You’ve been using Slack or Microsoft Teams. Perhaps, alternatively, you’re helping a client who is.
You’ve also heard about the amazing value that connectivity to your applications can provide your organization...especially the CRM.
Now you’re thinking that you’re ready to bring them together!
There’s just one thing.
You’re an enterprise company. As a result, there’s a lot of complexity, variability, and compliance in your business.
There are many strategies for connecting your CRM and messaging platforms, each with their pros and cons. Which is the right approach for your enterprise business?
Having helped hundreds of companies over the past 5 years bring their CRM + Messaging platforms together, the team at Troops created this strategy guide for integrating your messaging application with your CRM to help you achieve the full potential of customer 360.
Consider this a rubric of what you or your partners will need to understand while coming up with your ideal integration strategy.
We’ve organized this guide into 6 high level sections:
Each section lays some of the key factors to consider when developing your strategy. By using this guide, you should be able to develop the right strategy for the unique needs of your business.
Why Connect Your CRM and Messaging Platforms
If we were to distill it down, it really comes down to reducing friction.
This can take many forms, including:
- Making existing business processes and data flows run more smoothly.
- Empowering new employees to ramp more quickly with guided workflows in place that require minimal to no admin or training support.
- Giving freedom and velocity for non-technical business users to create supporting workflows autonomously.
- Adjusting new processes and workflows on the fly.
Speed and scale is the name of the game when it comes to enterprise businesses. Thus, the strategy and technical solution needs to support this.
Types of Integration
There are generally four ways that companies can connect their CRM & Messaging platforms.
- APIs & Webhooks - These integrations rely on developers manually connecting your CRM to your messaging platform on a point to point basis. This usually means connecting a single field in the CRM to a fixed location inside your messaging platform, such as a channel. These are the simplest and often fastest to deploy, but they are limited in functionality and scale.
- Native Integrations / Bots - Native integrations are pre-built by the CRM vendors. They provide more functionality than individual API or Webhook integrations, but you are limited to the functionality and integrations provided by the CRM vendor. For example, Gainsight’s Customer Success platform offers connectivity to Slack through its “Sallybot”, but does not offer any connectivity to Microsoft Teams.
- Integration Platforms - IPaaS solutions try to integrate everything with everything for their clients which may include CRM and messaging applications. Due to their flexibility, they may require a higher level of “tech savviness” to be useful on an individual level, plus limiting the autonomy and efficiency of non-technical users while loading up the workload for those responsible for managing the integrations; assuming a process for non-technical users to get workflows via integrations made even exists.
- Human Workflow Platforms - Leveraging the concept of a user required to create human workflows with tools like Troops, individuals can autonomously improve their day-to-day functions through integrations that create human workflows regardless of how technical they are themselves. This brings a boost to culture, visibility, collaboration, efficiency, and productivity to all those who use any of the tools involved in the workflows created.
Philosophical Approach: Which Integration Strategy to Choose?
We’ve talked about this before; but the next frontier of application of connectivity and automation is Human Workflow. Specifically, not just connecting your systems together, but connecting specific individuals to the information and actions they need in flow.
The promise of platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams is that they are increasingly becoming “where work happens.”
In the case of “doing work” in your messaging platform, there’s a maturity continuum.
No integration means you’re simply giving your team a better chat platform to collaborate.
Basic system integration means you’re sharing information in channels to help catalyze information...often in a restricted way based on how a particular native integration works.
Human workflow empowers individuals to receive targeted information unique to them and take the proper action in your CRM or other applications in messaging in response. It also allows users to do this in reverse: updating their CRM from messaging platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams.
At the onset, you should have a vision and strategy for what makes sense for your organization. You don’t have to start out with human workflow which is the most sophisticated implementation of CRM & messaging connectivity. However, be sure to recognize that it will require a different set of needs and applications than basic integration. We recommend reading more on the differences here.
Time Horizon: Short-Term vs. Long-Term
Your strategy will change greatly depending whether you’re trying to solve a very specific, immediate problem, or you’re developing a long term strategy of bringing your CRM and messaging platforms together.
If you simply need something at this very moment, then perhaps enlisting a developer to build a webhook might be the best and quickest solution.
However, if you believe that enterprise messaging will play an increasingly important role in your business and that application connectivity is important, perhaps you’ll be better suited towards more purpose built, centrally managed solutions.
We’ve seen what happens when companies have a mountain of rogue webhooks with no owners: and it's not pretty.
Building for the future doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go all-in right now, building out every possible connection and workflow. In reality, it means that you are selecting an integration strategy now that will grow with you in the future. Alternatively, focusing on the wrong time horizon will lead to an integration strategy that will have to be scrapped once you evolve in your needs and sophistication.
Once you have a strong thesis on your philosophical approach to integration and time horizon, the next step is aligning your technical requirements with your connectivity strategy. Keep in mind that your technical needs may evolve over time.
CRM Much? The Reality of Multiple CRMs
Less than a year ago, Troops performed a CRM + Messaging study to truly understand the market needs as it relates to bringing the CRM experience into Slack or Microsoft Teams.
