How We Win the Integration Fight

August 4, 2014 Prabhu Palanisamy


The success of system implementations is significantly dependent on integration. This is even more true as most cloud projects utilize agile methodology. The following are the three major items we work early in  the project to define the implementation path for integrations.

1. Consider Impact on Business Processes.

The strength of the platform and the feature-rich Sales and Service Clouds is that they are highly configurable systems. The key to succeeding with this platform is to define a business process that not only meets the requirements, but is also flexible enough to allow for re-configuration and course correction in the future. Every project should start with this principle, however integration throws a major wrench in it. Once integration comes into the picture the effort to reconfigure becomes high.

Take Account management in as an example. Setting up Accounts in Salesforce is easy until master data discussions come up. The default for major enterprises is to use Master Data Management (MDM). Now this opens a variety of questions, such as:

  • How to sync Accounts between Salesforce and MDM?
  • How often will the changes be propagated?
  • How does changes from MDM propagated to SFDC? What if accounts are merged?

An integration can turn a simple business process into a complex and rigid process.

2. Keeping the IT team in mind.

Integrations are not new to most enterprises. Understanding the IT compliance standards around integrations is a key for successful implementations. The IT side of an enterprise can often be undermined as teams start calling APIs and building ETL jobs to do data sync. Large enterprises have specific guidelines on accessing data, auditing, recoverability, use of specific middleware/ETL tools that need to be accounted for. Change management plans need to include IT as well as end users. IT needs to be exposed to cloud systems, starting with “hello world” interfaces. Providing the IT team with the check-list for opening up firewalls, security, and Single-Signon (SSO) all makes it easier to get all the approvals required before the development starts.

Areas we help the IT team to get onboard with cloud integrations:

  • Provide a checklist of items to be ready with – access, firewall, sso.
  • Dedicated point of contact who will provide the IT guidelines

3. Real Data, Real Fast

Data is the lifeblood of any customer. Getting access to the real data early on helps in many ways. Particularly for integrations, real data provides insight into data validations, format, mapping, relationships, dependencies, associations, and so on. This level of insight provides the integration developer with the raw material to build the maps that are relevant and appropriate. Many projects suffer in UAT or have significant issues during go-live because the project was developed entirely using test data. When the real data is used, data quality and dependency issues are exposed.

Few questions we ask early on:

  • Who is the data steward?
  • What systems are the source of truth and what are system of reference?

How to Win this Fight

I would like to end with a story that I often tell my team members when we sit and define the integrations.

In a boxing match the crowd cheers for the boxer to punch his opponent  in the head to knock down. You can hear people scream “Punch in the head”! “hit’em in the head – KNOCK DOWN!”. However people who know the game including the coach yell  “Go for the body”, “left hook to the body”. The boxer very well understands this. For him to win he needs to go to the body as quickly as possible and then finish it off in the head to get a knock down.

The same applies for integrations, the success relies on how quickly we get access to data, define a clear business process, and understand the IT guidelines. Going directly to API, transport SOAP/REST and all the technology is like going to the head. But if you really want to nail the integration, go for the body – access to data, define a clear business process, and understand the IT guidelines.

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