I’m so tired of talking about integrations.
There, I said it. Now you say it. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
“I’m so tired of talking about integrations.”
Excellent. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.
We’re tired of talking about integrations because all the talking rarely results in action.
But let’s not beat ourselves up about this. Integrations are HARD. Mapping multiple software solutions to be beautifully integrated in order to reduce redundancies, disconnects, and bottlenecks is the easy part. Making it happen seems to take equal parts technical aptitude and voodoo magic.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Executing the integration of your dreams is absolutely possible. It just takes the right people, a little compromise, and a great deal of buy-in. If that already stresses you out, rest assured that these elements can be achieved.
Let’s start about the people. To successfully implement any integration, you need to the right people involved. From influencers, developers, and users, each camp needs to be accounted for in your “people stack.”
The decision maker (marketing manager/director or CMO)
You need someone that can change process and provide the budget. They may remove themselves once the conversations get tactical, but you absolutely need them during the ideation stage. If you don't, you’ll need to convince them afterward — and no one likes putting their time into a big project only to have it rejected by the boss. Seek approval early. Integrations begin or end with this type of role.
The admin (solution admins or product owners)
You need the individuals who own and manage each software. They represent the nature of each software, its audiences, its configurations, and its use cases. Typically, they are the one who dreamed up the integration and their voice of the product is critical when playing out the specifics.
Note: If the integration idea did not stem from one of the system admins, approach the conversation carefully. There is potential for the don't-mess-with-my-stuff mentality to rear its nasty (but also reasonable) head. When broaching the conversation of an integration, lead with why the integration creates value for both platforms. The reality is, an integration imposes itself on both apps. The owners of these products need to be true believers of the integration or that person will become a roadblock.
The tech experts (IT support, developers, or a third party)
When technical work involves API solutions, you are going to need some form of technical support. Bandwidth will be your biggest struggle here, and you may need to wait until your internal IT team has the availability to do the work. Or, if you have a budget, perhaps you work with a third-party developer to avoid this problem. On the upside, buy-in is not often a struggle here. Unless they also work with the platforms being integrated, they have no qualms with the work getting completed.
Often overlooked, but a project manager (PM) is an important resource for large-scale integrations. From back-and-forth communications with the vendors and stakeholders to project dependencies across app owners to dictating timelines that might be in play, someone has to corral all that activity. The admin/product owner often gets thrown into this role, but their skillset may not fit that responsibility. Furthermore, their leadership may incubate notions of potential biases (“all they care about is their platform’s needs”). Having a PM as a neutral party during the implementation phase can help even the playing field.
Don’t forget your users. Just don’t. You need to talk to the people who use the products day in and day out. Online surveys, user interviews, conversations by the water cooler...just talk to people. You are trying to improve their work life, so they will welcome the dialogue. And if you ignore them? They will burn you for it (see “Handling change management” below). Not to mention, you will miss the mark on what the integration should truly do. Go talk to your users. Their collective insight will inform your integration.
Prepare for compromises
Now that your people stack is ready to roll, let’s talk about something each member of that team will need to do: compromise.
There isn’t much to say here, but its weight in this conversation can’t be understated. The ability for team members to compromise on their particular “requirements” is where the idea of an integration progresses or dies. Whether it’s your IT folks proving certain elements of your idea to be technically impossible or department heads unhappy with process changes that inherently stem from an integration (see “Handling change management” below), there will be moments where people need to hold hands, force a smile, and get on board. No integration is perfect. Ever. Anywhere. The idea you have right now? Nope. Let it go, my friend. Compromise is a requirement. A beautifully designed integration makes angels sing, but it only happens when your people stack designs that integration as a team. Compromise is a requirement.
Handling change management
Your people are in place and they are ready to play ball, but don’t stop there. There is one last piece for integration success: change management. If you’re not thinking about the launch and long-term adoption of your integration, you run the risk of it never being accepted by the masses.
The purpose of an integration is to reduce redundancies, disconnects, and bottlenecks. But don’t pretend that it will not impact someone’s regular day to day. Whether “the button for the thing used to be here and now it’s there” or certain processes are moved from one platform to another, change is inevitable. While the greater good (which often includes cost savings) is a worthwhile outcome of an integration, it still changes things. And change is hard. Your users will need new training. Documentation will need updating. A formal launch with visible support from senior leadership might be required. If you brought your users in from day one (like we talked about, remember?) then this challenge will already be experiencing positive momentum. But don’t forget to round back with your users and make sure they have the instruction and resources required.
So, there you have it. Easy-peezy. Now, what was I saying earlier? Oh, that’s right...
I’m so tired of talking about integrations.
And so are you. So go build one. Assemble your people stack, remind them that “teamwork makes the dream work,” and proactively manage the changes that will occur. When you know what you need, you are more likely to get it. When you are aware of the challenges, you are more likely to persevere. Dial into these components and your integration will win.