System Integrators often put a great amount of effort, time, and resources into finding the best integration software for their businesses. However, companies should be analyzing more than the actual integration software product itself. When sizing up the potential of a business partnership, they also need to consider the integration provider.
There is a substantial difference between an integration provider and an integration partner. In today’s fast-paced digital world, companies greatly benefit from an integration partner that is invested in their success and does not simply hand over the software and disappear. In this blog, we will cover the basics of what integration partners are, why they are valuable, what to look for when evaluating them, and examples of scenarios where integration partners can come in clutch.
What Are Integration Partners?
With companies using more systems and software than ever before, businesses need a way to connect (integrate) their various platforms, applications, and data systems. Some of the main reasons businesses want and need to integrate their technology environments include the ability for more accurate dataflows, greater efficiencies through automation, more visibility in supply chains, improved communications, and better revenue velocity.
When looking for integration software, system integration companies should be considering integration partners, not mere providers. Integration providers supply their products and usually become hands-off. It may be hard to get in contact with the provider to ask questions, they may not stand behind their platform, trainings may be lackluster or non-existent, the product may be one-size-fits-all, etc.
Conversely, integration partners are reliable, strategic business partners that system integrators can rely on and trust. Integration partners will work with their partners and end customers, as they are committed to and invested in everyone’s long-term success.
Why Are Integration Partners Valuable?
Integration partners bring enormous value to system integrators and their customers. First off, businesses can address their customers’ issues without having to build custom workarounds. Building custom code is a long, costly, and complex process that is also difficult to maintain.
Instead, system integrators can work with their integration partners to determine the best course of action. Experienced integration partners know the ins and outs of integration and have plenty of solutions available for nearly any scenario or need.
Working with a trustworthy integration partner system integrator allows businesses to focus on other assignments and strengthen customer relationships, rather than having to create personalized solutions for each integration issue that arises with their customers. This is a win-win-win for the system integrator, the integration partner, and their joint customers because it allows for less system downtime. Less system downtime means more revenue for all parties since there will be more EDI and MFT transactions occurring.
What to Look for When Evaluating Integration Partners
When evaluating integration partners, system integration businesses should first outline the key features they believe their end-customers will want in an integration software. Some features to consider include:
The cloud is becoming the gold standard for almost all technologies, as on-premise solutions are often more costly, outdated, less flexible, take longer to deploy, require more maintenance, etc. The cloud also allows companies to connect from anywhere in the world as long as there is internet connectivity, and updates and error resolution can happen remotely over the internet.
As most IT teams have experienced at some point or another, software can take months if not years to deploy. The faster a company can get its integration software up and running, the sooner it can start conducting business and earning revenue with trading partners.
No Coding Required
Custom code is a complex undertaking. Not only that, but it is also time-consuming, expensive, and difficult to maintain.
Oftentimes, companies create custom code to solve an issue. However, eventually the person who built the code leaves the company. The company is then left uninformed on how to resolve errors, update, or maintain the custom code. This leaves the company at a standstill with no resolution.
Some cloud integration solutions offer drag-and-drop functionalities, making the entire process easy for IT teams to set up, maintain, and manage.
Postmodern integration solutions can offer a wide range of capabilities that legacy solutions cannot. For example, companies should look for EDI, MFT, and API capabilities. Even if a company does not currently need these features, it will have the option to use them later on. This prevents companies from needing to perform integration migrations in the future since those capabilities are already built into the solution.
How is the integration partner viewed in comparison to the rest of the solutions and providers in the market? Have they been in the game for a while and are they considered industry leaders?
Be sure to check out online reviews from current and previous customers, read trade publications, and ask for references. Companies can gather insight into what working with a specific trading partner may be like by hearing about other companies’ experiences.
The cloud is great but there is also a need for integration solutions that provide on-premise systems. Many companies have a mixture of cloud and on-premise technology, so being able to integrate and support both is key.
Additionally, an integration solution should offer connectors like HTTP, HTTPS, REST, and SOAP, as well as real-time and batch processing.
Questions to Ask Integration Partners
One of the best ways for a system integrator to decipher if an integration platform provider will make a good integration partner is to ask pertinent questions. Coming prepared to discovery calls and product demos with a list of questions will also help guide the conversations and ensure all key areas are covered.
We compiled a list of 10 questions that companies should ask each integration provider they meet with, as the questions will offer insight into the product and the company:
1. What industries do you serve?
2. How easy is the platform to use for all stakeholders?
3. Does the platform provide visibility into underlying business processes?
4. Does the platform support my data transformation and mapping requirements?
5. Can the platform scale?
6. Does the product include EDI, MFT, and API capabilities?
7. Do you provide ongoing maintenance and software updates?
8. What service options do you offer (ex. self-service, managed services, blended services)?
9. What kind of platform training do you provide?
10. Do you have references I can talk to?
Be sure to edit this list of questions as needed, removing ones that do not apply to your business, and adding applicable ones.
Examples of Integration Scenarios that Experienced Partners Can Help With
In an ideal world, business runs smoothly. However, that is rarely the case. Businesses frequently experience situations that are urgent, unforeseen, new, or unprecedented.
