Pro tips for choosing a tech provider
Integrating with a tech partner to improve your service offering is high stakes. Get it wrong, and you’ll be throwing money into a pit, while dealing with a productivity sink-hole that could affect your whole platform.
Get it right though, and you’ll not only strengthen your service offering, but sharpen your competitive advantage too.
Our Chief Technology Officer, Nacho Gutierrez, has managed many successful tech integrations over his career. Here, he offers his hard-won practical insights to help you narrow down your list of potentials and make that right choice.
So, you’ve been wowed by their sales pitch, the testimonials flow with praise, and your colleagues are excited by the possibilities.
But how do you get beyond the hype?
I’ve seen it all, from both sides of the fence, and I’ve come to recognise what the telling details are. Those things that let you know, before you’re in too deep, whether a tech partner is capable of meeting your needs. Here are my tips:
1. Start at the end. Before you sign up, ask about the timescale of the approval process once the integration has been developed.
Ask this question as soon as you can, and make sure the answer can be backed up with examples from their client portfolio. If the final stages of the project have the potential to get bogged down in a lot of needless back and forth over approval, it’s best to know in advance, and look elsewhere.
2. Ask to see their API documentation.
Is it up-to-date? Can you understand it? Whether you’re part of the integration team, or a layperson looking at the new technology from an end user perspective, the API documentation should be well written, logical, and easy to understand. If this isn’t the case, it brings up questions about the integration partner as a whole. Clear documentation generally points to a clear understanding of the whole process. Watch out for PDF-based documentation – in my experience, the chances of it being outdated are higher.
3. Look at the documentation.
Xplan is a fine example of a firm that provides good, up-to-date documentation with their products. You’ll find several useful how-to-guides and the like, which is a positive sign. If the documentation features this kind of extra content, that’s evidence their customer focus runs deep. And as a bonus, if your integration partner’s API documentation is openly accessible, then double thumbs up. Intelliflo’s developer platform is a shining example of this approach.
4. Check out their sandbox.
If you can find evidence of a mature and robust sandbox environment complete with high quality testing data, put a million ticks next to their name on your integration partner shortlist.
5. If you able to get started without making a support call or email, the signs of a bright future are good.
If you only have to read their documentation, and can jump into the sandbox, the signs are good you are working with the right people. On the other hand, if you find yourself having to make calls during those initial stages, and even worse, talking to various layers of non-technical gatekeepers, that’s a sure sign the integration process is going to be cumbersome.
6. Get to know their support system.
Ideally, if point 5 holds true, you won’t need to use your integration partner’s support system. But finding out how it works will tell you a lot about how they deal with their customers. Do they have a ticketed support system, like Zendesk, for instance? Or is there a generic developers@emailaddress for you to throw your cries for help into, so they can be ignored for several days?
These are things I’ve picked up in a career of APIs, integrations and making applications talk to each other. I’ve seen the brochures, heard the guarantees, and learned how to look beyond the big promises, to form my own sound judgement when choosing a good integration partner. It can make a huge difference to cost and timescales – from a matter of weeks to half a year or more. Hopefully, this advice will help you to choose well and reap the rewards.