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How (Not) To Integrate

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Keeping to our “Ask The Expert” and building on our past posts, [Infographic] Choosing Your Integration Specialist: How To and The Difference Between Integration Products and Integration Solutions, our latest post comes from VL’s many years of experience working with clients. From this, we present you with our top collection of “how not-to’s” with the hopes of helping you and others avoid these pitfalls on your journey to being smart-busy through integration.

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“Garbage In, Garbage Out”– The most annoying advice ever.

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Let’s start with a scene that’s likely all too familiar:

A friend, peer, or partner asks for your advice – one can only assume they have come to you specifically because they respect your expertise in the subject matter. You weigh in on their question or problem with the full weight of your expert knowledge base behind it, and you part ways.

Yet, things still go wrong with your friend. You discover they didn’t take your expert advice, but instead chose to ignore it and solve their problem their own way. They didn’t have the expertise to put into the system to solve their problem, so they got out of it exactly what they put in: nada, or garbage in, garbage out. And worse yet, they hold you accountable for the failure of the situation.

Generally, when you seek out the opinion of an expert or specialist, you are looking for their professional, well-informed opinion on the matter for you to base your own good judgment on. But there are always those that ‘know better’ than you do, and insist on doing it their way (and then still blaming you, the expert, when things go wrong).

So, in the spirit of this phenomenon, we have put together a list of VL’s top 8 ways on how (not) to integrate.

How Not To: Top Mistakes Made With Integration

1. Weak Internal Systems and Infrastructure

The old adage of “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” holds true in so many circumstances – enterprise systems and infrastructure non withstanding. Integration can only help your business insofar; it will not improve weak internal systems and infrastructure. Don’t expect integration services to be your magic fix if your systems suck.

Delaying upgrading your systems and infrastructure is a ‘save now, pay triple later’ mentality. While you may save in the present, you will pay for the delay in the future as the upgrade will be a larger jump (and inflation is not your friend). Being comfortable with a certain system should not be your full stop in looking for something new, better, and more functional. The older systems get, the less nimble it is. Don’t get stuck in the familiar just because it’s what you know!

2. Weak Technical Partners

A successful integration includes your business having the right suite of both programs and partners. You need to have a strong network of partners to support you when you have questions, feedback, or hit road bumps.

Having strong technical partners to lean on and reach out to for resources will only make you smarter and more savvy in your endeavors and business. Find the right partners for your business, and listen to their advice when you ask for it!

3. Manual Processes Persist

If you’ve already implemented your integration solutions but you still find yourself working in manual processes here and there to compensate – think manually transferring data from one application to another; aka, copying & pasting – your integration solution is not doing it’s job. You’ve likely adopted a plug-and-play solution when it wasn’t the best fit, partnered with the wrong integration specialist, or even worse – tried to do it yourself.

Symptoms of an improperly integrated system go deeper than just having to occasionally type in an entry that didn’t transfer properly between two applications. It means that your entire business does not have a continual flow of data! This is true even if only 10% of your system isn’t integrated properly. As a result, there’s no central care of data. Things won’t move the way they would in a completely and properly integrated system, leaving your business vulnerable to costly errors and more.

4. Work-Arounds Are Part of Your Everyday Toolbox

If you have implemented your chosen integration solution but it still hasn’t removed your need for work arounds, either perpetuating the old word-arounds or creating new ones, you’re not integrated. To reiterate what we discussed in #3, if you are only 90% integrate, you still have 10% of work arounds.

Work-arounds are headaches. For your business, for your partners, for your clients. To you, the may seem like an inevitable part of business and a component of your integration solution, but we’re here to tell you that if you’re using work-arounds, your system isn’t integrated. Those work arounds are costing you money! Plug the leak and reevaluate your integration choices.

5. Shiny and New is Better than Plain and Functional

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We’ve all been sold on something we wouldn’t have bought into otherwise. I literally bought canned air once at a trade show. But I got a deal three cans for $10! Wow.

