There’s a question that comes up regularly, and in talking with our partners it’s common: why do businesses accept low-quality ERP data integration solutions?
Low quality integration solutions — any solution that’s poorly designed and undersized for the business that’s employing it, usually inferring boxed integration plug-and-play products or DIY coding — are great for businesses of a certain size, but cause much more trouble than they’re worth in scaling businesses, B2C or B2B. Yet some businesses with sufficient complexity in their applications and back-end technology stack insist on trying to fit their business to these ill-suited solutions, like cramming a square peg into a round hole. An exercise in futility and frustration for all involved, we’re perplexed as to why businesses subject themselves to this song and dance, losing productivity, time, and money along the way.
Plenty of these businesses eventually end up on VL’s doorstep for data integration and connectors that actually work after learning the hard way that low-quality integration solutions were a bad bet from the get-go even though the price was good and the service sounded superb. But the series of missteps they take before finding VL are eerily similar — so similar, in fact, that we put together a flow chart of how this evolution usually plays out:
How Do You Decide on an Integration Strategy?
Through no fault of your own, you may have found this flow chart to be a bit too familiar. But why do businesses still insist on making these same series of mistakes, choosing a low-quality integration product over a qualified integration partner only to bang their head up against the wall for sometimes months before realizing their mistake?
The psychology of picking the easier solution — and passing responsibility onto someone else
The story always starts one of two ways: either the business jumps right into the undersized, low-quality integration, or they consult with a partner that is suited to their strategy and needs but decide to give the low-quality products a go anyways.
Plug-and-play integration products (those you often find as bolt-ons to other applications you already use) assign the responsibility of the integration to someone else. Click here, download now, and the integration product works; or at least, that’s how they’re billed. The integration, whether it works for your business or not, is implied to be someone else’s problem, someone else’s responsibility; the contractual implication is by installing the plugin, it will work. You’ve handed the reigns of your businesses over to someone else’s idea of how an integration should work for your business.
Breaking down why businesses accept low-quality integration solutions
Let’s work through the flowchart above step by step to explore some of the rationale working behind why businesses accept low-quality integrations.
- Source a data integration solution that fits the business’s needs. Many businesses that embark on their journey to better integration and data automation actually start with the perfect solution for them. They do the research, find the referrals, and end up with an integration provider with all the right capabilities to help them achieve their strategic business goals. But they…
- Become scared of the implied responsibility of the business’ ownership of the solution. In the day and age of appification (“there’s an app for that!”), consumers have been tricked into thinking that even the most complex task can be solved by clicking a button. When this illusion is presented with a conflicting reality, some businesses get spooked. Integration solutions that can handle the complexity, requirements, and strategy needed by many scaling SMB/SME’s require some level of consultation to configure the solution; it’s not a click-and-install scenario. For VL, this usually means matching the integration workflows to the business’ objectives — it’s like building a suit and taking body measurements, the two just go hand-in hand for the type of complex and sophisticated client we serve.
Sometimes, though, this gets confused as implying the business has more responsibility for the integration solution versus a plug-and-play solution or that its being developed from scratch. (Not true — in the case of VL, we’re still 100% responsible for the solutions we implement, we just ask more questions at the offset to learn how to best configure key elements in the workflows we implement — if you want to learn more, let us know here.) They don’t fully grasp why we approach things they way we do, so instead of asking questions for clarification, these businesses…
- Trade responsibility and a solution that works for a commoditized product with no responsibility. They get spooked, so they run to something that feels more familiar. Integration is a complex, business and technical topic. When people can’t quite wrap their heads around a topic, they’ll grasp onto what they do understand, and appification is one such thing. Clicking a button and installing an integration based on a boxed set of promises with a clear, fixed price is passing the control of your integration strategy off onto the product supplier. It’s passing the responsibility for the solution — and your business — off onto an unknown: whatever the plugin supplier has deemed is good enough for most. Everything looks great — that is, until the business tries to implement the solution and they…
- Realize that a commoditized integration product doesn’t fit the business as-is. In passing off responsibility, the business is also passing off any control over the integration off onto what can (and can’t) be done by the pre-defined set of abilities of the plugin. Expectations quickly turn into troubleshooting when the plugin doesn’t function as required when the switch is flipped to ‘on’. When a business with anything close to complexity in their technology and sales channels tries to implement a plug-and-play solution that’s designed for the lowest common denominator of functionalities, things start to go sideways. Yet some are convinced that they can still make the plugin work, and many…
- Change the business in an attempt to fit into the integration product’s inflexibility. “If we could just do x and y, we could get this integration product to work,” is how it starts. Some implement databases or tables as a middle step between applications in attempt to get the thing to do what was promised. Some have applications that absolutely won’t work with the plug-and-play integration, no matter what work-arounds are implemented, so they replatform. They start to change their business to fit the solution.
