Does your organization leverage any software integrations, or do you have systems you may consider integrating in the future?
Most organizations depend on at least one, if not multiple, integrations between various sales, marketing, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and financial systems. As your organization grows and evolves, so will your software needs. When integrations work well, they expand the functionality of your software, streamline data and business processes, increase the ROI of your platforms, and help your business grow by meeting the needs of your team and/or your clients.
As a digital marketing developer, one of the key functions of my job is integrating systems. As a marketer, I tend to focus on integrations between different sales CRMs (customer relationship management solutions) and marketing software; however, the concepts I discuss are relevant to any business system integration.
Contrary to what you may expect, the biggest pain point I see in integrations is not the initial planning, development, or cost of an integration. Rather it is what happens after an integration is implemented. Most integrations include a well-thought-out implementation plan which ensures that the initial launch will be a success. What I see less frequently is a well-thought-out post-implementation maintenance plan that ensures the continued success of the integration. Just as a car needs regular maintenance to keep running reliably and safely, so do integrations. An integration that is not well maintained over time poses many risks, including unreliable and corrupted data, process inefficiencies, increased support costs, lost ROI, and potentially lost revenue. Simply put, an unmaintained integration can become a liability for your business.
Hence, software integrations should come with a maintenance plan. Below are some key items I recommend including in your plan.
Key Elements for Your Integration Maintenance Plan
Detailed documentation about how an integration works, including sync criteria, sync directions, and field mapping, goes a long way when changes, maintenance, and troubleshooting need to be done. Make sure the documentation is updated as changes to the integration are made. Good documentation is like a map, and – just like a reliable guide – it will save countless hours and headaches for anyone involved in using and supporting the integration.
- Quality assurance checklist
An integration that continues to provide value year after year is one that is well looked after. Your post-integration plan should include a checklist of what functions, features, and data need to be reviewed for potential issues and areas of optimization. The checklist should be performed at regular intervals. For many of the CRM and marketing integrations I monitor, monthly or quarterly quality checks work well.
Users of integrated systems should not only be trained to understand the value of the integration at the individual and organizational levels, but they also should be trained on the ins and outs of how it works and what to expect. The better the users are trained, the more likely they will be able to spot potential issues in a timely fashion. An effective user training plan should include troubleshooting steps for the issues they are most likely to see and how they can access relevant integration documentation. Always ensure new team members and employees are trained on the integration by a knowledgeable team member and provided with the necessary documentation.
- Testing and data monitoring
Conduct regular and thorough testing of the integration to ensure it is working as expected and data is being accurately transferred between systems. The testing to check for completeness, accuracy, and consistency of data, along with the results, should be documented to ensure that testing is done correctly. This testing should be a step in the quality assurance checklist.
Set up alerts to notify you of any issues or errors that occur. This may include general notifications for when a sync fails to run. Additionally, I recommend setting up notifications for when the data does not meet the expected criteria. Alerts and notifications do not replace the need for other manual review processes, but they will go a long way in the early identification of certain issues.
- Business analysis
Just as businesses grow and evolve, so should integrations. An integration should be reviewed regularly to ensure it is continuously providing business value as well as identifying opportunities where the integration could provide increased value in response to changing business needs.
- Professional services
A well-cared for integration can greatly benefit your organization, while inversely, a neglected integration poses many business risks. If your team does not have the capacity or expertise to regularly create and execute a maintenance plan, consider hiring a professional who has knowledge of integrated systems. A bit of preventive care can go a long way in stopping major problems down the line.
If you are unsure of your integration's health or need help setting up a quality assurance process, it may be time to schedule an assessment. Contact TopLine Results to schedule your integration health check assessment today. Email email@example.com or call 800-880-1960.