A PM’s Dilemma: Internal Hurdles to Building an Integration Experience

By Lindsey Jenkins in API Industry Trends, Application Ecosystem Posted Jul 30, 2020

The long list of considerations that product managers oversee in their day-to-day roles includes constant questioning: What could we be doing better? How are competitors behaving? What are the actualities of implementing the best practices the market is swaying toward? 

product manager internal integration hurdles

It’s hard enough to get clarity for yourself on answers to these questions and changes or additions to the product. And then, once you think you’ve got a solid plan of action, you need to convince internal stakeholders of the financial and operational value of your suggested initiatives. 

When it comes to integration strategy, we’ve often seen two main considerations that product managers need to drive and advocate for during internal conversations: 1) What’s the integration strategy that our company should implement?, and 2) How will we actualize this strategy - building it internally or buying access to a platform? 

Planning an Integration Strategy

With the average enterprise utilizing 1800+ apps to conduct operations, the need to seamlessly sync data without intense manual intervention is at an all-time high. We know that talking about and planning integrations can seem like the vegetable soup to enticing developments like AI or ML’s chocolate cake, but to realize your exciting full product potential, you need to reduce the amount of developer time dedicated to building and maintaining integrations. 

We constantly hear from our customers how colossal software companies think of their offerings in terms of “you need our API, here it is, go build.” With this, it’s up to you to integrate seamlessly. 

So how do you get there? First, every product has an integration strategy, even those that don’t know it. But the question is whether your integration strategy is adaptable, flexible, and future-ready, or just “gets it done” in the interim, with further iterations required in the long-run. Or, your methodology might be “we have an API, and customers can deal with the integration bit themselves.”

If your strategy consists of building integrations as they’re requested from customers in a one-off fashion and/or reevaluating existing connections when something goes wrong, you’re operating on the defensive. Instead, recognizing where the market of applications is moving and which products are gaining traction in your customers’ industries can help you build a roadmap of integrations before they’re time-sensitive and customer deals hinge upon them.

The answer to these anxieties is a partner application ecosystem strategy, sometimes called an integration marketplace, but advocating for this methodology is a matter of proving ROI: What’s the direct (or indirect) value of creating all of these integrations? Who will use them? What kind of data will customers popularly transfer among these systems? Likely, internal stakeholders will also want to know if you’re going to sell productized integrations or whether this strategy will act as a boost to the value prop - and how will you measure success or failure?

With a partner application ecosystem strategy, it’s essential to express the value of customer experience. After all, “digital desires are now digital demands,” as stated in KPMG’s A Digital Decree. Customers know that the power is in their hands, and with this power they’re demanding connectivity and B2B interactions that mimic those they’re accustomed to as consumers (think: personal finance portals, e-commerce transactions, etc.) 

From Strategy to Actuality

With your integration strategy sussed out, the next question is what technological investments are necessary to achieve your goals. Do you plan to make your development team into an integration team with the majority of time spent on building and maintaining integrations? Or does it make sense to “buy” rather than “build,” meaning enlisting an iPaaS or other type of offering to help implement the integrations your customers demand?

If you decide to go the “buy” route, there are various options to consider in terms of an integration partnership or technological investment. We’ve heard from many of our customers that before conducting iPaaS evaluation, they considered companies offering mostly services and expertise in a certain vertical or with a specific set of vendor applications (such as NetSuite) and some proprietary tech thrown in.

At first glance, the price is right, but the lack of control over integrations, constant need for reengagement and capital to pay the company whenever a new integration need comes up, and threat of acquisition make these solutions an unstable option that might save capital upfront but lead you back to where you started along with a load of technical debt. 

With this, many of our customers shifted their analysis of financial investment from one that’s short-term to one examining the long-term value of owning a seamless user experience. When these service-oriented integration companies are stacked up against iPaaS to display longtail ROI, iPaaS comes out ahead due to the amount of available flexibility (if you choose the right platform for your needs, that is), consistent partnership that gives you control over what you implement, and industry expertise/resources. 

So if internal stakeholders ask about upfront cost justification, analyze how you could either boost revenue via customer attraction and competitive differentiation or through direct upselling and productized integrations.

The Final Step

You knew it was coming - with your integration strategy and technological methodology decided, the next step is to find the iPaaS that works best for your business needs. Do you need a no-code interface for your PS/CS team? Will your developers largely lead the initiative and want to use a platform that enables them to write code without messing around with a tricky UI?

Like other industries, the iPaaS market is constantly expanding and new players enter the game seemingly monthly. Yet, there are platforms with the historical knowledge and practical product implementation (like Cloud Elements) that are poised to deliver integration solutions that offer quick time-to-value, a seamless user interface, and the ability to build integrations one-to-many. 

Request a free trial of our platform and learn more about how Cloud Elements can practically meet your company’s integration needs.

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