Creating seamless API integration is really hard. Even though Cloud Elements makes the connection and integration a lot easier, it still requires more than a strong will and a couple of developers. We know that, but not everyone has as much experience with integration as we do. We’ve seen a lot of integrations--both good and bad. It's our job, as the Customer Success team, to help guide our customers through the process, using our experience and expertise. Integration is hard. It's more than just a connection, they’re really software projects and should be treated like one.More and more we’re seeing that customers are getting stuck behind their own internal challenges. Common ones we run into are not defining clear requirements before they begin development, not having their QA team ready and up to speed on what to test, not enabling their support team after they launch into production, or not planning their go-live or go-to-market strategy. There are some things you can decide on before getting started. Answering questions like these are critical when thinking about your next integration project:
- Do you know what you want to do with this integration?
- Who are you marketing to?
- How are you sharing the news about your new, amazing integrations with your customers?
- Is your support team setup for success?
- Is your sales team even ready to sell this thing? (Does this affect your pricing model; can you create new, higher pricing tiers by offering advanced integration?)
As the Manager of Customer Delivery here at Cloud Elements, I’ve seen first hand these struggles with so many customers. We know that if we want our customers to be successful (and isn’t that the point?) we need to bottle up the basics and help guide each project to success.
The Implementation Journey is our version of something you’ve probably seen before. We didn’t reinvent the development cycle, we just customized it based on what our successful customers do. Following this journey helps us guide our customers through key pieces of the implementation process starting with Requirements, all the way through QA and Growth.
This journey is specific to how we do things here at Cloud Elements, but can be applied to any integration project you’re working on. Bear with me while we run through the basics, because there might just be some helpful nuggets!
The basic principle of this phase is simple - how can you start building something if you don’t know what you need it to do? You have to define requirements before you go any further in your integration project. Your requirements for not just your first Element, but for your whole integration strategy are critical. You can’t make good design choices if you’re just winging it as you roll through development.
We have a variety of templates available to help you if you don’t know where to begin, but the best bet is to start with some high level use cases and get more in depth from there. The best requirements documents have business user requirements, as well as technical requirements. Two gold stars for you if you include field mappings in your requirements document! You might even consider things like wireframe or color comps for your authentication UI.
Once you’ve got your Requirements nailed down, you’re in business. You can pass Go, collect your gold stars, and move onto the Design phase.
I assume you picked Cloud Elements because we’re amazing, but also because of our one-to-many value proposition. In order to truly leverage the benefits of this, you have to make sure your design is solid.
You’re in luck. Our Customer Success Architects LOVE talking design, it’s almost like it’s their job. One of the things we’re encouraging our customers to do is to leverage us to help with the designing and architecting. We offer all of our customers a “design recommendations” meeting with our Customer Success Architects where we can review your plans for things like:
- User/account/org structure
- Handling events
- Webhooks versus Polling
- Whether or not to use bulk
- Tips on searching objects or interacting with custom objects
… you get the picture. You’re not in this alone! Let us share some of our past experience to help you build the best integration you can - we’ve done this a time or two. Here's a helpful series our marketing team put together, called the 10-Step Guide to API Integration.
You made it. You’re here., This is typically the phase that everyone wants to jump right into! You’re ready to hit the ground running and get this thing going.
This phase is pretty straight forward, but everyone’s development phase is going to look different. Usually, this is where our customers uncover unforeseen issues or even uncover new requirements. Don’t panic. You have an arsenal of folks here at Cloud Elements from your Delivery Manager, to the Customer Implementation Engineers, Customer Success Architects, and Technical Account Managers to help you through this phase, too.
The biggest piece of advice I have for this phase is to iterate and to not suffer alone. When you run into issues, reach out to your team here and let us help you get unblocked and on the road to test.
The foundation for a good test phase is set long before you actually release to your QA team. Your business requirements can help easily direct your QA team to develop solid test cases to use during this period, and they should be ready to try to break what you’ve worked so hard to build. See, those Requirements that we said are so important are paying off again!
Finding the right balance of testing/iterating that allows you to quickly get something in the market for your customers to beta on is tough. Keep this in mind as you’re going through the testing period, often times new requirements creep up that seem like a blocker but could be a “phase 2” release. The important thing is that you’re getting a solid, initial offering out into the marketplace for your customers to start benefiting from!
GO-LIVE + MAINTAINENCE
CONGRATULATIONS! You’re LIVE! You did it. Celebrate, have a donut, and wait for the customers to roll in…
In case they don’t roll in quite as quickly as you expected, don’t worry - we have a go-to-market team and your Technical Account Manager that can help you brainstorm ideas to increase your adoption and growth. Hit them up and see the customers come running for all your cool integrations!
And, don’t forget to enable YOUR support team to work with OUR support team. We’ve got superstars over here ready to help your team once your integrations are live and in the wild.