Here is something internal CIO's and your internal tech teams don't want you to know, the 18-month software implementation that just cost you $500K – $1MM could be done a hell of lot cheaper…and should be. They are building job security because most C-level leaders and marketers don't understand how technology can and should work.
As marketers we all want the software equivalent of a unicorn. The one that does lead generation, content creation, lead scoring, conversion optimzation… oh, yeah, and has an analytics layer on top of it. And, as marketers and technologists, we want to go build software because we are convinced that we can't find what we need. The reality, however, is that we can find close to 90% of what we need if we stop looking for the unicorn in expensive, over-priced “solutions” and start looking at integrated web apps at a fraction of the cost.
So what should you look for when implementing integrated web apps? Here are the top 3 things you should look for:
1) Integrate Freely
Whether you are looking at email service providers, accounting software, or anything in between, you should look for a service that integrates freely. Why? Because it means that the service will let you use your data the way you want to. The secret to using any service is understanding that one core tenet – data belongs to you, not the service. A company that wants to integrate with a myriad of services understands this and thus makes using their service much easier.
2) Open API
Even if you aren't a developer and have never heard of an open API you should look for services that have open APIs. The reason is simple, APIs allow anyone to build services and products on top of their app. Why is this important? One big reason is that it allows creative uses of the core app. Anyone can come and build a useful service that might close a hole or give you extra opportunity. The other major reason is that YOU can build on top of it. Remember that unicorn I talked about earlier? If you or a developer resource has the technical chops, you can build on top of the app, or use data in a way that you want to. Open APIss give a developer a framework to work from and doesn't make you have to build or rebuild a service.
3) Active Community
One of the most impressive things I have seen working in this industry is how companies/apps that embrace the idea of integrations have a healthy, active, and vibrant user base. Yes, some are more vibrant than others, but most companies who embrace the idea of connectivity have a user base that want to be connected. Why is it important to find apps that have this community vibe? Because most apps that have this also iterate on their app, listen to customer feedback, and generally have incentives to continue maintaining and growing that user base. A lot of stagnant apps stop iterating or only iterate once or twice a year. You want to find apps that are constantly improving and releasing new integrations, thus opening you up to more opportunities.
These aren't the only things to look for but in my experience they are very telling signs of a good app. Integrated apps can help save you time, money, and headaches. Looking to build the unicorn is a fool's errand, especially when you can find a few solidly integrated apps that solve the majority of your needs.
Let us know what some of your favorite integrated apps are below.