Integration

Integration. This word/concept similar to application, component, data, service and so many other concerns in the software realm: it’s often the case that there are N + M meanings floating around a conversation with N people on the subject. :-)

If you provide a portfolio of products to customers, integration is typically an important aspect of your offering. Do these products play well with each other? Can there inputs and outputs be combined into broader workflow, etc.?

Unfortunately I find that many integrations seems to be merely technical in nature–as if to answer “yes” to “can I technically integrate?” Much like answering “yes” to “do you know the time?” this strikes me as missing the point altogether.

Integrations must be about how should I deliver the right experience to my user. That is, integrations should be experience-driven.

So, what may be some of the signs that indicate a need for focused improvement?

  • Workflows that span across products involve multiple login experiences (interruptions).
  • Users are forced to deal with experiences designed for a persona other than their own.
  • Software concerns are not consistent and therefore are not intuitive (e.g. able to be reused spontaneously in new business contexts).
  • Integration gaps in product must be addressed via professional services, consulting or directly by customers.

Any of this sound familiar?

When I get involved in an integration-related project, I tend to think about the following layered concerns:

This approach involves:

  • an experience-driven focus on key business roles/personas and their workflows – user objective over product feature/function (seamless)
  • data and insight in context for better decisions and actions – mere hand-offs don’t add value (frictionless)
  • social as glue across users (relational) – provide others’ insights in context[1] to facilitate further insight and action

How do you view and tackle integration in your own products?

[1] e.g. http://craigrandall.net/archives/2012/09/queue-and-flow/

-Craig
http://craigrandall.net/
@craigsmusings