What is an integration? Answers to your tech questions.
After perusing the internet for awhile this morning, we realized, “Aw, shoot! there are almost no articles out there on the interwebs that explain what an integration is.”
And that’s just a shame.
Especially because we’ve built our platform around integrations, we find a lot of value in understanding what all these terms mean. We don’t want you to be like one of us at a mechanic’s shop, where a problem with a “carburetor” and “fuel pump” turn into a Google search for definitions and a flux capacitor. Moral of the story: it’s always good to understand what’s being talked about.
So we’re going to define what an integration is, and why it’s important. ‘Cause it is.
Integration: A supporting thing to enhance your main thing
When it comes to software, you can classify a particular service or tool into one of the following: suite, portfolio, or platform. Sometimes there’s overlap, and the lines aren’t always clear – but we’ll get to this classification soon in a separate blog.
Anyways, whether it’s a suite, portfolio, or platform, a software service will sometimes offer integrations. You may often hear “integration partners” or “third-party integrations,” in reference to the other software tools to which you can connect the primary service.
A connection in this case will create and support a flow of data from one service to the other. Let’s use Facebook as an example.
Recently, Facebook announced their most recent integration with Giphy. Previously, if you wanted to post a GIF from Giphy, you’d have to go to the Giphy website, grab the link for a GIF, and paste it into a comment. With the recent integration, now you can press the “GIF” button near a comment bubble, searching the Giphy library for the GIF that fits your comment. The integration, housed on Facebook, brings in data from Giphy, eliminating the need for you to go to Giphy separately. Giphy is now “built in” as an integration to Facebook.
Integrations are outstanding solutions for software companies. The primary software gets to focus on what they do best, integrating other services to accomplish the pieces of the puzzle they don’t do as well.
A very 2017 way of looking at software.
In the olden days, if a new need arose in the market, a company would have to figure out how to quickly build it into their repertoire.
For example: email marketing. When that concept first became prevalent, and companies like MailChimp and ConstantContact were born, a lot of companies that specialized in contact and database handling had to begin building out their out email marketing solutions for fear of losing customers to the latest trend.
The beauty behind integrations is what it offers the customer. You can have one central data hub, and choose the services that you need to accomplish your goals. You don’t have to learn how to drive a bus if all you need is a van – and you usually won’t have to pay for the gas mileage, either.
You can stay flexible and adopt the latest and greatest solutions without waiting for your service provider to develop that tool you’re looking for. Now a bus (more than you need) can become a van (precisely what you need), and you can throw on a roof rack or trailer as the need arises.
The biggest plus? You’re not stuck with their version of that awesome new tool. A version which will probably be scrapped together and lackluster, since that’s feature isn’t part of their main focus.
Using the earlier example, when MailChimp started picking up speed, using their service meant constantly exporting a list of contacts from your database and importing them into MailChimp to keep your list up-to-date. That’s fine the first time. Heck – I’ll even give you the second time. But you can imagine if your list is growing (as it should), that’d require a ton of exports and imports.
Let’s say doing all that importing and exporting wasn’t worth it to you. So you wait for your database software to develop an email feature. When they finally throw it together, it’s probably not as robust, easy-to-use, or fully functioning as MailChimp, simply because your original software company doesn’t specialize in email. If their focus is elsewhere, their non-central features will be subpar at best.
Get the best, get the latest, get ahead
Integrations are the way of the future. One company simply can’t do everything you need them to with 100% awesomeness. You’re going to have to piece together your software stack.
And this is the vital point: if your central database or service provider doesn’t support integrations, you need to jump ship.
Pure and simple.
Being stuck behind the technology curve isn’t good for anyone. Sure, it may save you some time in the present, since you know your system and don’t have to learn a new one. But switching will save you upcoming time, and allow you to make more money in the process, setting you up for huge success in the future.
Bringing that earlier example full-circle: now MailChimp integrates with a myriad of database and CRM companies. This integration means when you add a contact to one, it’s added to the other. Additionally, viewing that contact in your database will provide details on the emails they’ve been sent, and how they interacted with those emails. All because two companies decide to work in harmony.
Kindful is a software platform that integrates with industry leaders like Square, MailChimp, Quickbooks, Eventbrite, and CrowdRise, among many others. We know we can’t do everything perfectly, but you can use any of our integration buddies to accomplish almost any need you could possibly have. We have the best friends!