We found that over 33% of companies have more than one CRM instance. This percentage was over 50% in companies greater than 1,000 employees due to mergers or different business units.
If you or your customers are in this camp, you will need to find solutions that allow you to manage and configure workflow from multiple CRMs in one place. Native CRM integrations do not provide this level of robust management, but integration companies or purpose driven solutions like Troops do.
The Messaging Wars Aren’t Over Yet: Using Multiple Platforms
Despite what you may hear, the messaging wars are still in full swing for enterprise businesses. It is very common for pockets of a company to be using one platform like Slack while another part is using Microsoft Teams.
Unification efforts do exist. However, they are often slow and ever changing. At Troops, we’ve had customers attempting to get everyone on a single platform for over 2+ years.
There is good news, though. You don’t need to wait until everyone is in the same place to start creating a ton of value and breaking down silos.
Purpose-built messaging products can accommodate supporting integration and workflow from a single destination across any combination of platforms or instances you may have.
One particular scenario where this can be exciting is on the heels of M&A activity where companies can employ this strategy to start sharing information to drive business.
Another important component to be considered is aligning the complexity of your CRM to your integration strategy. For example, if you have a significant number of custom objects or many workflows that require cross-object elements, you need to make sure that the integration approach accommodates support of these.
Most native integrations, as well as some IpaaS tools, do not support the level of robustness today that comes with a highly complex CRM. Do your homework on whether the solutions you’re evaluating do.
Adjacent CRM Integrations
Though a lot of data flows from adjacent applications like marketing automation, sales engagement, customer success tools and support platforms into the CRM, there is often a variety of gaps remaining. This can be by purposeful design not to overburden the CRM. It can very well also be because these tools simply do not integrate well.
In order to truly obtain a true customer 360, eventually you’re going to want to have the ability for data and workflows from many applications to flow into Slack or Microsoft Teams.
No one needs to contend that data on customers and revenue is sensitive.
The beauty of messaging is that it can democratize and unsilo this information to groups of people that impact the customer experience. The scary part is what that can mean for data governance!
Different solutions behave differently. The important thing to note here is that they should respect your permissions, rules, and variations to remain compliant and enhance your workflow vs. disrupt it.
If the goal is to remove friction so teams can be more productive and efficient, you’re going to need to think about user experience.
We’re not just talking about administrators. We’re also talking about the entire company, including the business users who will be interfacing with these workflows.
Engagement (or Lack Thereof)
Like any productivity effort, once you roll out a new piece of technology or enhanced capabilities, you will want to understand its efficacy.
Are people using it? Who are my power users? Who may need some enablement and help? Which use cases are successful and which ones are failing?
Understanding this information at a smaller scale is critical before any type of organization-wide deployment. The last thing you want to do is roll out a broken process to 500 users and then have to roll it back with your tail between your legs.
At enterprise scale, the stakes are higher. With that being said, it’s important to have a way to measure engagement. If you plan on simply sharing some information to broad groups of people in channels, you’d probably be fine with some type of survey. However, if you opt to enable human workflow where individual business users are seeing and touching things, you’re going to want to find solutions that can be measured at the user level.
Workflow Building Democratization
Traditionally, the ability to set up workflows has been gated to small technical teams in operations or IT. Although this can be great for standardization and governance, it can easily slow organizations down. For example, we’ve heard nightmares of people having to put in a ticket that takes two months for something as simple as an email alert.
The most progressive organizations believe in a world where any employee can get the information or workflow they need to support their daily tasks, on demand.
As you're coming up with your strategy, it’s important to understand that empowering non-technical users to set up their workflow is something that you foresee as important for your organization in the coming years. As a result, you’re going to want to pick a solution that enables this mindset.
Central Management of Workflows
The thought of a vast amount of processes and information flowing from CRM (and adjacent applications) into messaging can be both exciting...and scary.
There are ways to approach this where you can have complete visibility and control in a centrally managed application or a more scattered approach. In the latter, this might be a combination of native integrations coming from their apps and webhooks. It’s also very common for companies to start this way and then scratch their heads later on on how this happened and how to get things “under control.”
Decide upfront how important, both for today and the future, central management of your integration of CRM and messaging is so that you don’t end up scratching your head too.
Navigating This New World: You Don’t Have To Do It Alone
Working in messaging is a new paradigm. But, if people like Marc Benioff are saying they’re “rebuilding everything Slack first” it’s something that we ought to start getting used to it.
There are many imperative best practices that we have learned over the years through our experience that we had no idea about on the onset. Don’t worry, we’ll be writing about these soon.
As you or your partner makes this transition, you need to think about how important enablement and support is for your strategy. Are you comfortable figuring out this new paradigm on your own? Do you want to enlist a 3rd party or vendor who has experience to improve your odds of being successful out of the gates?
There are no wrong answers here, just decisions which will impact your velocity and likelihood of success.
Putting The Pieces Together
Future-proofing your strategy while simultaneously meeting your current needs is tough, and we get that at Troops. With this guide, we're hoping to make that decision process a smoother one for your and your organization. What many of you will see as a key takeaway here is to be aware of your options and ensure that you're enabling yourself and your organization to grow in this new paradigm of messaging-first work.