7 best practices for integrating your applications

As you integrate applications, you might find several steps throughout the process to be daunting and difficult to navigate. 

It can be hard to pinpoint the most lucrative integration opportunities; it can be difficult to identify and select the best 3rd-party integration solution for your business; it can be challenging to select the right personnel for each integration project—and much more.

To help you navigate any obstacle when building application integrations, we’ll break down several best practices worth following. 

But first, let’s align on the definition of application integration.

What is application integration?

It’s the process of connecting your software applications with one another. This includes both connecting the applications you use internally and connecting your product with clients’ applications.

The two types of application itnegration

Related: What is integration middleware?

Application integration best practices

Here are some best practices worth putting into action: 

Align on clear objectives

Understanding what, exactly, you hope to achieve from your integrations can help inform significant downstream decisions. 

For instance, if your goal from a given integration is to improve your sales reps’ lead response times, you can better determine which applications need to be connected (e.g. your CRM and marketing automation platform), what data needs to be synced, and which stakeholders need to be included during the implementation process (e.g. GTM operations teams).

Adopt a diligent approach to prioritization

Your team can build dozens, if not hundreds, of integrations. To ensure that you’re focusing on the best opportunities first, you can analyze integration adoption and anecdotal feedback from your internal teams and clients (if you’re building product integrations) to arrive at your best options. 

For example, if you’re building product integrations, you can do all of the following:

  • Survey sales and customer success to discover the integrations that prospects and clients want the most; or, even better, survey your clients and prospects directly
  •  Analyze integration adoption and see if you can determine trends. For instance, if several ticketing integrations have significantly higher adoption rates than other categories of software, you may want to consider adding integrations with similar ticketing tools
  • If you’re looking to move upmarket, expand to a new region, and/or enter a new industry and you see that the organizations in these markets use specific applications, it can be worth prioritizing them
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Document your integrations extensively

As you scale your integrations, it can be hard to keep track of the code you used to build each, how each integration is meant to work, why any given one was built in the first place, etc. Assuming all of this background on an integration is missing and the engineers responsible for building the integration leave, your remaining team members (as well as future team members) can be extremely vulnerable in the event that an integration breaks and/or needs to be enhanced.

In short, there should be a centralized, single source of truth on your integrations that captures all of the pertinent details. 

Related: Internal and customer-facing examples of application integration

Test every integration rigorously before pushing it to production

When structuring and executing API calls, it’s easy to miss flaws that could lead to errors in the responses, such as null values; this is all the more likely to occur when a limited number of people are involved in coding the API request and have countless other tasks on their plate. 

Moreover, third-party API responses can be difficult to predict. For example, your developers might expect an API response to come back in a certain format, like a string, only to find that it actually comes back as an integer or an array. And while these discrepancies might seem trivial, they can be enough to break your integrations.

To prevent any of the scenarios above—among countless others—from affecting your clients and internal teams, you can perform extensive API integration testing.

Keep security controls top of mind

The data you’re syncing is likely sensitive, whether it’s personally identifiable information or your organization’s financial data.

To keep any sensitive data secure and private, you should take several security measures: use HTTPS to encrypt data in transit; use authorization protocols like Oauth 2.0 to ensure that only those with the right permissions can access certain data and actions; use detailed logs to keep track of all your APIs' activities, and so on.

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Leverage pre-built connectors for internal integrations

Assuming you’re committed to using an application integration tool to connect your internal applications, you should prioritize solutions that offer comprehensive libraries of pre-built connectors. 

These pre-built connectors help simplify and accelerate integration development; in many cases, accessing an application’s API endpoint in the tool simply involves inputting your authentication credentials (e.g. your client ID and client secret for that application).

Finally, these connectors should span several software categories and not only cover widely-used solutions but also long-tail applications that a few of your clients might need.

Related: A guide to integrating software successfully (5 best practices)

Use a unified API platform for customer-facing integrations

When you’re providing product integrations, you’ll likely find your team facing dozens of integration requests. 

Meeting these demands in-house or with a tool like an embedded iPaaS is difficult, if not impossible; both approaches require significant technical expertise (an embedded iPaaS is, in most cases, not a “low-code/no-code” solution) and force you to build one integration at a time.

A unified API solution, in contrast, lets you access a whole category of integrations by simply building to a single API. 

Illustration of a unified API

In addition, with Merge, the leading unified API platform, you can build to unified APIs that span several popular software categories, from CRM to HRIS to file storage to ticketing. The platform also lets you sync a variety of data through its Common Models and advanced features (e.g. Field Mapping and Authenticated Passthrough Request), manage and maintain each integration effectively and easily via Integrations Management, and much more.

Learn more about Merge by scheduling a demo with one of our integration experts.