Integration partners help companies through these difficult periods since they are experts in the space and are committed to helping their customers and partners succeed. Below are a few examples of common scenarios that businesses run into that an experienced integration partner can help tackle.
Every time a company wins a new trading partner, they have to onboard them into their integration platform. Onboarding allows the two companies to perform EDI and MFT transactions. Therefore, onboarding is a central part of integration software and procedures.
Commonly though, onboarding new trading partners takes an excessive amount of time—weeks, if not months to complete. Experienced integration partners understand the importance of onboarding because they know the sooner a trading partner is onboarded, the sooner EDI and MFT transactions can occur, thus resulting in earning revenue quicker. Additionally, fast onboarding leads to more positive relationships with trading partners.
A solid integration partner offers a system of onboarding customers in a highly efficient manner, only requiring a few hours or days to onboard them. Furthermore, a good integration partner will also train its customers on how to onboard, provide best practices and tips, be available to answer any questions, and even offer outsourcing options in case a company's bandwidth is too small to onboard.
Training and Certification
Because integration partners are a critical component of a company’s growth initiatives, look for a best-in-class Partner Onboarding program to maximize your investment. Ideally, one that includes all the required technical training and certification needed for the system integrator company to succeed.
From self-paced introductory courses to hands-on apprenticeship activities, a bona fide integration partner provides thorough platform training via real-world scenarios that are guided by seasoned Subject Matter Experts. Experienced integration partners tend to provide the following:
• Training and certification classes
• NFR software
• Direct access to Solutions Support Center
• Sand Box for Certified Partners
Sales and Marketing Support
A top-notch integration partner works with its system integrator partners to develop joint marketing materials that help open doors for pipeline growth, lead qualification, and closing sales. This may look like:
• Defining joint goals
• Developing go-to-market plan
• Quarterly reviews
• Collaborating on sales opportunities
• Joint selling with Cleo Sales and solutions architects
Likewise, when it comes to Sales Enablement, you are not left alone to figure things out for yourself. Having ready access to sales support tools and industry thought leadership expertise makes it easier for a system integrator company to inform customers and prospects about the features and benefits of the chosen integration platform. In addition to tools that make it simple to register every opportunity you bring, as well as the expertise and support to help close the deal, you might also ask prospective integration providers if they have the following:
• Partner Portal
• Sales Specialists
• Industry experts
Predicting business growth is hard. Demand can spike overnight or may take years to grow, or businesses may even experience contractionary periods. Either way, companies need a platform and integration partner that can grow with their businesses.
Integration partners understand that businesses are not always predictable and experience ups and down. They build platforms that can scale with businesses no matter what is happening. Whether the company is experiencing monumental growth, a steady incline in business, remaining stationary, or undergoing a downturn, integration partners can accommodate a business’ ever-evolving needs with ease. Thus, removing the need for companies to migrate integration providers every time their business needs shift. This saves time, money, and resources, along with reducing stress.
Deploying integration software can be a major headache for a multitude of reasons. Businesses may experience issues with implementing the new technology, retiring old technology, learning an entirely new platform, training team members on the platform, frequent delays, data transfers, onboarding, etc.
Most integration providers win a new customer and then take their time working on getting them up and running. Or they suddenly become distant and are not invested in helping the new customer.
Integration partners on the other hand will help their new customers through every step of the deployment process. Whether that means installing and deploying the software from start to finish, onboarding clients, providing in-depth trainings, answering questions as they arise, having weekly check-in meetings, sharing resources and guides, etc. Integration partners understand that successfully and swiftly integrating new software is vital to a company’s success, and it will help build a solid relationship between the two parties.
When researching and assessing integration partners and platforms, be sure to consider Cleo as a contender. We are a highly-responsive and engaged business partner, working with our customers throughout every step of the platform migration, integration, implementation, and deployment — making sure their needs are met and questions are answered.
Cleo has been in the ecosystem integration game for decades, so we have experienced all types of situations and can help our customers with whatever situation they may encounter.
Cleo Integration Cloud (CIC)
Cleo’s flagship product, Cleo Integration Cloud (CIC) Cockpit with RADAR is a cloud-based integration platform, purpose-built to design, build, operate, and optimize critical ecosystem integration processes.
CIC provides users with end-to-end integration visibility across API, MFT, EDI, and non-EDI integrations. This visibility gives technical and business users the confidence to rapidly onboard trading partners, enable integration between applications, and accelerate revenue-generating business processes.
With CIC, businesses can choose between self-service, managed services, or a blended approach. This ensures complete flexibility and control over EDI B2B integration strategy. Businesses can also switch service options depending on their evolving needs.
When it comes to EDI visibility, Cleo Integration Cloud does not just support technical integration, it gives users visibility into underlying business processes. Users get actionable insights into the business value of each EDI document, presented in the context of its impact on the broader business.
CIC empowers businesses through increased insights, data, control, and visibility, resulting in greater efficiencies, revenue, and customer satisfaction.
To learn more about Cleo Integration Cloud and how it can help your business, check out our brief overview video.