration in the first place. After the integration some measures were taken that improved the system reliability, which are interesting to consider from a decision-making perspective. In order to overcome these integration issues they invested in aligning the organization better, since trust had to be regained and measures for improvement had to be initiated. The shared goal to increasing system reliability helped stakeholders to align. Only when stakeholders are well-aligned they can arrive at a well-supported decision investing minimal time. Expert sessions are a powerful tool to align multidisciplinary stakeholders and make use of tacit knowledge for decision-making (Smith & Hinchcliffe, 2003). To reduce the time of decision-making in multi-stakeholder decisions, scenarios can help to prepare the organization well for contingencies (Chermack, 2004). The overall message that can be retrieved from the system integration of the FLIRT sprinters showed that stakeholder alignment achieved through better communication and collaboration and shared objectives is a powerful requirement for good decision-making in a multi-stakeholder environment.

The second case revealing integration issues of the new Amsterdam metro line (North-South line). The testing of the new system could not align to the planned time schedule, as 80% of the testing had to be repeated. Reasons therefore were technical limitations, insufficiently trained personnel and problems in the integration of different system elements. Again a critical aspect was stakeholder alignment; it was mentioned that working in multidisciplinary teams and encouraging the diversity of teams was one of the success factors that has been recognized afterwards. On top of that, creating a positive attitude towards decisions and incorporating stage gates helped to stepwise improve the integration and thus the configuration of the system until the solution was acceptable. They were able to use stage gates and upgrade the testing configurations continuously because they operate in an isolated environment. It shows very well how effective this method is to deal with the time of decision-making, however not every system has the opportunity to be tested in isolation.

Summarizing, both case presentations suggests that decisions for integration in the railway sector are faced with the challenge of decreasing integration time and simultaneously increasing the performance (quality) of the integrated system. A critical success factor for this objective is stakeholder alignment. Often system elements are designed in silos that can work alone, but once they are integrated the insufficient alignment between stakeholders (and system elements) is revealed. The challenge is to provide enough information to the stakeholders early on in the process, so that aligned decisions can be made that facilitate proper system integration later on. Creating stakeholder alignment is a challenge within one organization, let alone between multiple organizations like the railway sector. Nevertheless, it is essential in order to facilitate proper system integration.


Chermack, T. J. (2004). Improving decision-making with scenario planning. Future, 36, 295–309.

Smith, A. M., & Hinchcliffe, G. R. (2003). RCM – Gateway to Worldclass Maintenance. Elsevier.

48 thoughts on “Decision-making challenges in system integration – insights from the Railforum conference”

  1. Needed to write you this very small word to help thank you very much yet again with the superb tips you have shown on this website. This is so unbelievably open-handed with you to provide without restraint what exactly numerous people would have supplied for an electronic book to make some profit on their own, principally since you might well have tried it in the event you wanted. Those thoughts likewise worked to provide a great way to recognize that the rest have the same zeal the same as my very own to understand way more with regards to this problem. I think there are thousands of more pleasurable times up front for those who start reading your website.

  2. A lot of thanks for all your efforts on this site. Gloria loves engaging in investigation and it’s easy to understand why. Almost all know all concerning the dynamic means you give important secrets on the web blog and as well encourage contribution from others on that concern plus our daughter is always discovering a lot. Have fun with the remaining portion of the new year. You’re the one conducting a good job.

  3. I needed to draft you one little observation so as to say thank you as before for these gorgeous knowledge you’ve documented here. It has been certainly particularly generous of people like you to convey freely exactly what a lot of people could possibly have made available as an e book to earn some cash for their own end, even more so considering the fact that you could possibly have done it if you ever decided. The ideas also acted like a fantastic way to comprehend other individuals have similar dreams like my own to grasp good deal more in terms of this issue. I’m sure there are many more fun occasions ahead for individuals that go through your blog post.

  4. I am commenting to let you know of the fantastic encounter my cousin’s daughter experienced reading your site. She even learned many issues, not to mention what it’s like to have a wonderful giving mindset to have many people quite simply grasp chosen grueling subject areas. You really exceeded our expectations. Many thanks for giving the informative, healthy, educational and as well as easy thoughts on the topic to Jane.

  5. My spouse and i got quite joyful that John managed to do his preliminary research through the entire precious recommendations he grabbed out of your web pages. It is now and again perplexing to just continually be giving out procedures which people may have been selling. So we grasp we have got the writer to give thanks to for that. The main illustrations you have made, the simple web site navigation, the relationships you will help foster – it’s got many incredible, and it’s really helping our son in addition to the family know that the matter is excellent, which is quite mandatory. Thank you for everything!

  6. I enjoy you because of all of your efforts on this site. Ellie enjoys doing internet research and it’s easy to see why. All of us learn all of the lively mode you offer precious suggestions through this web site and even increase participation from some other people on the matter so our favorite girl is now learning a lot of things. Take advantage of the rest of the year. You are always doing a really great job.

  7. I am just writing to make you understand what a outstanding experience my wife’s girl had using your web site. She mastered so many pieces, which included what it is like to possess an excellent helping nature to let other people with ease learn some specialized things. You truly surpassed people’s expected results. Thank you for producing these precious, trusted, informative and in addition fun tips about this topic to Lizeth.

  8. Thanks for the tips about credit repair on this blog. Things i would advice people would be to give up the actual mentality that they’ll buy right now and pay out later. Like a society all of us tend to do that for many things. This includes holidays, furniture, as well as items we would like. However, you have to separate your own wants from all the needs. When you are working to improve your credit rating score make some sacrifices. For example you are able to shop online to save money or you can turn to second hand shops instead of costly department stores with regard to clothing.

  9. I simply wanted to thank you so much once more. I am not sure the things that I would’ve made to happen without the type of smart ideas revealed by you over that situation. It seemed to be an absolute hard issue in my opinion, however , seeing the very specialised strategy you resolved that made me to leap over gladness. I am just happy for this information and then pray you realize what a great job you happen to be providing teaching people today thru your web page. More than likely you have never got to know any of us.

  10. My spouse and i got now fulfilled that Ervin could deal with his investigations through the ideas he got out of the web page. It’s not at all simplistic to just choose to be giving freely key points that many other people have been selling. And we also fully grasp we have got the website owner to be grateful to for that. The entire explanations you have made, the simple site menu, the friendships you can give support to foster – it’s got many fantastic, and it’s really facilitating our son and the family imagine that the issue is entertaining, and that is particularly indispensable. Thank you for everything!

  11. Magnificent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too magnificent. I actually like what you’ve received here, certainly like what you are stating and the best way in which you assert it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to stay it smart. I cant wait to read much more from you. That is really a great web site.

  12. Today, with all the fast life style that everyone is having, credit cards have a big demand throughout the economy. Persons coming from every area of life are using credit card and people who aren’t using the credit cards have made up their minds to apply for even one. Thanks for expressing your ideas about credit cards. psoriasis medications

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.