What You Didn’t Know About Cloud Integration: Q&A with Marlie Andersch

We recently sat down with Marlene (Marlie) Andersch, CEO and Founder of rockITdata, to discuss all things Cloud integration. With nearly a decade of experience with Salesforce, Marlie took her expertise and started rockITdata two years ago, which among other things, specializes in implementations with a focus on integration solutions including Call Center, Field Service Lightning, and AWS connect solutions. 

Let’s dive in.

What are the most important aspects of a successful integration strategy? Is it ever too late to create one?

When you talk to me about integration, unlike someone on the IT side, I approach it from a business angle instead of a technical one. Therefore, the most important aspect of your integration strategy is to make sure that you have buy-in from ALL parties involved, including the customer, the business, and IT. 

Everyone involved should understand the end result and ultimate objective and be on board before the integration starts. This helps manage expectations and maintain flow throughout the process while minimizing “surprises.” However, with that said, it’s also imperative that people understand that working within an agile environment means that things can change, and you yourself should be willing to be – wait for it – be agile. 

And as far as whether it’s ever too late to create one, the answer is no. It’s never too late to pivot, especially if you utilize an agile methodology.

Are there any common obstacles I should be aware of throughout the process?

While I wouldn’t necessarily call all of these obstacles, I would say the following are things you should consider in order to avoid any obstacles.

Understand your data. What are the sources of data and where will it end up?

What is the why? If you don’t understand the “why,” then that will absolutely become an obstacle. Don’t just do an integration because you think it’s the right thing to do. You need to make sure you know who the audience is that you’re trying to reach and the main objective you’re trying to accomplish once you reach them. 

Dirty data. If you find yourself in a situation where the data is dirty, you have to understand where you are in the process of cleaning the data i.e., which sources will be important to either consolidate or eliminate. Prior to a data integration, defining “how” to clean and ”when” it needs to happen is imperative for it to be successful. If the data isn’t clean then an integration is pointless and can pose a huge problem.

The culture of the organization. This goes back to the first point I made. There needs to be buy-in across the board for any integration to be successful. This will either create speed and efficiency or more than likely if there isn’t consistent buy-in, then things will be slow and ineffective. This is a large and common obstacle I see, where a business is trying to figure out how to get something done but there’s a roadblock from IT or the business. For instance, the end objective is not agreed upon, and bureaucracy and office politics rear their ugly heads. Avoid this if you can.

What are the benefits of integrating applications? 

Hands down, it’s the ability to share common data, therefore, creating improvement processes for the business.

When looking for a Cloud integration partner, what should I look for in the vetting process?

Contrary to popular belief, going with the big guys isn’t always better. You’ll find that sometimes there are a lot of great, hungry smaller consulting firms that can give you a better experience because they tend to be faster, more efficient and sometimes less expensive. Not to mention you’ll find a lot of the people at these smaller firms came from the bigger ones you may be initially inclined to hire, so you’ll be paying for the same expertise but for a fraction of the cost.

Should I use an integration middleware tool or custom-build an API integration?

It depends on four things: scope, timeline, complexity, and cost. Ultimately, you need to have the data to make decisions, though sometimes it’s not that easy and you have to pull different data fields and it’s expensive and you don’t get the value. That’s when you might consider using a custom API integration. 

Everyone can get from point A to point B, it’s just a matter of how you want to get there. Do you just want to get there as cost-effectively as possible or do you want to ride in style, get there quickly, and are less concerned with your budget? If it’s the latter, then you might consider a middleware tool, but again, beware that you’re going to pay for it, and for good reason. With a super simple integration, middleware is a legacy app best suited for those more concerned with time and efficiency than cost.

How do I choose a middleware tool?

This is more or less the same as above. It depends on requirements and how difficult it is, what your timeline is, and how much money you’re willing to spend. When you choose a middleware, sometimes it’s easier to hire a firm that can come in and do a vendor analysis that can give you several things, including recommendations (as they understand your requirements) and in some situations, a suggested roadmap to help you get to where you need to be if it’s a relatively complex project.