Integrations are the holy grail of the ultimate intranet experience. They have the power to completely modernize even the most mundane, out-of-date intranet by weaving the functionality of disparate applications into a single experience. This transforms the intranet from a simple static news site into a productivity hub that drives engagement and simplifies the work day for employees.
But all too often, organizations struggle to frame a solid use case for integrations, ultimately accepting far less functionality than they should and shortchanging the overall impact and long-term success of their intranet .
Visually appealing links provide some utility to the intranet experience but are a far cry from the value full-functioning integrations provide.
In my experience, the most common question organizations ask potential intranet vendors is, “can you do integrations?”
The question is then accompanied by a long list of enterprise systems, usually without any context for what type of functionality they’re trying to achieve. The vendor says “yes” to this question. Of course they do. Not only is it what the company wants to hear, it’s exactly the response the sales process calls for – moving past roadblocks as quickly as possible to expedite the sale. It’s also a perfectly safe response. The vendor knows that, at the very least, they can always just link to these systems. They might even bank on the likelihood that a link is all you really want anyway.
So, what’s a better approach that would ensure you get the information you really want and need from the vendor?
By providing employees with easy access to everything they need to know and do, integrations can transform the intranet into an integral part of digital workplace strategy.
Give thoughtful consideration to what you want the end-result of your integrations to be. For example, what would a win for the applications team look like? In the case of ServiceNow, it would be fewer tickets. For the Concur team, it might be expense reports done correctly the first time. And for the most important stakeholder, the employee? Any and every integration should make access to tasks and information easier.
By understanding what you want as an end result from your integrations, you’ll be in a far better position to ask specific questions that add value to the vendor evaluation process, like, “Can you handle approvals from X,” or “Can you display a dashboard from Y?”
It goes without saying that a good vendor is never going to outright lie to you. But let’s be honest, reality sometimes needs to be embellished to make the sale. That doesn’t mean you should let sales teams get away with trying to appease you with easy answers.
Don’t let vendors pull a George Costanza and breeze out of a meeting on a high note after a few easy answers.
The onus is on you to do the due diligence necessary to ensure you get what you really need. In addition to understanding what value you hope to get from your integrations and making that clear to vendors, make sure to ask the right follow up questions, too.
How do you integrate – do you build the integrations yourselves or use a third-party vendor?
Can you integrate with custom systems?
Can the integration target different experiences to different employees? (This is particularly important because different employees have different needs when it comes to interacting with enterprise systems. The difference between managers and non-managers is a good example.)
Can existing integrations be customized? (Just because a vendor offers an integration to a system doesn’t mean it will work for the same system that’s been customized for your needs. It’s important to understand these nuances because there could be additional time requirements and fees involved with making existing integrations work for your organization.)
What if the back-end systems we’re integrating with change – how will your integrations adapt?
Can you provide examples?
Like most corporate initiatives, intranet projects are run on a pretty tight timeline. That’s fine, because timelines ensure that things get done. But organizations often hold the mistaken belief that the integrations are a sub task to the intranet timeline and should be done and ready to go as soon as the books are closed on the intranet project. That’s why so many organizations simply accept the links vendors pass off as integrations. Time has run out on the clock, so it must be time to move on and consider everything done. That’s just simply untrue.
Integrations will require consistent care and feeding and shouldn't be considered as part of the overall intranet project plan timeline. (Source)
The ongoing effort to simplify the work day and delight your users is not time bound. That should be an integral part of the digital workplace's DNA. Integrations are part of this mission.
Consider this: out of the dozens of systems you’d consider creating integrations for, how many are likely to change or evolve over time, maybe even adding additional functionality that you’d like to see incorporated into the intranet experience? One or two every year, most likely. It’s for that reason each integration needs to be considered its own mini project that runs asynchronously to the implementation of the intranet. So, don’t try to implement them all at once. It overcomplicates things unnecessarily. Just plan on adding and improving integrations as you go, long after the official intranet launch date.
Integrations are the ideal tool to secure the position of your intranet as a vital component of digital workplace strategy. But you have to get them right. So, start with the one or two integrations that would really drive engagement (not silly link integrations; integrations that WOW and delight) and get started!
Workgrid has extensive experience building integrations that enable organizations just like yours to connect seamlessly with top enterprise systems, such as Oracle HCM, SAP Ariba, SAP Fieldglass, Chrome River, Service Now, Concur, and Office365. We can help you maximize your existing tech investments while also delivering personalized experiences to every member of your workforce.
Learn more about Workgrid integrations.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn and has been adapted for our website.