4 key considerations for integrations

David Walker, Senior Sitecore Architect // July 26, 2017

Even more than personalization, integrations lie at the core of every website.

Most people have a general idea of what integration means in the context of web experiences. Even more than personalization, integrations lie at the core of every website. Modern users want their sites connected; they want to immediately be able to share something to their friends, buy something using their preferred payment method, or many other scenarios. Creating meaningful integration is where the distinction between creating business value and busywork lies. Poor integration adds to maintenance, may cause your site to load slowly and more to keep track of in the long term. So, the question becomes: how do you determine what provides the most meaningful business value that becomes most useful to integrate with?

Integrating any feature into a web experience platform development project is something that needs to be planned and thought through. Not every integration is useful, though many are in unexpected ways. When done properly, the main benefit of any integration should allow for the integration to be easily accessible and consumable from your entire platform, including the ability to use it in your personalization features. Integrating with a weather service is one I've touched on before briefly -- imagine contacting a weather service about the weather where your user is from and targeting content on your site based on the weather? There are many other use cases, don’t forget about analytics solutions and marketing tags that your digital media team might want in place for building custom audiences, for example.

Here is my process that generally works for all integration projects I carry out:

The first step to integration is to determine what the integration adds to your user's experience and what business value it adds. Integrating with analytics solutions brings an obvious benefit to your business, but remember: there should be a justification for everything from the business end and the user end. Many sites have burned through a lot of "user goodwill" by seemingly ignoring what the community deems major problems while integrating features that few users actually use. Don’t forget that you will have to maintain your integrations post launch.

The second step to integration is to determine your target audience. Many different sites integrate with each other, a typical example being social media: OAuth integration can help you get users who don't want to have to keep track of another account. This can almost never cause issues for your site, and social media networks attempt to make it faster, easier for users to share your content. Something that will resonate with the B2B marketers out there, would be integrating things like a PIM (product information management) solution or Salesforce Forms into the site, both are often core functionality that creates a seamless web experience for users and satisfy business requirements. Determine your target audience and see what features they would be likely to use and how.

The third step to integration is to determine what specifically to integrate. Now that you know what your target audience needs, and you know what your options provide for users and your business. Now you need to determine your priorities and what solution works best for your site. One analytics solution will not work for another, and every company's ERP and CRM workflow is different. This is where actually integrating your company’s chosen systems into the site begins.

From this point the specifics are up to you. The major thing to keep into account is how easy it is to integrate with many services that most people wouldn’t even consider, and that they can provide unique value to your business. After a certain point, it becomes more and more obvious that many services are really similar: that you can integrate them in similar ways quickly, using flexible and reusable systems.

Finally, the fourth consideration regarding your integrations is determining how you’re going to measure these things. Setting up clear expectations around tracking and measurement scenarios and ensuring the site is capable of providing your team the data they need is essential.

The true power of integration comes from the ability to make your site work with any other site or tool to improve its own content and capabilities.

Web Experience Platforms, Product Information Management, Digital Strategy

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