Processes for Effectively Managing Integrations: Interview with Connor Heinrich

Kelly Sarabyn

Connor Heinrich manages third party integrations at Abrigo, which sells compliance, credit risk, and lending solutions to financial institutions. He shared with us the importance of developing a process that aligns product with sales, marketing and client services, how to develop building blocks to a consistent integration experience at scale, and why you should stay close to the customer when scoping out a new integration.

What is the scope of your role at Abrigo? What is your professional background prior to working with integrations?

As Manager of the Third Party Integrations Product Team at Abrigo, my team and I are responsible for building and maintaining connections with technology partners to generate even greater functionality within our market-leading credit risk and lending solutions.

Our goal in integrating with these leading technology partners and solutions is to provide our customers a better user experience, a faster process, and a more comprehensive solution.

Prior to working with product integrations at Abrigo, I worked as a technology and big data consultant for the General Services Administration and supported making government IT procurement systems more efficient. Additionally, I was a sales rep at Bloomberg where I helped government affairs and federal and contracting professionals influence government action by delivering news, analytics, and data-driven decision tools.

A combination of technology and business experience prepares you well for a role in integrations as it is important to be able to dive into technical implementation and provide strong customer and partner relationship management.

How closely do you work with go-to-market teams like sales, business development, or marketing?

To successfully launch a product, the product and implementation teams needs to be aligned with the sales, client services and marketing teams. It is important that we are building products that our customers are excited about and that are easy to use and buy.

Abrigo’s sales, client services, and marketing feedback is vital in understanding what we should build and how it can positively impact our customers. 

Connor Heinrich

When you go to market with various partners, how products are used, priced, and sold can vary significantly and it is important to coordinate the communication across the teams.

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What are some common challenges you face in getting quality integrations built and how do you overcome them?

Access to information and navigating uncertainty are two problems that consistently come up when building integrations. It is important to have strong partner relationships that can help you learn as much as possible about how their systems work. It is helpful if they can readily provide training and documentation as questions arise.

It is hard enough to become an expert in your own internal software, let alone a partner software, so being able to lean on their expertise and have open communication is imperative to an integration’s success.

In addition to nurturing strong partner relationships, it is also important to have strong logging systems for your integrations so that when the inevitable production issues arise, you can work with your partners and have as much information as possible to solve the technical problems.

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Do you use any product or partner tech that really helps you do your job better?

Atlassian's JIRA software is vital to the job. Third party integrations are no different that internal software development in that you greatly benefit from having consistent sprint cycles, release schedules, and a reliable tracking system to make sure your software is going through quality assurance and the team is hitting agreed upon deadlines.

Any advice for organizations who are scaling the number of integrations they offer customers in terms of infrastructure or issues to look out for?

We have been able to successfully scale our integrations by making functionality and support services consistent.

For example, we use the same UI for enabling and entering third party credentials across the integrations and we use the same back-end logging services to ensure each integration produces logs similarly. We also equip our support team with FAQs, training, and a central location to escalate issues across the third party product suite.

Recently, we started to expose more and more of our product functionality through our external API so that we can scale even further. As opposed to the number of integrations we can offer being limited by our own product roadmap, we want to empower customers and partners to build directly to our API so that they can create integrations on their schedule.

We have seen recent success with customers building their own CRM, document management, and appraisal integrations to support their loan origination workflows through our API.

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How do you recommend scoping out an integration? Do you recommend a particular framework?

I like to stay very close to the customer. When we take on a new third party integration, we always have initial customers in mind who are often using both systems separately.

To start, we conduct user interviews to understand the customer's requirements in detail and write out initial problem/solution statements and user stories.

Then we spec what the integration will look like from the user and data perspective, share our specs with our customer, partner and internal stakeholders to obtain feedback, and keep following this iterative process until we feel like we have a solid MVP to go to market.

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