How To Evaluate Software Integrations: 3 Important Considerations
We’ve all been there. You’re searching for a software product to enhance your marketing organization, and the first thing you investigate is whether the solution integrates with key components of your existing technology stack.
This makes sense. No one wants to deal with the consequences of implementing a product that is disconnected from other critical systems — duplicate data, manual work, and incomplete insights.
But there is also an important fact that many B2B buyers forget when evaluating software solutions:
Not all integrations are created equal. – Click to tweet
The term “integration” itself is actually meaningless without context about the effort involved in setup, the use cases that the integration enables, and the workflows that the integration supports. Buying a software product for its integrations without having those details is like buying a used car without knowing the mileage: You know how it looks on the surface, but you don’t know how far it will take you.
So rather than looking for the software product whose website includes the most logos from your technology stack, here are three key points to consider when evaluating whether a software product’s integrations will help it fit into your marketing operation:
1) How much setup does the integration require?
Setting up an integration can be a very different experience depending on how exactly it was built. Consider a best case scenario:
Slack has a number of great integrations that only require a user’s authentication for initial setup.
If you’re integrating more complicated products, however, you’ll likely need to perform additional work to get the systems talking to one another. If this is the case, make sure the product you’re integrating has an interface that streamlines the process and eliminates the need for custom coding. For example, if you need to map values from one system to another in order to sync data then it is much easier to select the equivalent values from a pair of drop-down menus instead of writing a statement in SQL or some other programming language.
Dataloader.io has an interface that allows users to select the CSV column headers that correspond to fields in Salesforce so they can easily add data to their CRM.
2) How many use cases will the integration address?
An integration is only as valuable as the use cases that it addresses, so you should also be sure to ask vendors for specifics about what their integrations allow you to do.
Consider an example from the world of online survey software. Many providers of online survey software tout integrations with Salesforce that enable the creation of new records such as Leads and Contacts upon form submission, which is useful for ensuring that Salesforce includes a record of anyone who has responded to a survey or lead gen form.
However, some integrations from online survey software providers go beyond this basic functionality. For example, the Salesforce integration from FormAssembly enables other features such as creating and updating records based on conditional statements and pre-filling form fields with data from Salesforce. These features address additional use cases that are relevant for marketers. Conditionally creating records helps marketers minimize duplicate Leads and Contacts by creating new records only when they don’t already exist; pre-filling form fields helps marketers improve response rates by reducing the number of survey fields that recipients need to complete manually.
The Salesforce Connector in FormAssembly allows users to build surveys or other forms that create or update records in Salesforce based on conditional statements.
The important lesson here is that some integrations might actually make your life more difficult if they don’t address key use cases such as the minimization of duplicate Leads and Contacts. It’s necessary to dig into the details of any integrations to understand exactly how they’ll improve your marketing operation and why they’ll make the two products work better together than they would apart.
3) Does the integration require you to change existing processes?
Finally, it’s important to consider whether the features enabled by an integration will require you to change any existing processes or master new workflows.
For example, imagine implementing a new analytics tool that is meant to help your sales team access data about their key accounts. There are numerous analytics tools that connect directly to Salesforce to visualize data from within that system, but some of these tools require a user to access reports and dashboards within the analytics tool itself. For a salesperson accustomed to finding information within Salesforce, leaving that system and tracking down the right report in another software application can create friction.
That’s why many of these tools have built APIs that enable dashboards to be embedded directly within Salesforce objects to visualize data right where salespeople already spend their time.
Tableau is an example of business intelligence software that integrates with Salesforce to embed reports in objects such as Accounts and Opportunities.
If you’re trying to drive adoption of a new software program and it doesn’t integrate in a way that fits with your team’s existing processes, implementation is likely to fail regardless of the actual functionality of the programs you’re integrating.
Integrations are not checkboxes
Ultimately, it’s not enough just to verify that a software product integrates with your technology stack — integrating is not about checking a box.
Rather, as a tech-savvy marketer you need to assess whether an integration is intuitive to set up, enables features that address your use cases, and fits within your team’s existing workflows. Any of the countless software integrations that don’t satisfy those criteria might actually be more trouble than they’re worth.
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