A Guide to Navigating Integrations: Pros and Cautions

integrations

In 2007, Steve Jobs opened a keynote presentation promising the world three new products — a widescreen touch iPod, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet device. But in a twist of events he pulled out a single device, the Original iPhone. While this was a revolutionary, “one to rule them all” type of device, the majority of products are not and should not be intended to solve all problems for everyone.

When it comes to business tools, this idea remains the same. It is incredibly challenging and often a messy path to go down to find a single tool to solve all the needs of your business and teams (something we talked about in a webinar with our integrations partner Tasktop). In doing so, you can end up with a conceptually great system that does little to accomplish real-life goals, resulting in high spend with little ROI.

Instead of focusing on a single tool or limited number of tools to rule them all, you should turn your focus to integrating each of these systems and maximizing the data from within to improve how your business operates. However, connecting systems is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The method you choose to integrate your systems is driven by multiple factors — speed of initial setup, flexibility to adapt the integration, IT resources available, etc. Spending time upfront to evaluate these things will result in a better integration in the end.

How can you simplify integrations and choose the best fit for your business?

Regardless of the tools your business uses, sharing data across teams and value streams is critical to working in and maintaining a lean environment. Looking at integrations in terms of their flexibility to meet specific business needs can be a helpful way to cut out some of the noise and simplify the options you have. We choose to look at integrations in 3 ways — Customizable, Configurable, Composable.

By evaluating integrations based on these levels of flexibility, you can choose a solution that is the best fit to connect your tools to each other, to LeanKit or even create an integration from LeanKit to LeanKit itself (spoiler alert: we’ll cover this in an upcoming post).

Customizable: the ultimate level of flexibility

For organizations who desire full control over how data is pushed and pulled into their systems, or those who connect to a broad spectrum of applications (including those deeply rooted homegrown systems), APIs offer the most flexibility. This is the best method to achieve a highly customized integration that is built to fit specific business processes.

Pros:

  • For companies with programming resources, this enables connections to virtually any system (homegrown, client-hosted or cloud-based).

  • Highly flexible and enables businesses to customize how and which data is transferred between two or more systems.

  • Ideal for those who need a solution built to fit specific business processes that can’t be achieved through a pre-built offering.

Cautions:

  • Requires you to have technical programming knowledge, though this can be outsourced to 3rd party vendors.

  • You retain responsibility to maintain and update the integration as each connected system is updated.

Note: LeanKit provides extensive support documentation to aid in building integrations using all three of our APIs.

Configurable: a pre-built solution adaptable to meet organizational needs

Companies who don’t have resources readily available to build and maintain integrations from scratch, but still need the ability to adapt the data transferred between systems may choose a configurable integration. Pre-built integrations can be configured during implementation to transfer the information dictated by specific business processes. While there are many ways to achieve this type of flexibility, we approach this through a partnership with Tasktop, a hub-model integration provider that can be configured to both client-hosted and cloud-based enterprise systems.

Pros:

  • A hub-model creates a centralized integration management tool to synchronize data across multiple systems

  • Integration updates are pushed to the customer anytime a connector is updated and doesn’t require intervention from your IT resources.

  • Ideal for enterprise businesses with IT resources to support implementation and maintain a dedicated server if required by the integration provider (in our instance, Tasktop).

Cautions:

  • Integrations to internally built systems are not supported by this integration method.

  • Implementation of this integration can require navigating complex IT processes and significant effort from technical teams on the customer side.

  • Tasktop requires a dedicated server that will have to be setup and maintained by the customer’s IT resources.

Composable: speed up processes with automation

For some businesses and teams, the need to integrate systems is driven by the desire to automate repetitive actions and tasks within processes that touch multiple systems. To achieve this, a composable integration (supported by applications like Microsoft Flow and Zapier) can be used to orchestrate a sequence of events across or within systems. Using the connections to applications like LeanKit that Microsoft Flow or Zapier offer provides an option non-reliant on IT resources.

Pros:

  • Many tools used by small to mid-sized businesses and a handful of enterprise-level systems are supported by Microsoft Flow and Zapier.

  • Simple to use interface enables teams without IT resources to integrate LeanKit into their daily processes with a lighter integration effort.

  • Workflows can be easily set up and adapted over time by as business needs change.

Cautions:

  • Flexibility is somewhat limited, but there is a certain level of customization that can be achieved through Microsoft Flow.

  • Can only be integrated to cloud-based systems, integrations to internal or client-hosted are not supported.

This post is part one in our Integration Series as we explore different methods companies can use integrate their business tools. Stay tuned for the next post in this series that will take a deep dive into integrating with APIs.