How to Choose the Right System Integrator

Ryan Shields, Indaba Group

Ryan Shields, Indaba Group

Author Bio

Ryan Shields is the CEO and co-founder of Indaba Group, Inc. He was educated in Cape Town, South Africa and holds a Bachelors Degree in Information Systems Strategy. Whilst in the UK, Shields held positions with VISA International, NTT and Moodia, where he worked with leading brands to leverage the right technologies with the best people, for business success. Since moving to the US in 2008, he has elevated Indaba to be a reputable leader in the ecommerce global arena by expanding from humble beginnings in Denver, CO to California, Montana and the UK. Shields also serves on several advisory boards and his passionate about business transformation. He enjoys the Colorado outdoors and travel with his wife and two kids.

Finding the right system integrator (SI) can help almost any vertical of your company’s operations. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C organization, so much of your business begins and ends with your website. From the initial new customer handshake to fulfilling an order to re-engagement for organic growth, it’s critical to find the right SI to “stitch” all your organization’s processes together to create a comprehensive and inclusive system.

Those of us who work in the digital space have faced many of the same issues and decisions around system integrations. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the marketing side or in IT, ecommerce, fulfillment or accounting. Your company’s website plays a critical role with so many different departments, and integration with your other systems is crucial for both ROI and operational efficiencies.

Here are a few examples:

  • The marketing department spends 3-6 months finding the best, most appropriate commerce marketing automation platform.  After all of the legwork, research and cost analysis is complete, you find a perfect fit. Now how should you integrate it into the website? Do you go with an API? A custom integration? Should you factor in ongoing maintenance?
  • IT spends 9-12 months researching a new ecommerce platform and now needs to tie all the company’s systems together. But you have one front-end creative, one decent developer and 400 hours of new work to be completed. How will it all get done?
  • In fulfillment, you’re struggling with many manual processes, which lead to errors that are causing additional work for customer service to resolve. You want a new ecommerce platform that can help with your operational effectiveness. How can you get there?
  • Accounting sees sales tax coming in from all over – multiple states, a number of countries, online, brick-and-mortar. What technical systems are available to streamline this process and alleviate any errors coming in and out of the system?

But finding the right SI can be quite a process in itself. An ecommerce team must research an SI’s expertise, support levels, cultural fit and, of course, the cost. It’s not a task to be taken lightly!

A Few Questions to Ask

  1. Does the SI have the right experience?  Have they worked with the ERP, POS, shipping and tax applications you are currently using? Typically, you’ll need to address multiple APIs. Does the SI have custom integration experience to bring together divergent systems?
  2. How much discovery is completed up front? Does the SI look holistically at your business and make pragmatic, data-based recommendations?
  3. Is their approach strategic? Would your partnership stand the test of time? Does the SI align with your company’s vision, mission and long-term business goals?
  4. It’s often overlooked, but is the SI a cultural fit? It’s a very important consideration as you may be working with them on a daily basis.

It’s not only valuable to ask yourself these questions, but to align ALL internal stakeholders with this approach. The best SI will be able to bring all of your systems together, but without holistic internal alignment, you’re not going to get the most return from your investments.

Do the upfront work. Be honest, have the hard conversations and set expectations early and often. Even if discovery and research into both a new ecommerce platform and the subsequent SI takes extra time, do it. Doing your due diligence in the beginning can potentially save you thousands of hours in time and materials down the road.

To learn more about Indaba, visit our website.