The Web Project Guide Podcast: Episode 14: Know Your Integrations (w/Greg Dunlap)

It’s The Web Project Guide Podcast, and we made you a new episode.

The most stressful points of any project — at least, any project in which I’ve been a part of that includes technical planning — comes when the integrations are finally surfaced as a priority.

Every time, integrations are understood as an important milestone. Yet, because they’re complicated and unwieldy, they’re always held off for just a bit too long. There are a lot of simple base-level decisions that happen at the start of a project — base-level decisions that require focus and collaboration — which makes the detailed work of a single integration feel a bit … premature.

We’ll get to it eventually, you know.

And then we do get to it. And we uncover things we didn’t know before. We ask ourselves, “Why didn’t we do this earlier?” when in fact, we know why: because we weren’t ready.

That’s the dirty secret of integration work. We’re never really ready. Integration work is less engineering and more discovery and research. The solution can often be easy: but finding the problem is hard.

This week, we brought in Greg Dunlap — content strategist, Director of Strategy at Lullabot, and ongoing Drupal evangelist — to talk through both the basics of integrations and the strategy behind when an integration is even necessary. He’s great, and I suspect Deane and Greg found a kindred spirit in each other.

From our interview:


I think one of the best things that you can do is be willing to tell your client, “No, this is a terrible idea.”


Oh yeah.


How often does that come up for? Tell us about how those conversations go. I know from my 15 years doing professional services. But how often do you find yourself sitting a client down and saying, “Look, this is just not the right way to do this.”


Pretty often. I think that it just depends because sometimes there are things where if the data lives elsewhere, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to start to throw it all away. Again, I’m working with a state government right now and they’ve got a service where they manage all of their state agencies and their contacts and their hours and their locations and all of that kind of stuff. And they’ve got that information sitting there. It doesn’t make sense to duplicate it even if it’s going to be a lot of work. There’s a trade off there of the work of repurposing all of this stuff into the CMS or not.

I think a lot of it really comes down to the value and the importance of the data to your organization because if there’s data that is absolutely critical to your organization’s livelihood, be it content or other kinds of information, then owning that data and having control over it has real value. And I think there’s a value there that a lot of clients don’t understand because they think making it someone else’s problem is always going to be easier. But when you have mission critical information, that’s not necessarily always true.

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