Take a Big-Picture Approach to Integration Design

The challenge with technology integrations is that they appear straightforward. Yes, that sentence sounds counterintuitive. And I’m guessing you’re asking yourself, Why is being straight forward a challenge

It’s not at a surface level. You have data in one system that you need transferred to another system. Or you have a piece of data from one system that you need to give another platform so that it will send you back necessary information from its system. The process is clear and actionable. 

But take that scenario and multiply it by 20 or 50 and you will start covering all of the integrations necessary for your day-to-day operations and processes. And when each of those integrations is approached with a narrow, straightforward view, problems show up soon after. And then you’re back where you started with a complex, expensive, inflexible, and brittle integration strategy. 

Another sentence that may sound counterintuitive is that design is as critical of a component to an integration project as the technical development itself. Let’s dive into why. 

Look at the bigger picture

Far too often, the key stakeholders we work with are so in the weeds with the technical needs that they can’t answer the most important questions. Why do you need to transfer this data? What’s the best way to get it? What is the business value of this integration that was missing before? And how does this integration impact these other systems that you have?

This may seem like straightforward back-end work, but it has a real, tangible impact on the experience of everyone involved. Many business leaders will say these questions are too difficult to answer. And true, it’s not easy. But they are doable and critical to establish before getting started. 

Let’s say your company is wanting to integrate a customer service platform into your CRM, order management solution, and other relevant platforms. The narrow view is that your reps need to more easily be able to access relevant data to help the customer. The broader value proposition is that making it easier for reps to receive and find data reduces call times, increases efficiency, allows you to hire fewer service reps, and ultimately saves the company time and money while aligning to a business goal of outstanding customer service.

That question of why you’re doing it is important. But so is the how. 

Issues with not starting broadly 

The biggest challenge of having too narrow of a view is that what you’re building is a connected ecosystem. Yet if this connected ecosystem of platforms and software is developed in a way that only focuses on each individual component and doesn’t factor in how they all will work with and relate to each other, you’re going to end up having to fix the entire system instead of just the issue. That’s the straightforward look at the negative outcome. 

The broad scope of that negative outcome is that you are unable to scale and adapt your operations easily, while weighing your teams down with avoidable fixes that are going to cost you greatly in both time and money. Not only does performing integrations in a vacuum make solving fixes harder, but it’s also much tougher to know how these integrations will work and apply as you try to add sophistication in the future. If you have any aspiration for growth, you have to consider how your integration design enables your company’s growth and evolution. 

Freeing business from the restraint of systems

Like I mentioned earlier, the design of an integration project is as important as the technical development. You should be structuring your plan to serve a greater need and solve business problems. Then you need someone who can execute the integrations in a way that meets those needs. 

For example, at Studio Science, we have a set design-focused approach for integrations that helps from getting stuck in the weeds and not looking holistically. The goal is to decouple the business from the systems. If you are moving from a homegrown database to a third-party solution or need to make a change to your website, you don’t want to then have to update all of the systems connected to it. 

Not only is this important from an efficiency standpoint, but it allows your business to change and pivot more rapidly, which can be critical when it comes to your place in the market. Approaching integrations more holistically not only eases headaches today, but also better positions your company as a whole for tomorrow. 

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