In today’s dynamic world, it is extremely hard to find the right technology partner. Companies are using all kinds of shiny, yet fake marketing pitches to get people’s attention. Words such as “digital transformation”, “automation”, “AI” and more are often misused by salespeople.
The new reality, where teams are spread around the globe and can work from anywhere is making workflow automation more attractive than ever. Automating as many workflows as possible helps reduce the chances of human error, avoid delays due to manual transfer of data and improve cross-team collaboration. Sounds like worth the investment, but one needs to be careful when choosing an integration partner. There are many companies claiming they have what you need, but in reality, this is not the case.
In this article we will go over some of the most common underwater stones you can bump-in if you fail to choose a transparent integration vendor.
1. Lack of transparency in pricing models
We basically have 2 scenarios here. The first one is connected to vendors, who charge very low for their integrations, but do not support a variety of customer use cases, customizations, upgrades of the software you are using and more. What you end up with is either having to pay more for professional services for the customizations or sticking with a very basic integration. The integration will most probably only synchronize 2-3 fields such as name, email, phone and will have a limited number of queries which can pass through at a fixed interval of 15 minutes or more. Connecting fields from incidents, events and topology requires more mature and technically advanced integration platforms. If you really want to synchronize the work between teams and automate workflows, integrations that cost very low will simply not do the job.
The second scenario is when you first have to pay for the integration software, which comes with some basic systems to integrate like mail servers, excel sheets etc., but then you end-up paying an annual fee for each additional integration. Some integration vendors do this trick by saying they charge lower for their integrations, but in reality, you also need to pay for their software.
Tip: First understand the problem you are trying to solve and then decide upon the budget. We all know budgets can be tight, but you need to grasp the benefits which will lead to a higher ROI if you choose the most suitable integration vendor.
2. Steep learning curve
Integrations should be easy to set up, maintain and customize. This is often not the case even with integrators that claim it’s super easy to configure the connection between two systems. You might still need technical knowledge to do the integration flows. Easy in most cases applies only for mapping basic fields such as mail, phone and name between two systems. But what happens when you want to sync events, topology, incidents, tasks, etc., with specific fields and data which need to be aligned? If you don’t have a programming background you are doomed to setup your integrations for months.
Of course, there are some integration platforms, which do not require technical background even for more advanced integrations, but you need to test how they work in action, prior jumping to a cheaper, or more popular tool.
Tip: Check out how much time would be needed to actually set up the integrations since you may end-up being stuck for weeks. Always start with a demo, see how the connection is set up and ask questions. ☺
3. Lack of adequate customer onboarding
Most integration vendors will either let you configure everything by yourself or give you a piece of paper with instructions on how to set up your integration. They won’t go deeper to understand your use case and tell you if they actually support it. Then we all know the deal – hundreds of mails to support (some vendors don’t even provide the option for a call). They give you a small fraction of information in each new email. This is not only frustrating, but also makes the entire process slow and burdensome.
Tip: Always ask for a free PoC option. Even if you think you can set up the integration yourself, there should always be a back-up plan in case something becomes unclear throughout the process.
4. How many queries can the integration handle? If there are more than “x” you need to pay extra..
Yes, this is a valid question even in the era of digital transformation, automation and all the buzzwords you can think of. Some integration systems – especially the more basic ones usually crush when the workflows sent through them outnumber a certain amount. You will be charged extra if you have more than “x” workflows passing through their software on a monthly basis. This is a very heavy burden for companies, which have more than 100 people inside and more events and tasks can be transferred daily.
Are you willing to risk your integration system crushing and having to deal with support via email on top of paying extra?
Tip: Talk to the teams, who will be using the integration most and ask how many tickets, tasks or events they receive daily. This way it will be easier to narrow down your options for integration vendors.
