Having been exposed to the world of automotive retail technology for several years now, I’ve learned that there is no end in sight to the ever-changing needs of the market. Ultimately what continues to evolve is the demand for tighter holistic systems integration. At this point in my career, my greatest success has come by way of building and growing a successful integration program that facilitated integration between the many systems in the automotive technology ecosystem. A program that was created and developed with flexibility and simplicity in mind, in order to meet the ever-evolving needs and requirements of trading partners and the end-users, was the right decision when the program launched in 2014. If you work for a company that has an integration program but it needs to be stronger, or your company is looking to formally develop an integration program, these tips should provide some guidance on how to structure and maintain a successful implementation.
Choose a Proven and Reliable Integration and Certification Platform
The platform for which you choose to manage your integration program is crucial. If you are able to put a reliable and proven integration platform in place, the other pieces of the program start to fall in order. If your integration team is small, or perhaps you are operating as a one-man band and your goal is to expand the success of your integration program, it is imperative to ensure that your platform is equipped with heavy automation tools and services that make you efficient. Minimum requirements for an integration platform should include:
- Interface design tools that give you the ability to create, modify, and publish your interfaces on the fly.
- A communication tool to provide news and updates to your integration partners about your program.
- Simplistic organization around all technical documentation and artifacts.
- Automated testing with real-time feedback to ensure trading partners understand how to fully implement your interfaces without the need to monitor each and every test case.
- Program management reporting to get a complete snapshot of the status of your integration partners as they progress through your development and certification processes.
When evaluating or creating your integration program, ensure that you have something close to a “one-stop-shop” platform that has everything related to the requirements listed above. Ideally, a thorough testing environment equipped with developer testing tools and a well organized thorough library of sample artifacts and documentation is the key to your partner’s success. If you are still managing or planning to manage your program via never-ending email chains while trading documents and screenshots via attachments…those days need to be over!
Keep the Integration Program Cost-Effective, Simple, and Streamlined
I attribute a successful integration program to this. You have to put yourself in the shoes of your trading partners. Your partners most likely have an integration development backlog that has enough work in it to fulfill 3-5 years of non-stop development as it is. And now, all of a sudden, they have a need to integrate their application with yours because of mutual client demand.
When you are approached by a 3rd party who wants to integrate their applications with yours, being able to present an easy, cost-effective path to the integration project will increase the odds of that partner signing an integration agreement with your company. The last thing your trading partners want is an over-extended, tedious integration development date. A segway from the 1st tip, if you have a platform that augments all aspects of the program from providing clear concise instructions around the technical specifications and data architecture of your interfaces, to an easy streamlined certification path, in the end, it’s a win-win for everyone! I can promise you this, by following the fundamentals of keeping your program cost-effective, simple, and streamlined, your partners will value your program and even start to sell it for you.
Partners who navigate your program with ease will benefit your company by having that positive experience trickle down to your end-users. From my personal experience, trading partners have no problem recommending your products and services to prospects knowing that you provided them with an efficient way to integrate their application with yours, all to benefit the most important part of the ecosystem the END-USER!
Ensure Reliable and Ongoing Proactive Support
The most important strategy for keeping your trading partners and end-users happy, and your program reputation healthy, is the ability to provide world-class support. In the arena of integrations, technical support can make or break a partnership between both your end-users and your partners. If you can educate and arm your support team with tools that help them do their jobs more efficiently and help to solve integration calls quickly you are setting the program up for success.
Your support model should have a dedicated team to handle third-party integration questions and inquiries led by a tenured subject matter expert. When your team is closing integration support issues in a matter of hours compared to days it really goes a long way to everyone involved!
Integration programs NEVER stop, there is always data flowing to and from your system. You, as well as your trading partners, are always making system changes which add risk and susceptibility for issues to arise. Take all necessary steps to drive proactiveness to your support team, with the help of your development staff ensure alerts are set up to help identify issues before they impact your downstream programs and partners. By having a few of these safety nets in place it will save you, your company, and your trading partners a lot of aggravation.
Foster a True Cooperative Partnership
It’s a wonderful feeling seeing increasing numbers of trading partners buy into your program because of the simplicity, efficiencies, and cost-effectiveness the program has in place. However, a true cooperative partner experience is often left behind. I am a very firm believer in the quote “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” which should stand true for the way you conduct business with your trading partners. Ultimately, the more success they have, the more successful your program becomes.
These companies became partners because they provide products and services that you don’t offer, or because your clients simply like their services better than yours…and that is completely fine. But that should speak out loud to you, you should do what you can to help your partners gain market share by leveraging your customer base. It shows that your integration program solution is open and that you are willing to go the extra mile for your integration partners enabling them to bring innovative and helpful technologies to your end-users.
By following these key tips, I’m confident you will find success! If you would like to discuss related integration questions or if you would like to discover how Motive Retail could be of assistance to your company’s integration goals, please feel free to reach out to me!