As soon as your Salesforce implementation is up and running, you'll likely start to notice opportunities to integrate data between Salesforce and your other key systems.
You might want to improve business intelligence, user productivity, or accelerate your company's performance in other ways.
No matter the goal, there are a few questions that can help you stay focused on what's really important as you prepare to engage your Salesforce team or partner.
What decisions are being made based on the data?
There are at least two systems involved in your proposed data integration and after integration, at least one of them will have access to data that wasn't available before. So what decisions will be made based on that new data? How are those decisions impacted by the age of the available data?
Knowing these answers can help you understand how frequently the integrated data must be updated. This is important because near real-time integrations are almost always more expensive than batch integrations where some latency is normal and expected.
Take for example an integration that pushes customer usage statistics from one platform to the associated Salesforce account record. If your sales team uses long-term customer usage trends to decide when to reach out to customers to discuss upgrading to the next tier of service, it's fine for that data to be updated once nightly by a batch integration because having another half day of data has little impact on the trend.
On the other hand, if your support team intends to use the data to trigger customer alerts before they exceed a limit and incur overage costs, you need the data to be fresh and timely, so it must be updated near real time.
What’s the cost of the integration being down for some amount of time?
At the heart of this question is this: how mission critical is the integration? What financial penalty will you suffer when (not if) the integration experiences an outage? Discussing these questions with your stakeholders in advance will help you spend the appropriate amount of time and resources on the integration's robustness and resilience.
Some integrations built for user convenience may have outage workarounds that impact productivity but have only marginal financial impact if resolved in a reasonable amount of time.
Take for example an integration that pulls related customer data from your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system onto new leads in Salesforce to support nurturing activities. You might be fine with users needing to manually run a customer search on company name in your ERP for part of the day while the integration is brought back online.
It's not practical to spend the resources necessary to build a high availability, guaranteed delivery integration with redundant infrastructure for this kind of convenience integration. It may sound appealing to have as an option, but in the end, it wouldn’t help you in the long run.
Revenue-impacting integrations, however, might be candidates for this kind of reliability as the cost that comes with that may save you money in the long run.
Who will be responsible for maintaining and supporting the integration?
Having all your systems talking to each other and sharing data is a real advantage for your people. But beyond the initial build, who will maintain and support the integration?
The integrated systems will change over time and adjustments will be needed on the Salesforce side of things to keep everything in working order. Additionally, new requests will surface from your stakeholders as they explore the value your integration provides and find inspiration for what else they can achieve with additional related data.
Of course, adding this continued value to your organization is absolutely the goal! With that said, who will field these requests for you?
It’s worth considering the skill sets that are available in your organization or from your partners. If you have access to developers and have the capacity to help with enhancements and fixes along the way, you might consider a custom integration for simple use cases where the cost of an integration platform would be prohibitive.
If you don't have that capacity, the additional cost of that integration platform with pre-defined building blocks and a dedicated support team could be worth it in the long run. It’s all about making the system do what you want with little hassle or headaches for your team. Planning is key.
Pulling it all together
With these questions answered, you should have a better understanding of what else needs to be considered for your integration to be successful. Each case is unique, and plans naturally evolve the deeper you understand the problem and possible solutions for it.
That said, discussing the proposed integration with your Salesforce team or Salesforce partner should help to define your goals and what success will look like given your business needs and budget.
If you’re ready to roll with an integration or looking for a Salesforce partner who can help shape your thought process, then ring us up at 919-578-7711, send us an email, or get out your semaphore flags and let’s get the ball rolling together.