A shiny and new integration solution, application, or really anything doesn’t mean that it’s better. Remember Coke, New Coke, and Coke Classic? Sometimes what works best is the plain-old recipe that people have loved for years.

The same goes for integration solutions. Just because you heard on the street that Product X can solve all your integration problems and will wash your car too! doesn’t mean it’s a better solution than a plainer alternative that is functional and has been tested by many to be the best solution available for your business.

Take Social Media as an example. There’s a number of them out there, and new ones crop up every day. Each one serves it’s niche, and no one platform can do it all. Be skeptical of integration solutions that claim to do everything and the kitchen sink. Something’s had to have given somewhere else, and it’s usually quality of the service/product itself.

Our best recommendation is always to do your research – make a well-informed decision based on your own knowledge and not the ‘what’s hot’ page of your local (integration?) tabloids.

6. Thinking is for Chumps

Trying to piece together an integration solution from bits and pieces of various plug-and-play solutions is a nightmare of a way to try and achieve total integration; you’d think more people would avoid it. But the number of Ad Hoc integrations that VL has seen over the course of our lifetime is amazing.

Take your time and think things out. Don’t immediately jump on a solution that is cheap, available, and satisfies only a part of your integration solution goals. Plug-and-play are low-quality alternatives that won’t satisfy your business’ needs if what you really should be gunning for is a customized integration solution. Always ask yourself: do you have someone who can craft that data stream for you, instead of going with an off-the-shelf product that may or may not work?

7. DIY Code

In our last blog post, 5 Myths About DIY Integration, we tackled a number of pitfalls of DIY integration. DIY code is another work-around that is symptomatic of an improperly or not fully integrated system. If you have to use multiple code DIY to fulfill one action, bad news: your business is not in good shape.

Think about what would happen if your work-around DIY code fails. How are you going to find our where it failed? If you’re unfamiliar with programming and how many lines of code are required to fulfill some actions, take my advice that you don’t ever want to be faced with trying to find that needle in a haystack. If you didn’t program it, don’t have a good understanding of integration, or don’t know code, your needle is going to look like every other line of code in your work-around. Good luck.

DIY code is a synonym for a lack in depth of knowledge. If there’s DIY code, you obviously don’t understand how a proper, customized integration solution is supposed to work. I’ll give you a hint: there’s not supposed to be any DIY code.

8. Not My Responsibility!

Ever walked into a room full of kids where a lamp was just broken? Ask who did it, and you’ll get a resounding chorus of “not me!”s.

Too often there is no champion within the company to take responsibility for the systems, applications, and/or integration solution on the company’s end. This comes back to the “garbage in, garbage out” quote we started this blog article off with: if your company is putting garbage into the integration system, don’t expect to get anything other than garbage out. And definitely don’t try to blame the garbage out on your integration providers: we can’t control your entire business for you.

An internal champion for the system in your business can make all the difference. Someone who understands the system, and is willing to work with your integration partner to sort out any kinks. Nothing’s worse than trying to work with a company who’s experiencing trouble but does not have the time or knowledge to sit down with the integration partner to work things out and discover the underlying problem. This situation only leads to frustrated parties on both ends.

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Take a lesson from these 8 examples of how not to integrate. Custom integration solutions are technically complex to design, develop, connect, and then maintain over the course of the partnership. All of these how not to’s have one thing in common: the make your business dumb-busy instead of the smart-busy proper integration allows for, and they frustrate your integration partner.

Your integration partner is your partner. Partnerships work both ways. Your integration partner can only do so much from their side of the table – you have to meet them half way by avoiding these pitfalls. Work together with your partner towards the common good of your business: if you’ve selected a partner who cares and whom you trust, listen to their advice when they try to make recommendations. We can’t fix your whole business and run it too from where we sit!

Find an integration company that has control over the integration process. This will equal a better output for you. Entrust your company with an expert integration partner. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

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