Integrate New Features Without Getting Lost in the Weeds

5 min read Michael Carroll on Sep 30, 2023
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One of the most successful apparel brands in the world began the process of ERP digital transformation back in the year 2000. Considering its track record in profits and stock prices, you might think this was hugely successful.

You would be wrong.

Software mishandling led to disastrous consequences. As the retailer became a global brand, their fragmented supply chain led the company to deploy a separate supply chain management software (i2) alongside its legacy ERP instead of integrating it with the new SAP ERP. This decision required complex maintenance and workarounds. The system failed and ultimately led to a fall in stock prices by 20%, along with lawsuits and around $100 million in losses, according to reports released afterward. It took the company years to recover.

The retailer has recovered, thanks to a change in direction and better software handling. 

With careful planning and coordination, companies can avoid the same time-consuming mistakes when undergoing integrations. Let's explore what to consider when introducing new features to your tech stack to minimize the risk of getting lost in the weeds.

Factors to consider when introducing new features to your tech stack

By keeping in mind these key factors, you can minimize risks and streamline the integration of the right tech stack.

Assess your existing technology stack

Before diving into feature integration, conduct a comprehensive assessment of your current tech stack. Analyze everything — its architecture, design patterns, and underlying technologies. This will identify potential challenges, dependencies, and areas that may require modification during integration.

Define clear feature requirements and dependencies

Ensure you have a crystal-clear understanding of the requirements and dependencies of the new features you plan to integrate. Work across the enterprise with multiple departmental inputs to identify how these features interact with existing components and determine any necessary modifications or enhancements. This clarity sets the foundation for a smooth integration process.

Plan and design strategically

Develop a well-structured roadmap and project plan for integration. Collaborate closely with your development team to design an integration strategy that aligns with your architecture. Consider factors such as workflow, realistic timelines, resource allocation, and mitigation of potential disruptions to existing functionality. 

Leverage integration patterns and techniques

Leverage established integration patterns and techniques that suit your tech stack's unique requirements. Some of these techniques include: 

  1. Microservices architecture: Promotes loose coupling and scalability by breaking down a software system into independently deployable services that communicate through application programming interfaces (APIs).

  2. Event-driven architecture: Enables real-time communication and extensibility by allowing services or components to react and process events asynchronously.

  3. API-first approach: Fosters loose coupling and parallel development by designing and implementing APIs as interfaces before building underlying functionality, ensuring compatibility and scalability within the tech stack.

Established integration patterns may include: 

  1. Request-response: Involves communication between components or services where one sends a request and waits for a corresponding response.

  2. Publish-subscribe: Allows for asynchronous communication among multiple components or services by sending messages to a specific topic or channel, and subscribers who are interested in those messages receive them.

  3. Message queue: Involves using a message broker to facilitate asynchronous communication between components or services and is useful for decoupling components, enabling reliable communication, and managing workloads.

  4. Adapter or wrapper pattern: Reconciles the differences between two incompatible interfaces or systems through a standardized interface.

  5. Data integration: Focuses on synchronizing and harmonizing data across multiple systems or databases and ensures consistency and coherence of data across various operating systems, enabling seamless data sharing and processing.

  6. Event sourcing: Involves capturing and storing all changes to an application's state as a sequence of events and allows for auditing, replaying, and reconstructing the state of the system at any given point.

Implement robust testing and quality assurance

Implement comprehensive testing and quality assurance processes to ensure the seamless integration of new features. Conduct thorough functional and non-functional tests, including automated testing, to validate the integration. This approach helps identify and address potential bugs, conflicts, or regressions, ultimately improving the stability and reliability of your tech stack.

Document, monitor, and iterate

Document the integration process, challenges encountered, and valuable lessons learned. Emphasize the importance of ongoing monitoring and iteration based on user feedback and evolving requirements. Continuously track performance metrics and leverage insights gained during the development process to refine the integration and maximize value delivery.

This documentation is valuable not only for the current integration process but the next. Technology continuously evolves, and establishing a habit of clear documentation can help future integrations succeed by establishing precedents, identifying common obstacles, and creating a historical guide to help iterate future integration strategies that meet business goals.

Consider scalability

Evaluate the impact of new features on the scalability of your tech stack. Anticipate increased user load and ensure your infrastructure can handle it. Assess the need for additional resources, such as servers or cloud services, to support the added functionality without compromising performance.

Prioritize user experience

The human factor is often missing in failed integrations, so place user experience at the forefront of your integration efforts. Assess how the new features will enhance usability, efficiency, and overall satisfaction for end users. Continuously gather and incorporate user feedback to refine the integration and deliver an exceptional customer experience.

Implement change management

McKinsey estimates that just 30% of digital transformations succeed, but companies with clear change management system strategies beat those numbers. Implement a robust change management strategy, engaging stakeholders and ensuring effective communication throughout the integration process. Provide adequate support and training to users and stakeholders to minimize disruption and facilitate a smooth transition.

Plan for long-term maintenance and support

Integrations aren't a one-time thing. Plan for ongoing maintenance, bug fixes, updates, and enhancements to sustain the stability and functionality of your tech stack. Stay proactive in addressing issues and continuously improve the integrated features based on evolving business needs and technological advancements. This approach allows companies to optimize performance continuously as the integration progresses and long after the change has happened.

Successfully navigate the integration process

Integrating new features into your tech stack is a necessary but nerve-wracking undertaking. But by considering factors such as understanding your existing tech stack, defining requirements and dependencies, thoughtful planning and design, implementing integration patterns, rigorous testing, documentation, and continuous iteration, you can introduce new features seamlessly and avoid getting lost in the weeds during app development. 

One of the best things you can do is leverage the expertise of an outside partner — one like PubNub. We offer the infrastructure you need to build new features and apps so that you can deploy faster, plus a community of partners with services built directly into the PubNub platform. Embrace the opportunity to innovate and enhance your tech stack while ensuring a positive user experience and maintaining the stability and scalability of your system.

Contact us to learn how PubNub's platform can increase your tech integration success through purpose-built real-time APIs, SDKs, solution kits, and integrations. Better yet, try the platform out by registering for a free trial.