Agile Integration

What if your applications actually talked to each other?

This is already happening now not only with the current generation of applications but also with the a new generation of integration providers.

Really, what happened?

A few years ago office automation meant getting an intern to write some VBA code to automate Microsoft Office or attempting to use the limited workflow functionalities in Microsoft Office Sharepoint. Today we aren’t talking about Microsoft Office or its free desktop replacements LibreOffice (OpenOffice) [very good], Kingsoft WPS Office 2016, and Apple iWork but rather the cloud-based solutions such as Google Suite (from $5/user/month).

Since most of the current generation of cloud-based applications are relatively easy to use, with functional mobile app versions, integration is becoming a key differentiator in application selection process.

For examples of applications which come bundled with high level of integration see Trello integrationsas commented previously and Slack apps.

The Zaps

Many applications leave it to the customer or third party to provide the integration, and now there is a new class of  integration providers filling the gaps.

zapier-small-orange-logoZapier launched in 2012, has integrations for over 500 applications (793 listed currently although the last 50 or so are beta or upcoming), and has 49 employees on LinkedIn.

To achieve this Zapier targets:

Ease of use for end users:

pick from a list of predefined integrations or create your own in a step by step process selecting:

  • source application,
  • trigger,
  • filter,
  • destination application and
  • field mappings.

Each step is tested independently in a simple user interface, and mostly pre-populated if an predefined integration is selected.

Marketing win for application owners: by adding your app to Zapier, you can tell your customers there are integrations available to 350 other applications.  Zapier supports numerous authentication options including OAuth and polling/subcription options including REST Hooks.

Advanced integrations are also possible – by adding custom “Code by Zapier” to the workflow you can add custom Python code.  Additional blocks allow custom scheduling, email parsing etc etc:

zapier-advancedPricing: Free plan is limited to 100 tasks/month on 5 integrations. Pricing starts at $20/month for 1000tasks/month on 20 integrations and scales according to usage. Extendable free trial available on full plan features.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaavaaaajdewm2vjzwy2lty1zdatndg1ni1iotk1lte2ywzimtawmjk1ngIFTTT, originally an abbreviation of “If This, Then That” launched in 2011 and lists 375 applications integrated and 51 employees on LinkedIn.
Pricing: completely free – it’s free for now, but their future business model/funding is unknown.
IFTTT is comparable to Zapier in usability and coverage, the difference is in focus:

  • IFTTT allows individuals to share their own integrations and is a goldmine of curious home and hobbyist information:  “Get a notification when the International Space Station passes over your home” is a good example of a type of integration you can find plenty of on IFTTT but you are very unlikely to see on Zapier.
  • Zapier appears to be collaborating with the application developers to get their applications on board and has a deeper range and depth of business application integration as well as development/customisation possibilities.
automate-iohttps://automate.io/  founded 2015, list 31 apps on their integrations page – other pages suggest 50+
Pricing: Free plan: 5 bots, 250 actions/month, 5minute schedule, paid plans scaling according to usage from 19USD/month for up to 20 integrations, 3,000 actions/month

segmentSegment.com currently lists over 180 apps on their integration page, however their focus is on capturing customer data (including any data generated by customer interactions) with the datawarehousing and analytics capability.  The integration itself isn’t therefore as generic or as friendly to use as Zapier,  though Zapier itself is one of the integration targets supported.
Segment founded in 2011 and has 115 employees on LinkedIn
Pricing: Free plan is limited to one source input (with unlimited downstream integrations), paid plans start at 100USD/month scaling by 10USD/month per 1,000 Monthly Tracked Users (eg both logged in and anonymous user sessions being tracked on your websites)

Conclusions

  • Try IFTTT for home interest especially if you’ve got internet-enabled devices, there are recipes for controlling your home temperature or lighting according to your diary or social media check-in location (not sure why you would want to do that but hey there is something for everyone – I prefer the “Get a notification when the International Space Station passes over your home”).  There’s a lot of goodies for personal productivity like label your gmail Evernote and it will be sent to Evernote, automatically strip attachments to Google Drive etc.
  • Try Zapier for general office automation:  if you want to route your customer enquiries from different channels to a central system and then send them on to the Sales/CRM system or the issue tracking system depending on the enquiry, Zapier has the relevant systems integrated.  Custom integrations, social media and email are all supported as well with a good level of functionality for filtering records to process, searching for records to update.

Warnings:

  • as usual, don’t use for passwords and c0nfidential information, assume various government agencies and others are monitoring traffic and have a larger budget for big data than you do.
  • Zapier allows you to put filter steps in the integration so you can setup integration only continues if “(Text) Is not in” password etc – and the reverse, send a security alert if users enter certain trigger keywords.  The filter isn’t designed as a security solution but might scare people into more security-conscious behaviour.
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One thought on “Agile Integration

  1. Microsoft have now released Microsoft Flow in this space: https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/services/
    It only covers 58 services so far, a way behind Zapier’s nearly >700 services. As can be expected Microsoft products feature strongly, however does include popular services such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Dropbox, Slack, Trello, Salesforce, Github, and even Google products (Google Calendar, Drive, Sheets, Tasks and YouTube), so may be of interest to Microsoft customers.

    Like

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