Solving the Data Integration Puzzle
Sep 08, 2016 by Michelle Bruno

Nothing about event technology integration is clear-cut anymore. Sure, you can easily connect two databases so that, for example, when an association member registers for an event, he gets a member discount. But once you add a third application to the mix, such as the event mobile app (which might need to know that an attendee is both a member and a paid registrant in order to give him access to a VIP reception), things can get a little crazy. Here’s what you need to know.

If all you want or need is to connect two applications at a time, you’ve got a couple of options:

  • Select two applications that are already integrated. Lots of software companies are busy building integrations with other application providers because they know the combination will be needed at some point for a potential customer or because they know it strengthens their position in the marketplace.
  • Make sure at least one of the platforms you adopt has an open, standard application- programming interface (API) to make it easier for the second platform to connect with it. At the same time, ensure that the second software provider is equipped to integrate with the first provider.
  • Work with a third-party integrator—companies that provide the service of taking two applications and making them work together on your behalf. These firms also build libraries of one-to-one connections so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel when they get a request over and over.

When you cross over into three or more applications talking to one another and sharing information, you have to answer some challenging questions:

Where will the one true source of data reside?  As data flows from one application to another, it can become modified, enhanced, or changed. You will have to decide which of the versions of the data are the most updated or true and where you will store them—in your association management software, in a new and separate data warehouse that isn’t connected to any specific application, or somewhere else?

Does the return on integration justify the investment?  Integration can be costly. And, if the only reason to integrate multiple platforms is to obtain data that is only marginally useful (for example, discovering that a certain VIP attendee is a vegetarian vs. learning that an entire audience segment attended the same three conference sessions on a new topic), the cost to obtain that data should be scrutinized.

Are the solution providers you are currently using open to integration? Not every legacy platform provider is keen on integrating, especially with a newcomer app developer. There is a level of risk associated with opening the data doors to an unknown company.  Some are very protective of their proprietary products. If integration is a goal for you, make sure that your technology partners are on board with it.

Do you have resources in house to take on integration? Integrating multiple external software platforms doesn’t always lie within the domain of an event organizer, trade association, or corporate IT department.  It is a specialized area of expertise with no true roadmaps. Plus, it’s complicated by the event lifecycle – i.e., when it’s event time, all hands are on deck to execute the event, not tinker with the software.

Integration can be very powerful. It can deliver capabilities to your organization and your event that set you apart from the competition, or it can become a complex quagmire that even your IT department tries to avoid. Getting help from solutions providers—especially those with robust platforms that do almost everything you need them to do and are open to integrating with other best-of-breed applications—can save you time and money. The integration experts at SmartSource Rentals can help.  At SmartSource Rentals we offer an array of event management software design to capture data that can lead to year-over-year cost savings and demonstrate ROI performance. Click here to learn more.

 

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