Every industry has its dark corners where rumors of shortcuts, insider knowledge, and other secrets are whispered. Data and EDI integration is certainly not immune to this. Everyone’s always looking for the easy, cheap way of solving their problems!
In this blog post, we’re going to tackle a very specific dark corner of integration: those whispers surrounding do-it-yourself integration solutions. VL is here to shed some light and hopefully save you from learning what is often painful and expensive lessons! Read on!
Want to read about other integration myths? Check out our blog post “5 Lies Your IT People Told You About Data Integration“.
We all have that friend (or, if you’re lucky, they’re related): the one who’s always trying to save a buck by any means necessary. Bumper fell off? Duct tape just happens to match my paint colour! Leaky faucet? Stick some dishes under the drip and it’s now the world’s slowest dishwasher! Heating broken? Just a chance to continuously workout!
You get those kinds of people in business as well: those who are trying too hard to save a nickel, who are certain that they are perfectly capable of solving any problem or gap in their business themselves. You know the ones. They never see expenditures as investments in their own company and often have minor control issues.
Good integration isn’t cheap. The first thing to understand is that integration providers can be divided into roughly two groups: integration providers and integration partners. The former provides products (‘plug-and-play’), while the latter provides lifetime of service – read more about the difference between the two groups here.
But some people opt for a third option: why pay someone else to do it when I can probably figure out this thing for myself? Their misinformed state thrives off the myths surrounding data integration. We’ve done our best in this blog post to dispel the top 5 common ones so you can hopefully avoid the DIY pitfall yourself.
1. DIY integration is just as good as customized integration solutions from Professionals
A lot of DIY’ers in the integration world and beyond tout the equal functionality of their cobbled together solutions compared to the solutions that the experts can provide. What’s missing from a lot of these conversations is a good deal of detail, coupled with some confusion of facts that make this statement 100% myth.
DIY integration might be a more attractive solution than some plug-and-play integration products. DIY integration is sometimes a last resort to solve a problem that isn’t be solved by an existing solution. Think about it: if you ordered a ladder that’s supposed to be 2 stories tall, but instead the solution you’re provided is two 1 story tall ladders, you might just be tempted to bolt the two ladders together to solve your problem. DIY integration often works much like this: the defacto integrator is left with a problem and has decided to take the quick and easy route by using a work-around instead of finding a better integration solution. Many DIY’ers have some level of understanding of what integration needs to be done and how to do it, but this doesn’t replace the work of an expert. No respectable professional contractor would ever use two bolted together ladders! The reason is hopefully clear as to why not – the solution will not work for very long, if at all.
DIY integration does not take the place of a custom designed data integration solution, one that is implemented by an expert integration solution provider. But it is important to clarify the distinct difference between ‘DIY’ and ‘custom’, as some people confuse the two.
While some people draw an equivalency between ‘DIY’ and ‘custom’, this is a mistake. Custom-built solutions are tailored exactly to a customer’s needs, applications, data flow, touch points, and more. DIY doesn’t have any of the necessary industry expertise or wealth of knowledge behind it. At best a DIY solution will work, but it will be limited in its functionality, audit trail and longevity.
2. My IT department knows what my business needs for integration – they can handle it better than any integration partner
If you haven’t read our blog article “5 Lies Your IT People Told You About Data Integration“, this is a good place to start in combating this myth.
IT interests and your business goals from implementing an integration solution are not always aligned. The IT department may have their own goals for an integration. The broader business might not have the same goals. While the DIY integration solution may make the IT department’s lives easier, it might cause problems elsewhere in the company.
A customized integration solution provider can see the bigger picture beyond silos of programs, technology, and yes – even functional departments. While your IT department has skills likely specialized to your business (which is great!), those skills are not necessarily in line with the complex skills needed to do a professional integration. Your IT department will likely therefore be able to DIY an integration for the programs they are familiar with, but don’t expect miracles when IT tries to integrate something they are unfamiliar with.
Additionally, an integration partner that specialized in customized solutions is typically there over the lifetime of your service, or even the lifetime of your company (as has been the case with some of VL’s clients). IT personnel come and go. What happens when you’re left with no one who implemented the DIY integration solutions, and it breaks? This leads us into our next myth…
3. I heard of a company that did their own DIY 10 years ago, and it still works great today!
There is the odd rumor that circulates that a business has done well with a DIY integration solution. Their cobbled-together integration has somehow held up against the odds and time!
