To Customize or Download: The great debate of integrations

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By: Brent Shively | 9.8.16

Having all of your data syncing between disparate systems is like a fantasy vacation, something pleasant to daydream about, yet out of reach for most. If you’ve chosen Salesforce as your CRM, you’re in a great position to have that fantasy vacation become a reality. Between the vast array of pre-made integrations with other solutions and the capacity for open APIs (Application Program Interface, for those of you who don’t spend much time looking or thinking about 1’s and 0’s), you have quite a few options for how you would like to connect your data. In this post, we’ll review these options in greater detail, weighing out some of the pros and cons and considerations to take when you are integrating a solution.

Option A: Pre-Existing Integration

If you have spent any time on the AppExchange, you’ll know there are hundreds of solutions available that will connect to your Salesforce instance. This is the simplest, most direct option for integration. These prebaked solutions, like MailChimp, EventBrite, and Brickwork, typically have some form of support available and will get your systems communicating in no time.

While it is helpful to have a ready-made method for integration, there are some downsides. Much like when you purchase an all-inclusive vacation package, you don’t have much choice when it comes to the overall experience beyond the destination. The same applies for pre-existing integrations. It is automatically determined if it will be a one-way versus a two-way sync, how frequently the sync will occur, what objects the data goes to, and if there is any flexibility around what data is represented.

Option B: Custom Integration

Let’s say you have a more precise plan for how you want your systems to communicate, and the limitations of what is available for prebaked solutions will not work for your process or the solution does not have an integration available. This means you will generally need to hire a consultant to develop a custom integration where you leverage the open APIs by Salesforce (there are also other methods for integrating, such as middleware which you can learn about here) In this case, you’ve had the forethought, desire, and resources to use a travel agent to plan a dream vacation that’s unique to your interests.

With a custom integration approach, you will need an expert, typically a consultant who has a strong background in Apex coding. Utilizing APIs for integration will allow you to be precise with your integration, identifying precisely how frequently the systems should communicate, where the data should be properly represented in each system, and if it is a one-way or two-way sync. In our experience, it will be a worthwhile investment if it is a solution that you know you will be using for at least three years that is causing substantial manual effort to reconcile.

A custom integration is not an easy or inexpensive project. You will need to have a clear understanding of what you want from the integration, the value it will bring to your organization, and consider the impacts of it as well. The major cost influencers are if it is bidirectional versus unidirectional and how frequently the data needs to be synced (ie number of API calls that have to be made). The integration needs to be passing data that you will utilize regularly and needs to be in Salesforce; particularly, if it will be a heavy volume of data that could impact your data storage limits.

What are my alternatives?

One middle of the road method is to utilize a middleware solution such as Workato, Scribe or Jitterbit. These solutions provide you with the ability to be more self selective with what data is synced and where it should be represented within Salesforce. There may be restrictions, dependent on the middleware you use, on what objects you can access and how frequently it is synced. Generally, these solutions are priced per the number of touchpoints between systems and have a monthly fee.

It ultimately comes down to what is the biggest priority for your organization, Better, Faster, or Cheaper. You only get to pick two, though! Reach out and we can help you navigate these complex decisions. 

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