Have you ever stopped to think about how software integration makes your life easier? For example, you can donate to a cause and seconds later invite your social media followers to do the same—without even leaving the thank-you screen.
You can’t see it, but there’s an integration at work there, connecting the donation website to a social media platform. If you’ve never really stopped to think about how these processes work, that probably means they’re working well. The whole point of a software integration is to create automated workflows that you don’t have to think about.
Before you can put these useful automation tools to work for you, you’ll need to understand something about what they are and how they can help.
What Is Software Integration?
A software integration connects two or more software applications so they can share information. This communication between applications gives users more flexibility by automating tasks that might otherwise need to be done by a person.
Software integrations can save time and boost efficiency by automating tasks that otherwise require a person to do them.
Integrations save time and increase efficiency by automating repetitive tasks. They can also minimize the errors by sharing information directly, rather than relying on a person to re-enter information over and over.
How Software Integrations Create an Automated Workflow
Any task that involves a lot of data entry or multiple software tools could be a good candidate for software integration. Since CourseStorm is a class registration software tool, let’s take the example of posting a new class calendar.
Imagine you’re running an adult arts education program. You offer classes in painting, drawing, and fiber arts with more than a dozen classes scheduled each month. It’s time to post the new class calendar. If you want to make sure every student hears about your classes, you’ll need to post information on your website and social media, plus send out an email announcement.
Here’s how the process of posting a new class calendar might look depending on the level of software integration you have in place.
With no software integration, you have to enter each class one at a time into the course calendar on your website. Next you go to each of your social media accounts and schedule a post about the information for each one. You have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, so you have to enter the information multiple times. Finally, just before you head off to a meeting, you quickly write an email to send to your mailing list.
It’s only after you get back from your meeting that a member of your staff points out you wrote the wrong time for the Advanced Macrame course. You have to send out a correction email stating the right time. For the next week, you get emails and a couple of phone calls expressing confusion over the class time.
Adding a couple of basic integration tools makes your life a little easier. You’ve connected your email tool to your website so an email automatically goes out to your whole list when you update the class calendar. Great! You’re also using a social media scheduling tool that allows you to create posts for all platforms without signing into each one individually. You still have to work with multiple pieces of software, but it’s a bit easier than the no-integration option.
With advanced integrations and fully automated workflows, you enter the data once. You log into your website, update the calendar, and click save. Then you take a break before your next meeting because the software integrations do the rest. They automatically create an email and post to social media on your behalf using templates you’ve set up ahead of time.
What Can I Automate?
With the right integration tools, you can automate almost anything software does. You might look for integration tools to help you:
- Display information on your website
- Move or share information between databases
- Keep a calendar updated
- Automatically update to-do lists
- Send emails based on customer actions
- Post to social media
- Compile attendee and donor data
This is just a sampling of what software integrations can do. Take a close look at your work processes and spot any time that information needs to be copied across platforms. Each time that happens is an opportunity to automate processes with a software integration.
Types of Software Integrations
Without getting too technical, we can divide software integrations into three broad functional types: direct, assisted, and custom.
Zapier lets you connect your CourseStorm data to more than 5,000 popular apps.
- Direct integrations are built into one software to allow it to interact with another software. For example, the CourseStorm calendar feed allows you to connect your CourseStorm software directly with Google Calendar, Outlook or Mac Calendar. It will automatically import your classes and events to your calendar, monitor for changes, and update accordingly.
- Assisted integrations use a third-party tool to connect two pieces of software. Zapier is a common example of a third-party integration tool. You can use it to connect your CourseStorm data to more than 5,000 popular apps. You can tell this is a third-party integration, because you set up actions, known as Zaps, on the Zapier website, rather than directly through CourseStorm or the other software you’re connecting to.
- Custom integrations use an API to allow you to build your own integration between two otherwise disconnected tools. Creating a custom integration requires in-depth technical knowledge. It’s a task best suited to an experienced developer.
If you’re integrating between your Wordpress website and other software tools, you may need a plugin. A plugin is a piece of software you can add on to your Wordpress site to add new functionality. Many software tools offer approved Wordpress plugins including ConstantContact, Hubspot, and CourseStorm.
How Do I Get Integrations for My Software?
Although integrations are incredibly useful, not all software tools have integrations built in. You will have to do some research to see what’s available for your software. Ideally, you’d ask about integrations before you invest in a particular software option.
To learn about available integrations for specific software, you can:
- Ask the software support team about their most popular integrations
- Check the software’s help site or app exchange (if it has one)
- Look at what is available on Zapier.com
- Do an internet search for integrations + the name of your software
The right integrations can simplify your work life and make common tasks a little bit easier. That gives the people on your team more time to do what people do best—be creative, thoughtful, strategic, and passionate about the work you do.
CourseStorm believes in simplifying the registration process to streamline access to education. To do that, we offer a range of software integrations including direct, assisted and custom tools. If you have questions about integrating CourseStorm with other software or your website, reach out. We’re happy to help!