One thing that’s left out of this myth is the stagnation all other aspects of the company surrounding the integration. Generally, for a DIY integration solution to continue to work, there can’t be any major changes or upgrades to any related systems for fear of the solution crumbling to pieces in a digital version of ‘one too many straws on the camel’s back’. Moreover, DIY integration solutions often limit a business’ ability to scale when the time comes. It usually stunts a business’ growth as the DIY’er didn’t factor in where the business might be in 10 years.
As we alluded to in #2, a second problem with the longevity of DIY integration solutions is the inevitable turnover of staff who originally implemented the solution, and the common lack of an ‘integration champion’ to take the original staff’s place and take charge of the integration solution. The DIY integration solution sits in a metaphorical corner chugging away, and so long as nothing goes wrong with it I guarantee no one will raise their hand to even go near it. It’s like a piece of China that’s been broken and re glued so many times that even the most fragile wind will cause it to fall to dust!
And when the DIY solution inevitably does break, it actually makes it more difficult for the experts to come in after the fact to try and clean up the mess. Long-lived DIY solutions usually means there are out-of-date applications and programs still in use elsewhere in the company for fear of upgrading will topple the carefully stitched-together integration tower. The project then becomes not only a custom integration solution implementation, but also the project of either trying to work with old legacy programs that businesses refuse to give up because they’re so ingrained into the company, or a project of upgrading multiple systems as well as implementing the integration.
Don’t even breathe on it — our DIY integration solution can’t work without it!
4. DIY integration is cheaper than other integration solutions
Many people automatically think that DIY is cheaper. “I’ll do the work myself, and it won’t cost me anything!”
Those of us who are savvy enough (or have learned the hard way), this is deeply flawed logic. Aside from not necessarily spending cold, hard cash on your DIY integration solution, you’re at the very least spending time. And as the old adage goes, time is money!
On top of this, the time you spend on creating your DIY integration solution is almost certainly going to take you longer than it would take an expert. For example, VL has created a number of integration solutions that we keep in our repertoire for applications that we commonly integrate for our customers. Never mind our familiarity with a host of applications and integration techniques. We’re experts at what we do because we specialize in one area and work hard to be very, very good at it!
DIY integration solutions often get siloed on top of everything else. Certain departments, just like our IT myth above, are familiar with certain types of programs that fall into a category: for example, accounting applications and software. Some plug-and-play and lower-end integration companies even fall into silos! It is difficult for DIY or low-quality solutions to bridge between these silos. What you end up with is a halfhearted attempt at integration, not a full integrated solution. And this doesn’t help your business in any way near to what a fully integrated system could, not saving you any money in the end!
5. Integration is easy
Recently, as part of our ongoing 7 Questions Series, we posed the following question to seven logistics industry experts and thought leaders:
How complex can integration requirements become?
Do you want to take a guess at what the overwhelming answer was?
Integration is extremely complex. Especially when you’re implementing a customized solution that will work for a business today, tomorrow, and well into the future by building in scalability functionality.
One of our experts, Dan Cence, CEO & Founder of Sprocket Express, even phrased it as being “bordering on rocket science.” If that doesn’t talk you off the ledge that DIY integration solutions can pose, I’m not sure what will.
Ask any company that has tried multiple integration solutions (including both DIY and plug-and-play) over their lifetime before settling with their current integration partner about the lessons they learned the hard way by trying to cut corners with inferior solutions. You’ll get a similar answer every time: it was a waste of time and money, it caused numerous headaches instead of solving them, and they wished they would have simply gone with the custom integration solution from the start.
The depth of knowledge that integration experts who provide customized solutions as a service and aren’t just pushing a product is amazing. For example, did you know that common applications your business probably uses on a daily basis have a lot more to them than what meets the eye? Applications can not only do what they’re designed to do, but have additional functionality that only a master integrator can unlock for your business.
So: Leverage the experts.
Integration is not easy, but still people try to take short cuts by attempting DIY. Where people wouldn’t trust anything less than a reputable contractor for a full house remodel, somehow they still think DIY is still an acceptable integration solution. As if the risks weren’t as high with your house as with your business.
Just like insider trading, the DIY integration myths that are whispered in hushed tones are alluring and tempting, but come with large risks attached to them. Our advice: don’t be tempted. Don’t pay 8 times for 8 different solutions to finally learn your lesson and go with an integration expert – do it from the get-go!