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Vetting out your integration partner - analyzing the massive effort involved

With COVID-19 turning out to be a terrible havoc for the global economy, worldwide businesses are left with the only option to ramp up their efforts in order to stay optimally competitive. Be it formulating strategies for recovering the lost revenue, generating new revenue, embracing digital transformation, or devising ways to form an alliance with a reliable integration partner - massive efforts are required in all spheres.

Connecting with the right integration partner though, requires some additional concrete efforts in vetting the partner out thoroughly. Let's explore how to choose an integration partner by making the precise vetting efforts to ensure gaining optimal technology assistance in this time of crisis.

Defining the essence of integration partner and partnerships

As per the B2B Digital Experience Report 2020 conducted on B2B leaders in diverse industry verticals including healthcare, financial, manufacturing, distribution, commercial services and high tech, the following major findings emerged -

  • Understanding customers, personalizing the digital experience and content management were among the three digital experience tactics that B2B leaders identified as requiring improvement in their company
  • As of March 2020, 85 percent of businesses expected a considerable increase in their next year's digital experience budget
  • The top two B2B investment priorities in 2020 included - ecommerce platform and personalization technology
  • 41 percent of respondents considered selling products digitally to customers as the most crucial business opportunity in the next year
  • 37 percent of B2B leaders agree that their digital experience differentiates their company from their online competitors                
  • 46 percent of B2B leaders believe that customers derive a better experience when content is personalized based on customers' personal information, behavior and history
  • 82 percent of B2B organizations said they had undergone a digital transformation project already

So, preparing for a complete digital-first world is indeed the priority of most B2B organizations in the current era of crisis. A customer-centric, digital-first approach strongly empowers brands to gain unprecedented agility to deliver better customer experience.

When it comes to adopting a customer-centric approach and delivering a seamless customer experience, the influential role of integration and integrated partnerships can't be overlooked. Integrated partnerships typically involve one brand incorporating the services of another into their own in an endeavor to add more value to the customer journey. For example, rather than prompting the user to click and get redirected to another app to avail another service, all services are integrated within the same environment to provide a better experience to the user.

Integrations turn out to be a successful event when they considerably save time, enhance efficiency, and deliver a simplified, familiar workflow for customers so as to ultimately deliver a seamless experience. Furthermore, a successful integration also empowers both partners to leverage each other's core capabilities and platform.

For example, Annex Cloud, a reputed loyalty solutions provider brings its unified loyalty solutions to Optimizely's marketplace which enables B2B and B2C companies to extend platform functionality and maximize revenue per user. As an end-to-end digital experience platform, Optimizely aims to offer unmatched accessibility to robust software for customers. While Optimizely gains by listing Annex Cloud's loyalty solution in its marketplace to attract more customers, Annex Cloud leverages Optimizely's marketplace to present its high-performance loyalty solutions to a wider audience.

Partnering with an integration expert thus becomes the perfect strategic move to deploy for your business for mutual augmented gains. An ideal integration partnership is geared toward pushing innovation in diverse directions with the primary goal of delivering an enhanced customer experience. Integration partnership allows elimination of the rather time-consuming elements to make the buying process much more streamlined for the customers.  

An expert integration partner also enables you to create the much-needed ‘one-stop-shop’ experience specifically for your customers. A distinctive ‘one-stop-shop’ experience allows customers to access products and services more quickly and easily as they are going via the same, trusted vendor. To create such a unique customer experience, you initially need to assess the core gains from the partnership by getting answers to two strategic questions:

  • Does your company's mission and vision get enhanced via this partnership?
  • What are the positive takeaways for both companies by forming this partnership?

An integration partner not only enables enhanced revenue generation, but also serves as the vital catalyst for swifter deal closes. In a nutshell, integration partnerships hold the key to forming improved customer relationships and revenue growth. The investment in integration is a significant one for any company, so defining what the ideal partner should bring to the table will allow you to deliver on your business goals with ease.

Analyzing the correct approach to vetting your integration partner

With a multitude of technology partners extending their integration services to brands, choosing the right one can be tedious. There are several challenges in the process though, the most prominent one being the ability to evaluate your integration partner's capabilities & performance from the reliability perspective. Not all integration partners are created equal; while a reliable partner can empower your brand's initiatives & capabilities, a bad one may transform the partnership experience into a nightmare.

Picking the right integration partner by vetting them out is thus the optimal way to go. So, what's the correct approach to take when vetting out your integration partner? You should initially allow the integration service provider to clearly showcase the roadmap for handling your project. Also, examine if they actually have a strategic way of thinking and are proactive enough to ask you a lot of questions regarding the project. An integration partner's proactive approach enables them to forecast and accordingly tackle challenges.

Here are a few valid questions that you should ask your integration provider upfront:

  • What proven methodology do you have for our unique project?
  • Are there any similar projects you have completed?
  • What are the major challenges you see with our project?
  • Do you have any examples of a distinctive approach you take compared to your competitors?
  • What are the technologies you work with most often?
  • Can you share an example of your creative approach?
  • What kind of experience do your team members have?
  • How relevant is your expertise for tackling our project?

Holding expertise with an array of technologies ensures that the integration partner is more likely to have a diverse technical acumen, out-of-the-box thinking and creative problem-solving possibilities. Diversity of backgrounds is likewise crucial as it ensures that the team is competent to acquiring a more comprehensive understanding of your business requirements and goals.

Ensuring a transparent partnership profile is equally important, which requires acquiring relevant information about your integration partner, their services and their various modes of collaboration available. Does the integration partner understand that your business is unique? Do they recognize that they need to tailor to your needs? 

A brand's pursuit for getting the correct strategic integration partner ends positively when a reliable integration expert meeting all the predefined selection criteria is available. However, in order to ensure you establish an alliance with a reliable integration partner, the optimal strategy requires vetting out your integration partner. Consider focusing on the following areas:

1. Due diligence

First and foremost, you must investigate how long your technology partner has been operational in the ongoing business. Try to know their vision for business growth to get an idea of how dedicated your technology partner is when it comes to fostering improved growth.

2. Authentic feedback

Merely paying attention to flashy sales pitches won't help. Rather, investing efforts in analyzing the reviews given by the technology partner's clients is a better way to proceed. Consider scanning through their social media platforms and gather information from third-party review sites. 

3. Flexibility

A high level of scalability is a must-have in your partner's integration platform. An integration platform that is not flexible enough to cope with the dynamic environments and circumstances will likely fail. 

4. Compliance

You need to inquire well in advance, whether your provider has processes around compliance. An integration partner engaged in non-compliant practices can become a hurdle rather than an asset for your organization's partnership initiatives.

5. Additional perks

You can always inquire if extra perks favoring your business goals are available. For example, your provider may grant you a spot in their integration marketplace, or provide you opportunities for connecting with a wider audience. It all depends on how comprehensive and well-structured their offer stands.

6. Mutual benefits

Examine whether your integration partner's strategy and efforts are focused on attracting profitable returns for you as well, or just for their own gains. A technology partnership may not prosper for long if either of the partners is more keen to drive the business benefits produced out of the alliance merely to their side.

Quite evidently, a mammoth effort is required for syncing with the right integration partner - be it scrutinizing the partner's profile, checking out business compatibility and overall experience, or performing some additional background checks. It needs to be understood that the approach, expertise and support of your integration partner will have decisive impact on the delivery effectiveness of your project. Thus, asking the right questions during the vetting process will help ensure you have a better comparative analysis to finalize your ideal integration partner and avoid any partnership glitches down the line. 

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