Real-Time Integration Challenges CRM


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Do you feel the need for speed?

Speed is fun. Race cars, motor boats, jet planes, rockets: We like to go fast. Same goes for connecting CRM with other critical systems. Clients want real-time integration. They feel the need for speed.

But how fast does the data really need to flow? That’s a pertinent question, since the more real-time your integration between CRM and the ERP, product management, financial or any other system, the more you’ll can see an increase in project cost and complexity.

Accordingly, when weighing your integration strategy, use this workplace metaphor: “Does the system need a phone call, or will an email suffice?” As in:

  • Phone call: The system needs data right away, because otherwise it can’t move forward. If so, and it’s a mission-critical business process, that’s often a good case for real-time integration (although technically that’s near-real time).
  • Email: The system can get by with batch processing, receiving updates perhaps every hour, or daily. The benefit of batch? Less complexity, testing time, or cost, possibly for equivalent business benefits to real-time.

Weighing Real-Time Versus Batch

Tie your choice of integration to business requirements. For example, the price book for one Innoveer client, a medical device manufacturer, contains thousands of items. But the company’s packaging, product prices, and the products themselves change constantly, with prices further varying based customers’ contractual agreements.

Of course, that’s a lot of constantly changing data and pricing logic to track, and salespeople can’t afford to get it wrong. Accordingly, the business opted to not use batch operations to move the data between the product management system and CRM system, but rather to integrate the two systems in real time. That way, salespeople have access to the most up-to-date possible products and pricing information.

But when it came to order status and customer updates, the medical device manufacturer opted to use batch processing instead. True, salespeople want current customer and order information, including order status (did the order ship today?) and to see if there are any credit holds, especially when they’re on the phone with a customer. But salespeople don’t need to see that information updated in real time. Accordingly, batch operations suffice, happening hourly (for updating order information), or just daily (for customer address changes).

Weighing Integration Platforms

Beyond just thinking about batch versus real-time integration, also weigh:

  • Quantity: Cloud CRM providers cap the number of API calls you can make per month, without paying extra. So, how many calls will you be making, how much data are you bringing back, and when it comes back, how much further processing is required? (And can any of these calls be rewritten to be more efficient?)
  • Platform: Does your business have any integration platforms already in place? The ones we most often see are Informatica, BizTalk, Cast Iron, and sometimes WebSphere. If a platform is already in place, we tend to use it.
  • Scale: If no integration platform is in place, do you need one? For small or pilot projects, for example, using’s automated data loading tools to handle a one-off batch load from an Excel spreadsheet–provided it involves fewer than 50,000 rows of data–may suffice.

A one-time data load is relatively simple. Ditto for many types of one-way batch operations. But anything more than that, including real-time integration, will require more planning and testing, especially to mitigate potential security, stability or other infrastructure issues. How will errors be handled, information governed, or data backed up? With real-time integration, for example, a lot of error-handling logic must be built into the process. Whereas with batch, perhaps the offending records simply drop off, and you retry later. In other words, each type of integration has its own nuances, and requires different approaches to ensure that it’s successful.

Judge Integration Results, Not Speed

Again, one type of integration isn’t better than the other. While speed would seem to trump all else, in fact the question should always be, how much speed do you really need, what’s already in place, and how much do you want to pay? Answer those questions, and you’ll have a rapid integration plan of attack.

Learn More

To ensure that your cloud CRM program excels, see the big picture. To help, review our “top 10” marketing, sales or service steps to see how your program compares to best practices and our benchmarks.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Nathan E Photography.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


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