By Alan Earls
When inside meets outside, obstacles are always in store. Randy Carey, a former director of information strategies for the Women’s Foodservice Forum, an advocacy organization, points to challenges integrating external services, such as an intelligent email management service, with the internal association management software. Fortunately, the association management software vendor had relationships with many third party providers, including the email company, and, in the case of the email service, had a “connector” ready to go to help support data integration between the internal and external applications.
That simplified things tremendously and has now been embedded in Carey’s personal philosophy – buy as much pre-made as possible and then perform tailoring where needed. Looking back on his implementation experience Carey says that he was able to avoid complexity and many of the challenges others face by avoiding excessive customization. “We just used a little cement between the pieces.”
Likening the process to buying a suit, he says most people can’t afford and don’t need custom-made formal attire but instead can simply have a mass produced product tailored to fit. “In other words you need to figure out where on the cost-curve you want to be,” he says.
Joe Egan, a senior software developer most recently in a consultant role at BikeBandit.com, has faced similar integration challenges but didn’t find an easy pre-made solution. In several instances he has needed to integrate third party data services, for example a continually updated review and question and answer service that needed to sync with a local database of product offerings available to consumers. “In that space, I found [the challenge was] we were moving from less frequent, even weekly updates, to continuous updates based on web services,” he says.
Finally, notes Carey, “I believe that for any sizable project a company needs to have an architect/advocate on board who is knowledgeable about the issues and is looking out for the company’s best interest. A third-party vendor may know the technology better, but their motivation is to sell and up-sell. So the third-party’s guru is not really an advocate for the buying company.”
For more, see our featured story on application integration.