What You Need to Know Before You Build Your First Integration

By Brian Wones in Enterprise Integration, SaaS Integration Posted Oct 23, 2018

At Cloud Elements, we our proud of our culture and our core values are the foundation of our culture. The core value that resonates the most with me is Customers First - which is a big reason why I joined the Cloud Team nearly two years ago. As the Senior Director of Customer Success at Cloud Elements, I am responsible for successfully onboarding and training our new customers and strategic partners like SAP. I work directly with our most strategic customers to help define and guide their digital transformations that are powered by Cloud Elements. I have created the integration journey, a strategic vision for a consultative experience designed to help move customers through the complex tasks of enterprise integrations.

By working with over 200 of today’s leading software and digital enterprises, it is clear that developing a solid integration strategy and executing on said strategy is really tough. So, in this three part blog series, I am going to share the best ways to prepare for building integrations from the ground up. We’ll take a look at the team you should put in place, how and why it’s important to understand your customer’s needs, and how to get the right project plan in place to recognize value and be successful. This first blog is going to cover how to get your internal team ready for integrations.


CUSTOMER EXPECTATION HAS SHIFTED

Integrations are a relatively new thing to the software world. They are becoming more and more important as the number of technologies increase at a given organization (there are now an average of 1000 apps used within an enterprise). Many of our SaaS and enterprise customers are discovering that the complexity of those integrations continues to grow. We have seen that software customers no longer view integrations as a nice-to-have feature. Rather, your customers expect built-in, ready-to-use integrations. Further, they expect more complex functionality and the ability streamline business processes. What does this mean? Integration has become a key feature of your product. Not to mention, complex integrations are just as complex as any other product feature that you already have planned in your backlog.

With that in mind, how do you go about picking the right team to ensure that you are getting the most from the integrations you build? Our team has seen a number of different approaches from our customers. Here are the best practices and recommendations that we have put together from the lessons learned by those customers.

There are three components that lead to a successful integration development team:

  • Correct team make up
  • Proper management to help the team stay focused on the integration
  • Appropriate skill sets across the team members

ASSEMBLING YOUR DREAM TEAM
Creating an efficient team is key to the success of any development project, and integrations are no different. From our experience, we have seen a small team of 3 - 5 resources be the most impactful balance between team efficiency and throughput. We recommend the team is composed of the following roles:

Integration Team: Senior Software Engineer

1 Mid-Senior Level Engineer
This role will define the architecture for the integration as well as the key connectivity between your system and the target system.

This role can be 50% - 100% resourced on the project. This resource can roll off as you build subsequent integrations.

1 - 2 Junior Engineers
Once the architecture is in place, junior resources can take over and can handle a majority of the integration work.

These resource(s) should be planned at a full time throughout the lifecycle of the integration development. 

Integration Team: Junior Software Engineer
Integration Team: Project Manager

1 Project Manager
This role is responsible for ensuring that everything is on track, that all of the components are in place, and that the team is following the defined scope and project plan.

This resource can be planned at a level of 25% - 50% from the beginning of the project throughout go-live.

1 QA Engineer
One often overlooked team member is QA.  Integrations are another product feature and should have a similar level of QA to any other product feature.

This resource can be planned at a level of 50% to 100% and can come on toward the later half of the project schedule.

Integration Team: QA Engineer


THE TECHNICAL SKILLS 

Now that we have the team defined, we should talk about what the technology skill sets should look like. When asked by our customers what the right skill set looks like, we provide the following as a recommendation:

  • Knowledge of RESTful design, APIs, and web technologies
  • 5+ years experience as an Engineer, preferably with SaaS or related Cloud products
  • Experience in the following technologies:
    • Java, SQL, JavaScript, AJAX, JSON, Subversion or Git, Tomcat (or other Java application server)
    • Experience with vCloud, vCenter, vSphere or Azure, using the services and the respective Java SDK or RESTful API
    • Experience with Redis and Java clients for Redis, e.g., Jedis
    • Experience with AMQP and servers like RabbitMQ

HOW CLOUD ELEMENTS CAN HELP
If you’re familiar with Cloud Elements then you know we take a different approach - we believe in shifting the burden off of end-users and onto the service provider. Our powerful API integration platform offers a robust set of rich products and features to help software companies and enterprises tackle any integration use case.

Simply put, we make integration suck less. One of the ways that we accomplish that is our ability to translate all of the various languages that integrations require into simple JSON, Javascript and REST. This really simplifies the teams that our customer need to put together. Instead of having a pool of developers with varied backgrounds, the team can be boiled down to one or two development resources with the same set of skills that can be applied across a large pool of available integrations.

Keep an eye out for part two in the blog series focused on why your customers’ success is crucial to your integration strategy. In the meantime, you can see the power of our platform for yourself. Try out Cloud Elements for free for 30 days by clicking below.

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