- Waste time, money, and resources. Of course, this all takes the investment of time, money, and resources. Even without an invoice for these efforts at the end of every month, employees and other resources are still dedicating time to trying to make an inexpensive, ill-fitted, undersized solution work — in vain. Any changes made to the business during this time are often unncessary expenditures that create a domino effect in expenses as elements are implemented and employees are retrained for naught. And after all that…
- Commoditized integration product still doesn’t fit the business, and doesn’t meet expectations. After what’s usually months, it dawns on the business: there’s no way we’re going to make this plug-and-play integration work for us, no matter how we try to change our business to fit. They’re now severely behind schedule and left without a functional data integration solution. They’re back to square one.
- Revisit the originally sourced solution, which fit the business exactly as-is. This is where the realization of the implied responsibility of the first solution usually comes full-circle. In trying to pass responsibility off on an external supplier via the plug-and-play integration, these businesses ended up taking full responsibility for an integration solution that was never going to work for their business. Whether it was the complexity of their supply chain, the application stack they employ to run their business, or any other number of factors, they were never part of the lowest common denominator group that plug-and-play integrations are designed for. They’re too big, too complex, too sophisticated — and they needed an integration solution that matches.
- Implement a data integration solution that’s agile, scalable, accounts for your business rules, and fits the business as-is. So they’re back consulting with VL, and come to the realization that even though there might have been the initial impression that a more sophisticated integration solution may require more work from the business’s side of things, it really doesn’t in the end. It’s the difference between implementing something that’s never going to work, versus consulting on strategy and implementing a solution that’s tailored to the business.
Don’t make compromises with your integrations: A Shopify Plus to ERP integration example
Nothing brings a story to life quite like a real-life example.
One of the most requested integrations from VL is Shopify Plus to ERP integrations. Both Shopify Plus and most mid-market ERPs are complex and sophisticated in their functionalities, including the ability to customize the applications themselves. And while Shopify Plus is a pinnacle in SME ecommerce, there are many ERP solutions out there. It’s near impossible to find a plug-and-play solution that will work for every business in this scenario right out of the box.
And yet, businesses still try! They hit Google, and find some fast talking plug-and-play provider that will tell them whatever they want to hear, and discount their price — “yes, of course we can integrate ERP A to Shopify Plus with our tool!” In reality, their plugin doesn’t work in the ways the business expects it to work; it doesn’t handle the data loads, it doesn’t have all the right workflows, it doesn’t take business rules into account; the list goes on. It’s not the right fit, but it gets approved to move forward anyways.
… And this is usually where the story ends! — Or, more correctly, where the story gets stuck. The Shopify Plus to ERP plug-and-play integration never gets implemented or of it does its poorly done. It goes live but struggles, because it can’t do what’s needed. The project sputters along, the business becomes more and more frustrated, and the breaking point usually comes around this time of year, AKA coming into the holiday season. Incredible amounts of time, money, and resources get wasted in a process that never should have been considered in the first place.
The Shopify Plus to ERP integration workflow is one of the many reasons Shopify Plus partnered with VL OMNI. There is no mass consumer plug-and-play integration out there that serves the possible workflow! VL OMNI is the tactician behind the scenes that connects the two together, and we do it well — just look at some of our customer testimonials if you need further proof.