As VP of Customer Success at ServiceTrade, what everybody calls me at work is “that guy who can answer your questions about integrations.” The number of meetings I’ve been called into to discuss integrations with customers has gone up dramatically in 2018. I’ve noticed a theme in a lot of these conversations: customers aren’t really comfortable talking about integrations. They don’t know the terms, they don’t know where to start thinking about it. So today I want to tell you some basics about how to integrate good software with ServiceTrade.
Good software should have an easy-to-find API. If you aren’t sure whether a software application you’re considering has an API, it should be as easy searching Google for “____ API documentation.” No search results is a bad sign! Good software is often found on Zapier.com, which is an integration platform that moves information between web applications automatically. If a software application is on Zapier, you can be assured that it definitely has an API, it’s modern, and that it should play nicely with other pieces of good software. If you’re buying good software, you can avoid getting trapped by bad software decisions.
To set the stage to talk about good software integrations, it’s important to understand that everything in life – including software – has a special purpose. It has one thing it was designed to do and if you expect much more out of it, then you’re going to have a bad experience.
Let’s use an analogy. If you had to choose between those two vehicles:
If I want you to hop into one, head around town, pick up groceries, drop off the kids. Which one would you choose?
The car. That’s an easy one.
I’ll ask you another easy one. What if I want you to tool around the bay, do some fishing, and some sunbathing.
Right. The boat.
Let me make it a little bit harder. What if I ask you to do both of those things? What if I ask you to run some errands, pick up the groceries, then head out and do some fishing and some sunbathing, then head on back home?
I think you’d tell me that you’d hop into the car to do the first set of things and head down to the boat to do second of things, then you’d get back into your car to head home. That seems pretty obvious.
But when it comes to software, a lot of people think, “You just asked me to do car things and boat things . . . I’ve got to have a carboat! How am I going to do car things and boat things unless I go buy one of these?”
This looks a little ridiculous, it doesn’t make any sense, and I think it’s obvious when you look at this photo why. This is not a very good car. And it’s not a very good boat.
When you’re looking to solve your business problems, that is the perfect time to be thinking about choosing the right software application for each of your specific problems. It’s also the perfect time to make sure you’re not about to make a carboat-buying decision.
So what should you look out for? If you hear:
- “Well, it wasn’t designed to do that, but it could.”
- They mean that 8 months and thousands of dollars later, it still won’t do what you want.
- “I think there’s a workaround.”
- They mean it’s going to be harder and more complicated than you want.
- They mean it’s going to be harder and more complicated than you want.
- “It doesn’t have all those things you said you needed, but it should get the job done.”
- They mean it doesn’t have the things you need and it won’t get the job done.
We do not tell people that ServiceTrade is going to solve all their business problems. We often point out all kinds of things that we aren’t the best choice for like payroll, accounting, truck tracking, payment processing, and sales CRM. We like to talk about ServiceTrade as good software that you can integrate with other good software to solve those problems.
So rather than focusing on making a carboat, focus on easing the car-to-boat transition. Or, bringing it back to software, easing the transition from one piece of software to another piece of software. At the end of the day, that is what integrating is all about – easing the data transition from one system to another system.
But if you aren’t careful, you’re going to end up with a very bad car-to-boat transition.
Let’s define 4 stops on the road to success so we don’t drive a boat into a car.
1. Know what you want.
You’re going to have all kinds of questions about how things work, and that’s good. I recommend working a structure around those questions called “if this, then that.” It’s very simple: If this thing happens, then this other thing should happen. If you use this formula to think about what you want to happen in an integration, you can hand this to any software developer and you’ll be way ahead of the game.
2. Document your ideas.
- Determine the source of record – where your information originates and what direction that data should sync. Here’s an example using Pipedrive (a CRM) and ServiceTrade.
- Create a Flowchart.
Create a visual representation of your integration. Check out this example from the online cloud-based application at app.flowmapp.com. I used this tool to document the service workflow for a ServiceTrade customer to clearly demonstrate where ServiceTrade fits into their existing business process. You get a really nice visual representation of your integration and gives you a good way to make sure you’ve covered all your requirements.
- Document a scope that includes:
- Desired user behavior
- BudgetFor documentation, use online collaborative tools like Google Apps. The sharing feature and version control of shared files gives you a single source of record for your integration documentation.
- Test cases
This is a more detailed version of your “if this, then that” thought process. It’s clearly-defined step-by-step processes that ensure that you can test that the integration is working like you expect.
3. Manage the project.
Use project management software to organize your thoughts, your plans, and your team around the integration. Take a look at Asana and Trello.
4. Do the work.
Who is going to do the work? Is it you? This is the reaction you should have to that question:
There are lots of places to find qualified developers to write integrations for you. The first stop you should make is ServiceTrade. We’ve gotten pretty good at integrating various web apps with ServiceTrade. But we’re not the only game in town, you can look at hiring a freelancer from Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer. With everything you’ve documented, toss it to a developer and let them bid on it. You’d be surprised by what you can get done on these sites.
If someone else is doing the work for you, what are you responsible for? Testing, testing, testing, testing, and testing again.
You’ll also be responsible for documentation for the business processes that you want everyone to follow. No matter how obvious steps are to you as the creator, it’s definitely worth documenting it for the rest of your team.
Here’s a list of applications that ServiceTrade customers have integrated with our app to expand the power and functionality of our application. It includes things like CRM, custom notifications to customers, after-service surveys, general data sync for additional file backup or sending notifications to Slack channels, custom forms, accepting credit card payments onsite, the possibilities really are endless.