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Don’t reinvent the customer wheel, warns integration expert

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Wright Studio)

Even Usain Bolt would struggle to keep up with the pace of digital transformation today. That’s why it’s important for IT teams to steer clear of in-house projects that could be reinventing the proverbial wheel - coding complex integrations where off-the-shelf pre-built templates already exist. 

All around the world, companies have been rocked by seismic changes in consumer behavior, remote working and health and safety, brought about by constantly shifting Covid-19 restrictions. Right here in the UK, businesses are facing a “double-whammy” with changing government regulations on trade with the EU in addition to the demands of doing business during this pandemic. 

Companies know all too well that the only way to survive and thrive is by having a complete 360-degree view of the customer. That view should comprise of integrated data for every step of the customer journey - from website inquiry to product purchase, delivery, customer support tickets, social media and beyond. Without this interconnected view, a business will struggle to innovate and respond fast enough to meet changing consumer needs - or indeed, even know what to innovate in the first place. 

In my experience talking to customers of all sizes and across many sectors, data silos are the biggest single barrier when it comes to scoping, building and launching new products and services. 

Let’s take a hospitality business for example, impacted by Covid regulations and looking to launch a new order and collection service for customers via their own mobile platform. Their customer data needs to be integrated across different applications, platforms, software and databases. That sounds relatively easy until you consider that the average company has 129 applications in play, and 10 percent of businesses have more than 200 applications. 

Promethean tasks

Managing the APIs across so many applications - often a mix of cloud and on-premise solutions - would be a Promethean task for any IT team. And yet, many businesses attempt to install and manage this ever-changing maze of integrations themselves. What strikes me when I see this scenario played out time and time again is that businesses have, in the main, embraced change and adopted many cloud services. But oftentimes, their mindset hasn’t kept pace - there’s still the belief that it only counts as innovation if they attempt to build and manage all the connections between these applications themselves. What’s required for any modern business is an automated way to create and manage integrations - one that doesn’t overtax the IT team, and leaves them free to focus on higher-value tasks within the business like scoping for potential new technologies and architecting new solutions. 

Another example where off-the-shelf pre-built templates can prove to be incredibly useful is for companies that are experiencing rapid growth. Take the fintech company gohenry as an example. Conceived by a group of parents who foresaw the need for a simple and meaningful answer to the issue of kids’ money management in our increasingly cashless consumer society, gohenry is a service that provides a debit card and money management app for children aged 6-18 - while allowing parents access to guide them through those important early financial experiences. 

After launching in 2012, gohenry has made 1.4 million parents and kids more confident with money - doubling its customer base every year for the past six years - and has recently attracted investment funding led by U.S. growth-equity firm Edison Partners, with investment from Gaia Capital Partners, Citi Ventures and Muse Capital. They are expanding on both sides of the Atlantic, which means further growth. 

Automating API integration points

And that’s all before the pandemic hit; the shift towards even more contactless payments being made and more time being spent online has increased parents’ desire to help their kids be sensible with money in our ‘new normal’ - reflected by the boom in gohenry member numbers. 

An extended period of growth, combined with the need for data visibility, accuracy, and differing data regulations across the globe, meant the team needed to review its technology and integration solutions, and find an option that would enable them to maintain the standard of customer service they’d become known for while continuing their rapid growth. 

The gohenry team realized they required an integration platform-as-a-service. At first, they selected the free off-the-shelf pre-built Jitterbit Data Loader tool, which not only got them a full data cleanse, but meant they avoided laboriously building a data loader from scratch and getting bogged down in its management. Jitterbit’s Data Loader is capable of handling a large-scale project such as this because of its ease of use, low-code, fast implementation (deployed in just three weeks from proof of concept), and predefined components.

Once the data from multiple platforms and tools was cleansed - with 99.9 percent accuracy - and structured, gohenry moved onto Jitterbit’s Harmony platform to manage and automate the hundreds of different API integration points within the business. 

Within Jitterbit, between 20,000 to 40,000 updates are made to gohenry’s data every hour, so data is continually cleaned - with zero failures. By deploying Jitterbit Harmony, gohenry were able to reduce their customer service team’s administrative time by 17 percent. This eased internal resource demand and freed up their customer service reps to focus on delivering an exemplary customer experience, while Harmony’s self-healing capability is an ever-present bulwark against the team being forced to take on manual tasks themselves. Creating and managing integrations in this way ensures there’s never any disruption to their high levels of customer experience, while keeping the company agile enough to continue their impressive growth trajectory.

Reconsidering integration

Our work with gohenry shows that, rather than relying solely on IT resources to custom-build and automate API integrations, businesses need to reconsider integration as just another service - but one that makes a 360-degree view of the customer - and rapid innovation - possible. Integration-as-a-service requires low to no-code and gives IT teams access to a full tool kit, enabling them to integrate work flows using out-of-the-box process templates, API connectors and integration “recipes”. Companies can also use this tool kit to build re-usable connectivity or easily configure automations of common business processes which helps scale the business.  

Trying to build and manage all these API connections internally is the biggest single mistake an IT team can make. It’s so easy to fall into this trap but businesses that do end up reinventing the customer wheel - and reinventing it very, very slowly. 

In these times of unparalleled disruption, companies need to get a grip on their data so they can innovate their way out of sometimes choppy commercial waters with new products and services. That’s only possible when you see integrating customer data as a service and free up your IT team to build what customers really need and want right now.

Barry Flaherty, Head of Strategic Alliances (EMEA), Jitterbit (opens in new tab)

Barry is passionate about growing the EMEA region and has experience delivering integration and API management solutions around SAP and other eco-systems to both mid-market and large Enterprise customers.