Integration always sounds like a good thing for businesses. Who wouldn’t want their data, apps, and contact info to be more “integrated”? But what does that mean in practice? What problems can Integration Platforms as a Service (iPaaS) solve for people who aren’t already tech wizards or software developers?
When it comes to technology in business, experience speaks louder than theory. With this in mind, I sat down with a Zapier user to see what impact a small-scale iPaaS can make for business professionals’ lives. Enter Ariana.
Ariana is a Customer Success Manager here at TrustRadius. She makes sure that clients get the most out of their partnership with our company. This means she works with many clients at different stages, from onboarding to scaling their use of the platform, and she plays a role in delegating and managing the workflow of her entire team. To do so, she’s usually neck-deep in Salesforce, Airtable, and Slack, among a host of other apps.
Like any informed business professional, Ariana knew that there had to be a way for these apps to work together. Unfortunately, her many of her apps didn’t have native integrations with each other, resulting in “too many tools doing different things but none communicating with each other.”
In other cases, apps that offered native integrations didn’t actually perform the function she wanted them too. For instance, Airtable and Salesforce have an integration, but “the integration [only]… does one thing, which isn’t the thing I want it to do. So in order to be able to have more control over the trigger and the action, I had to use Zapier between Salesforce and Airtable.”
The lack of automated integration between project management, CRM, and collaboration tools resulted in a lot of manual repetition of data and checking the status of various processes and clients. This caused a huge time suck that could be devoted directly to clients and their needs.
Choosing and implementing Zapier
To address the inefficiency in her workflow, Ariana turned to Zapier. Someone else in the company already had a Zapier subscription, so it was simplest for her to be added to the preexisting subscription. Her experience is a bit different from someone looking for an iPaaS without any prior connections to a particular product, but she believes that Zapier “is the one I would have chosen anyway, just because it has so many options and it’s so simple to do.”
Zapier’s simplicity is a big selling point for non-technical business folks. In Ariana’s experience implementing Zapier for herself, the platform was incredibly intuitive and easy to learn without requiring any training materials. She could start making Zaps almost immediately after exploring the platform.
At the time of our conversation, she’d been using Zapier for six months. So how does she use it?
Zapier fills the gaps and breaks down the walls in workflow
Zapier primarily integrates Ariana’s CRM (Salesforce), calendar (Google Calendar), and communications channel (Slack), among others. Some Zaps she’s set up notify her when accounts’ statuses in Salesforce change or when certain events are coming up on her calendar that require prior attention. She also connects Slack to Trello so that when someone Slacks her a task, she can push it directly to where she needs it as a card on her Trello board. Zapier also supports integrations for notifications and updates between apps for personal and company-wide use. My personal favorite example is the “Cash Money Bot,” which notifies a Slack channel when Sales closes a deal.
She still adds Zaps as she adopts new apps and needs to integrate them with the rest of her toolkit. Fortunately, once she’s set up a Zap, it’s fully automated and she can forget about it unless she changes the configurations of the apps she’s integrating.
Zapier’s scalability for personal and small team use is magnified by the usability of its custom integration interface. If Zapier supports integration between two apps, Ariana finds it very easy to build her own integrations to do what she wants within the library of actions they have for the integration between those two apps. The interface is intuitive, and “it prompts you all along the way,” including a testing function to make sure Zaps operate as intended before they’re deployed.
Every rose has its thorn
Zapier’s current integration strategy is to have a wide range of apps that can integrate with each other, at the cost of a shallower number of possible integrations between any two apps. For users like Ariana, that means if Zapier doesn’t offer the specific integration action that they need then they have to create more complicated, multistep workarounds.
For example, Ariana wants to send a notification 2 days prior to certain Airtable events to her Slack. Zapier integrates Airtable and Slack but doesn’t provide that particular action. Ariana’s solution is to Zap Airtable and Google Calendar, then Zap Google Calendar and Slack together since their integration does offer that action. The process works, but it’s more complicated and more expensive than if Zapier offered the event notification action in the Airtable-Slack integration.
The pricing component is worth keeping in mind when using these multi-step Zaps. With Zapier, you pay not only per Zap, but per step in each Zap. This means that using more than one one-step Zap instead of complex multi-step Zaps, and keeping Zaps as simple as possible in general, can be a substantial cost saver.
Zapier’s integration depth can vary by app and app type. In Ariana’s experience, “there are some where it’s like, ‘Oh, I can customize almost anything!’, and then there are gonna be some… where there’s [only] one option.” This variation means buyers should look into what options are available for the apps they want to integrate, and utilize other users’ experiences as much as possible.
When Zapier falls short
If Zapier doesn’t have the integration that you want, and there isn’t a workaround solution on the platform, Ariana offers the most time-tested advice around: “Googling is usually helpful!” There are sometimes one-off integrations or nuanced vendors that offer specific integrations which fill the gaps that large vendors like Zapier and IFTTT can’t, or haven’t yet, filled. One example is Airtable Importer by Railsware, which allows Ariana to sync Airtable and Google Sheets, which then syncs with Google Data Studio. These ad hoc integrations are not always available, and they’re usually not free, but they can address specialty integrations while Zapier handles the bulk of integration and workflow automation.
The main impact Ariana’s seen comes from the workflow automation that makes daily processes much more efficient. A lot of the tedious account monitoring and workflow processing is automated and only demands her attention when there’s an event worthy of it. “Instead of having to go look at a tool or report to see a status, the status gets pushed proactively to a tool like Slack as an alert to me.” For anyone customer-facing, automating reporting, status tracking, and event/meeting management can help maximize the utility of the myriad applications and tools at their disposal while minimizing the maintenance burden that comes with each piece of software.
Do you find yourself relating to Ariana at any point? Zapier, or another iPaaS product, may be what you need to automate time sucks and focus on the work that only you can do! Want to see how the small scale iPaaS stack up? Check out the comparison post here. Want more user insights and experiences? Check out reviews of Zapier here, and compare it to IFTTT and PieSync here!
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