5 best practices for building software integrations

As your organization connects your internal software and/or your product with clients’ applications, you’ll likely face a number of obstacles.

To help your team avoid and address these obstacles over time, we’ll cover several software integration best practices.

But before we do, let’s define software integration.

What is software integration?

It’s the process of connecting software applications with one another. This includes two scenarios: connecting the applications your internal teams use and connecting your product with the 3rd-party applications your clients leverage.

The two types of software integration

Related: A look at the most impactful software integrations 

Software integration best practices

Here are a few best practices worth implementing:

Ruthlessly prioritize your integrations

If your organization is like most, you have countless integration opportunities to choose from. But given the time-consuming nature of building integrations in-house, you’ll need to pick and choose what's prioritized carefully.

To help you better determine which integrations are worth building over others, try assigning specific KPIs to each integration and estimate the improvements across these KPIs.

For instance, if you’re thinking of integrating your CRM with your marketing automation system, your KPIs might be any of the following:

  • The number of hours that your sales and marketing teams save every week from not having to enter in data manually
  • The amount of human errors that’ll be prevented every week from automating data syncs coupled with the amount of time your team would then spend fixing those errors
  • The improvement to your team’s demo conversion rate as a result of a faster “speed to lead”

As you work through this across your integration opportunities, you may have trouble comparing some of your options directly (as the KPIs will differ and the projections are somewhat subjective). That said, this exercise should provide enough guidance so that you can backlog several of your integration options and move others to the top of your team’s queue.

Establish error-handling processes for edge cases

While your team can try to forecast integration issues in advance and develop workflows for addressing each, the reality is that many of the issues you’ll face are impossible to predict. 

You simply don’t know what a 3rd-party API’s response will be; and if the response differs just slightly from your expectations—e.g. the response comes back as a string when you expected an integer—, your integration can break.

With this in mind, it’s worth developing a standardized workflow for errors that are caused by edge cases. 

Task an engineer with overseeing documentation

Documenting integrations is absolutely paramount for enhancing and fixing integrations over time—especially when your engineering department faces high turnover.

But if the documentation doesn’t cover all of the content your team needs or isn't up-to-date, it might not be of any use to your team.

To help your engineers stay accountable in providing thorough and up-to-date information, you can task an individual with leading this initiative. 

This “documentation lead” can ensure that specific colleagues in the department fill out and regularly update the documentation for the integrations they’ve built and/or maintain. 

In addition, this documentation lead can, over time, get a clear understanding of all the information that needs to be covered across the integrations. Using this understanding, they can pinpoint information gaps, potential inaccuracies, among other issues, and provide this feedback to the relevant engineers.

An icon of a lock on top of a shield

Related: A guide to integrating applications successfully

Keep security top of mind

Your integrations likely contain sensitive business data and personally identifiable information (PII). Putting either type of data in the wrong hands can compromise your ability to comply with data privacy laws and regulations, harm your organization’s reputation in the market and with clients, and betray your employees’ trust.

To minimize the chances of any issues over time, you can implement a variety of proactive security measures. This includes encrypting data in transit and at rest, relying on secure authentication methods (e.g. OAuth 2.0), and using logs to audit your integrations over time.

Adopt a unified API solution

When building customer-facing integrations, your engineers will likely have a hard time keeping up with customer demand. After all, there are likely several categories of applications that clients would like to connect to your product; and for a given software category, your clients can be using any number of applications.

To meet your customers’ integration needs and wants at scale, you can invest in a unified API solution.

Simply put, a unified API is a single, aggregated API that, once built to, lets you access a whole category of software integrations (e.g. 40+ HRIS integrations). 

A visual representation of a unified API platform

Related: How to build and maintain API integrations successfully

Build, maintain, and manage product integrations effectively with Merge

Merge, the leading unified API solution, offers several unified APIs that span popular software categories—from CRM to HRIS to ATS—and hundreds of integrations across these categories. 

The platform also offers integration maintenance support and management tooling to take the load off engineers and enable customer-facing teams to resolve any integration issues with ease.

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