5. Is the integration tool secure?
Security has been an ongoing topic for the past couple of years. Big enterprises faced serious allegations due to leakage of sensitive data. Security plays a key role in integrations as well. You need to understand what kind of information will be passing through the systems in order to choose the best integration platform. In all cases, the platform needs to be secure enough as not to expose sensitive information to chances of being stolen by 3rd party users. All logs, integration configurations and statistics need to be stored in a safe place and available only to you. In addition to that, any transaction data from the integrations should be available only for a limited period of time and to a selected number of users.
Tip: Choose an integration vendor, who covers the above-mentioned security aspects. Don’t place security on the spare bench since it can cost you a fortune later. Better safe than sorry, right?
6. Let’s talk about satisfactory customer support
You have set up your integrations and everything is running smoothly. What happens when you run into a bug, the system goes down or you simply want to add more customizations to your integration? Customer support jumps-in, but let’s face it – most of the times they are either too slow with the responses or reply only via email with one-two sentences, thus making this even worse. This is a typical setup we have seen in many integration vendors and probably most of you would recognize themselves in this situation.
Of course, customer support people are not robots and cannot reply to everyone within 5 minutes, but being silent for more than 48 hours is usually a bad sign. Some integration vendors claim they do not charge you for customer support, yet this is not always a good sign, since it means your request will most probably go to the end of the queue.
7. What starts as cheap can turn out to be more expensive
This is valid for almost everything we buy. If you choose to get an already used car which is cheaper than getting a new one, there are always hidden costs which need to be covered by you, if something goes wrong. It’s the same with system integrations – what seems cheap now can become more expensive in the future. If you need to synchronize events, incidents, topology, tasks and more, getting a cheap or free integration tool may be quite misleading.
Choosing cheaper integrations, especially for companies who have more than 100 employees, simply won’t do the job since these platforms were not designed to handle a big number of queries, can easily break, lack options for customizations and often sync information between systems with delays (15 minutes or more). This may not sound as a big deal if you have 1 or 2 queries passing per day, but imagine having 50+. What will you do if they all get synced with delays? Your customers for sure won’t be happy.
Tip:Go back to Tip #1 and Tip #3.
8. Don’t go bigger than necessary
When speaking about the capabilities of free or cheap integration vendors we cannot omit the ones, which cost a fortune and you won’t even use all of their capabilities. We have also seen this situation in action when enterprises turn to vendors, who provide tons of unnecessary features for six-digit subscription fees per year. When we say you shouldn’t go with the basic integrations, we are not saying to go to the other extreme, where the platform delivers needless extras, which you won’t use.
Tip: Speak to the teams, who will use the integration to get a grasp on all necessary features they will need.
Choose your integration vendor wise
Choosing an integration vendor is not an easy task, if you don’t set your priorities right. Customers, whose main concern is price are likely to bump into a company which charges less but isn’t suitable for the use case. The contrary is also possible, if your main concern are all the extras and additional features big vendors provide, you can end up stuck with a tool which costs way more than necessary. Quality should not be compromised by price and the opposite shouldn’t happen as well. Applying the golden mean when searching for an integration provider is necessary, if you want your project to be successful. Here are some tips you can follow:
- Understand your integration need. Do you need to sync one workflow (for example incident-task) or will there be multiple ones?
- How many fields need to be synchronized? Are there specific ones, which need to be taken into consideration?
- How many people are going to use the integration? What is their role within the organization? Usually when it comes to IT Service Management and DevOps teams, they would need to sync a lot of specific fields.
- How much effort are you willing to invest in the setup and customizations of your integration? Is the integration platform easy to operate with?
- Is there potential for this integration to scale?
- Last, but not least of course is how much are you willing to invest in this endeavor? As mentioned in points 6,7 you should be careful not to go to an extreme.
Choosing the right integration partner is not as easy as it seems since companies have diverse use cases, learning curves, needs for customizations, budgets and more.
It isn’t as hard as it seems as well, if you know what you want to achieve. Hopefully this article shed some light on some of the biggest underwater stones integration vendors may be hiding from you. At the end of the day, it’s all about transparency. We have all seen marketing tricks which drive our attention with free, cheaper offers which turn out to be fake. In our next article we will give you some tips & tricks on how to choose the best integration platform which fits within your needs.