How-To Guide: Determine Which Integrations To Build

Brian Wones

With thousands of Software-as-a-Service providers in the market and a seemingly limitless number of databases, technology options, vendor-specific APIs, private APIs, etc., it can be daunting to figure out which integrations will deliver the most value for you and your customers.

With so many options, how can you really figure out what is going to move the needle for your business? Like most companies, yours doesn’t have unlimited resources, so you need to prioritize what to work on next. What follows are best practices that we have seen from our partners, vendors, and current customers.

By working with 200+ of today’s leading software and enterprise companies, we have learned that the best option is to ask your team!

Here’s why: internal stakeholders typically have a great sense of what customers and prospects need. These internal team members aren’t always great at filtering this feedback back to the product team, thus, it never makes it on the backlog. This will require a bit of digging, but asking your key teams (including the ones below) can really shed light on items that may make a big impact.

Internal teams to poll

Sales: As your sales team members and leaders are incentivized to close as many deals as possible, they are keenly aware of what items come up during sales cycles that either help or hurt them. Integrations are table stakes in most sales cycles these days, so the topic is usually heavily discussed. They will have a great idea of which integrations come up most often, which would move the needle most with products, and which use cases are most commonly requested.

Sales engineering: Sales engineers end up in the nitty-gritty of most sales cycles. Ask them what they see requested most often. You will likely see an overlap with what the sales team is saying.

Professional services: Professional services teams complete custom work for their customers. Many of these projects are custom integrations between your product and an endpoint. These point-to-point integrations are exactly what you are trying to avoid. They are costly to build (for you and your customer); they are difficult to maintain (asking your customer to pay for this on an ongoing basis is tough); and they can create churn risk (what happens when the custom integration stops working?).

Professional services team members are good at understanding the underlying pain of the endpoints and can provide key insights on the most common use cases, which endpoints are easy/hard, and which are the most prevalent.

Customer success: Because the customer success team is your gateway to the customer, it is often the next group to hear about integration and functionality requests, typically in the form of an enhancement or product feature. Your account managers (typically carrying a quota) can share specific examples of where they could upsell/cross-sell a customer if they just had XYZ integration available or ABC functionality in a current integration.

Gathering feedback

What is the best way to ask for feedback?

Just going around the office and asking your team members what they think is all well and good, but it would be easier and smarter to record this data somewhere. That way you can review it later, build and update your roadmap, and provide reporting to executives.

One common practice we see is the use of survey software like SurveyMonkey, Typeform, or a simple Google Form. Your product management team can still partner with the teams above; they can simply record their feedback in one of these surveys so the data is stored and ready for analysis.

By using a survey tool, you enable another great avenue for feedback: your customers! We recommend using the same survey and questions you use with your internal teams. That way the data flows into the database in the same format, with the same questions. This method makes analysis and trend identification much easier.

Questions to ask

As you’re compiling your feedback survey, here are some key questions to consider:

1. Which integrations are necessary (duh!)?

The root of the question is which tool they want you to connect with. You need to determine which tools your customers are using and expecting.

2. What should these integrations do? 

This is a much more challenging question to word correctly, but it is key to your success. You need to understand what the customers are expecting the integration to do. Unless your business is really straightforward, it’s likely that you have a wide pool of use cases you could support. Your customers are expecting that your integrations will also support those same use cases.

There have been tons of blogs written on the right tools, topics, questions, and timing for customer surveys. I won’t try to reinvent the wheel here. Send the survey out to your customers. Make sure to hit the key contacts, technical resources, and executives on your customer’s side. That way, the results you get back are varied and cross a wide spectrum of interests.

Feedback analysis

Now you have all this data from your internal teams and your customers, what the heck do you do with it all? This is where the genius of parallel surveys becomes apparent. You may find obvious answers right out the gate as you analyze the feedback – for example, places where there is overlap between what your internal team needs and what your individual customers are asking for. If it’s this easy, pick the top three integration targets and use cases and get working.

What if it’s not so obvious? Good question. What we have seen teams do is choose something they think will make the biggest impact in terms of driving business value. Sometimes the action is more important than careful planning. If the results aren’t perfectly clear, make a decision and go for it. You may be surprised how many people pick up an integration once it’s available, even if they never asked for it. Resist the temptation to design something complicated to appeal to more users, which tends to lead to a slowdown in the project timeline.

Whichever direction you choose, focus on building out the integration first and getting it quickly into the hands of those customers that requested it. Since you used that nice survey tool to capture feedback, you should have an easy time identifying which customers requested a certain integration. Ask those customers to give you feedback on the integration. Use this as an opportunity to reconnect with them and demonstrate that you are listening and adjusting to their needs.

With so many options available to your customers, selecting the best integration to build next can be daunting. I hope this guidance will help you and your product team build out a stellar integration roadmap.

If you’re looking for even more guidance on your integration roadmap, we’d love to connect. For more information about cloud integration, check out SAP Cloud Platform Integrated Suite.

This article originally appeared on Cloud Elements and is republished by permission. Cloud Elements is an SAP OEM partner.

Brian Wones

About Brian Wones

Brian Wones is the senior director of Customer Success at Cloud Elements, responsible for customer success, customer support, go-to-market strategy, product management, positioning and evangelism.