If you’ve considered new enterprise software for your organization lately—whether for a function such as unified communications, collaboration, customer relationship management, or something else—you’ve probably noticed that cloud-based integrations are among the key features many providers like to tout.
So what are cloud-based integrations, and why do they matter? Providers will tell you that working with a platform that offers robust integrations will make your life easier—and they’re right. But if you’re among the many businesses looking for new enterprise software solutions this year, it’s important to understand exactly what these integrations do so that you know what to look for to enable teams’ best work.
What are app integrations?
App integrations might sound complicated (and on the backend, they can be for developers), but they actually simplify things for users. Essentially an app integration plugs one cloud service into another, so that second app can provide two-in-one functionality.
For example, if you use Skype, you’re probably familiar with its dedicated desktop app. But Skype also offers integrations that allow you to use Skype via other platforms. By installing Skype’s Google Chrome integration, you can make Skype calls right from your Chrome browser.
How app integrations simplify work
Slack. Salesforce. Google Drive. Microsoft Teams. These are just a few of the apps workers use every day to share information, collaborate, and get the job done. Even before COVID-19 and remote work put even greater importance on seamless technology, the average enterprise was using 129 different software apps for work. And nearly 10% of businesses employ 200 or more apps within their ecosystems.
While the right dedicated app makes it easier to get work done, the sheer volume of cloud-based solutions most workers need to use creates its own headaches. In one report examining app ecosystems in the workplace, 56% of employees said they find searching for information in various apps disruptive to productivity, and nearly seven in 10 say they waste an hour of each workday navigating between apps. That’s 32 wasted days per employee every year. This lost time that adds up to lost value, too: an estimated $500K in revenue drain.
Cloud-based app integrations make using different solutions for various work functions more efficient because they automate the flow of information. This means that instead of having to switch back and forth between apps, you can access everything you need and get more work done within a single interface. For example, if you use Google Chrome, there are countless extensions you can install that let you perform functions you’d otherwise need to leave your browser and use a separate app to do.
Two ways to integrate your apps
When two different apps connect and share information, they do so via an API, or Application Programming Interface. This is the background programming that allows each applications’ servers to communicate, similar to how you would use a waiter to order and receive food at a restaurant. If you’ve ever shared a photo to Twitter right from your Instagram, then you’ve done so via an API, which operates invisibly in the background of the Instagram application.
Like with the above example, you can take advantage of prebuilt applications, letting you use APIs without having to know any programming or build the app yourself. For example, when you install a plugin on Chrome or Firefox, the app already comes fully designed and ready to go.
For greater customization to meet your specific business needs, you can build your own integration or application using an API. However, the downside of building your own integration is that it can be costly, time consuming, and require regular maintenance and upkeep.
To make things easier, there are services such as Zapier, Workato, and Built.io that allow you to use their tools to build your own integrations, without having to worry about writing your own code. These will save you time, and potentially money as you build out and integrate your different services – both on premise (on your machine) and in the cloud.
Which method is better?
When deciding which route to pursue, it’s important to understand what functionality you need, as prebuilt apps often only encompass the most common use cases. For example, if you wanted to schedule RingCentral meetings directly from your Outlook calendar, you’d use an application like our RingCentral for Outlook integration.
But if you wanted to automatically import information that exists within your business’s custom-built analytics platform, you would need to use an iPaaS service like those mentioned above, or build your own integration using the RingCentral APIs.
How cloud-based integrations make work better
We’ve already outlined some of the ways app overload can cost your business—and if you’re using multiple apps to get work done, you’re probably all too familiar with these added headaches. At the same time, if you’re using software that specifically fits your business needs, it seems silly to miss out on key functionalities just to reduce the complexity of dealing with different software. Using cloud-integrations gets rid of this conflict in several ways:
1. Single point of access: Instead of having to use various solutions and systems, cloud-based integrations allow you to do everything you need in a single place. This saves time, reduces hassle, and provides other key benefits: it reduces information silos that can result in blind spots and errors as information gets exported from app to app.
2. Integrations provide a personalized experience: Every business and team is unique, employing various combinations of tools and workflows based on their needs and preferences. Employing cloud-based integrations allows you to create an ecosystem that truly meets these needs, connecting the tools and apps everyone is already using (without the clutter and confusion of features that are not required).
3. Integrations are highly flexible. Whether it’s integrating a new tool your team just started using, phasing out old software, or optimizing a new workflow, integrations are highly flexible—meaning you can implement changes without heavy cost, delay, or steep learning curve.
Integrations with RingCentral
The rise of remote work catapulted workplace communications to the forefront of digital transformation. Instead of being merely another tool, communications platforms have become the new office: they’re where employees meet to plan, collaborate, and often execute their work. This shift means that finding a unified communications platform capable of connecting with all the other tools teams use is a greater priority than ever.
With the RingCentral app, teams have everything they need to supercharge communication and collaboration. It combines team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone into a single platform, allowing users to switch between modes with a single click.
It also offers both open APIs that allow you to build your own integrations, as well as a robust suite of out-of-the-box integrations to connect with the tools you’re already using. Whether it’s Salesforce, Okta, Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams, or another enterprise solution, RingCentral’s integrations mean you can message, video-conference, or call team members without leaving the app you’re already working in.
Learn more about integrating RingCentral with your favorite workplace app at ringcentral.com/apps.
Also check out our most popular apps in the post, “10 Must-Have Apps to Increase Work Productivity.”
Originally published Jul 29, 2020, updated Jan 28, 2021