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Integration: The Danger of Coding Custom Integrations


“Everyone thinks that they can code their way to success here (with integrations), when in fact it typically means that your ongoing maintenance costs, and also the cost of inefficiencies, are off the charts. In this day and age, unless there are specific and unique needs, custom coding your data integration solution is never a good idea.” This was a quote from David Linthicum in a blog back in 2009.

In 2016, if you walk into your IT department and state “we need to integrate sales orders from our web app to our ERP” you will almost always get a response that involves “we can write some code for that”.  It is not only IT departments but there are still many IT consultants and ERP/CRM implementers that will jump to custom coding as a first solution.  Why? The main reason is that developers love to write code – it’s their job. The second reason is the developer gets total control with custom code – there is an essence of control freak in most developers. I understand this from the dev perspective, it is easier for the them, they are able do whatever they want in code without limitations. Just because something is easier for the development team does not mean it is a good solution for the business.

Many small and large businesses have turned to custom coding to churn out an integration quickly with the flexibility of tailoring that integration. For businesses with a limited scope of integration requirements, custom integration is often perceived as the fast and most logical path. As that business grows and their integration needs become more complex, you end up with a complex spaghetti architecture that leads to a reduced agility, flexibility and scalability.

It sometimes seem surprising to a business, but developers sometimes quit their jobs. Shortly after, the business may develop more or different integration needs. Inevitably the documentation around a certain integration is lacking and everyone is too scared to touch it. The business carries on for a long time with an old process that should be changed or improved to maintain efficiency but it is too important to mess with. Calling in a new developer is like starting from scratch all over again. 

In 2016, the need for a structured, non-code based integration plan has never been stronger. In the SMB market especially there is a strong move back to selecting ‘best of breed’ software solutions that do not talk to each other natively. Fewer companies are choosing large, expensive, all-encompassing businesses management solutions but rather are staying agile with the ability to choose and switch to new applications as they are released. This leaves IT teams with some awesome software that is just what the business needs, but each solution does not talk nicely to all the other software selections. This is just another reason why mid-market businesses need an integration solution to manage this process.

API’s are the big thing. API’s are simply fantastic – if you employ a developer.  If you do not employ a developer then API’s are a complete waste of time.  To call an API you have to be able to code.  Integration solutions such as SmartConnect mean you never have to code.

So what is the downside of writing all this custom integration code?

  1. The integration is hidden and secret.
  2. Overall cost of maintaining the integrations.
  3. Ability to trouble shoot integrations is limited.
  4. Ease of managing integrations on an ongoing basis.
  5. Changing or expanding the integration requires a developer.
  6. Changes to the underlying API’s require a developer.
  7. In 2016 there are so many integration points that you need a tool to manage them.
  8. Most developers would rather do exciting work and not write integrations.


If these are the negatives above, what are the benefits of deploying integration solutions such as eOne’s SmartConnect?

  1. These tools are developed by integration experts who live and breathe integration – not just the IT guy.
  2. Integration solutions are fully featured with robust error handling, data lookups, and workflow messages.
  3. Solutions are never one off. They will connect many software applications as your needs change.
  4. It becomes easy to call in an expert to help as everything is exposed and open.
  5. The business can manage integrations, without calling the developer.
  6. Reduced cost of ongoing ownership.


To summarize, you can always go down the integration development route and build good integrations. The problem is that over time things change and often get very expensive. 

Integration tools like SmartConnect keep the costs down and the flexibility high. The business can grow and change, it can choose best of breed software and know that it is all relatively easily interconnected.

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