Is it time to pull the plug on Plug and Play?

  1. chevron left iconIs it time to pull the plug on Plug and Play?
Alexander RöthingerFebruary 16, 2023
  • Technology

Alexander Röthinger, censhare’s Chief Technical Officer, explains why ease of integration shouldn’t be confused with just flipping a switch.

The industry has been talking about composable business or interoperability of systems for the last couple of years and for ease of interpretation, it’s become increasingly popular to refer to it as ‘plug and play’. It’s a common claim from software manufacturers, promising low effort implementation that can just be decided on one day and sent live the next. But, even though there has been a marked increase in the flexibility of systems through the way they can be connected and the entry points they provide, it isn’t quite the ‘plug and play’ we hear so much about.

Take APIs, for example. Whether you have an API-first paradigm or you’re working via headless CMS that lets you connect more or less everything together, the systems might well offer this kind of seamless connectivity. However, the data structures you’re moving back and forth behind them are always very individual. There will always be a degree of customization needed to make composable systems work together.

So, what does the industry really mean when it says ‘plug and play’? Clearly, it’s nothing like attaching a dongle to a PC so you can use your mouse.

That data question is key. Within organizations, it’s important that people have a clear understanding of the data that is being managed. That data has to be concise, it has to be structured and, of course, it has to be correct. If there are redundancies, or you’re missing an important unique key that identifies a certain data set, then your systems will most likely fail, regardless of how easy they were to integrate at a software level.

So you’re asking:

  • What do I want to get out of this?
  • What is the problem I’m trying to solve?
  • Do I have the right data?
  • Do I understand the data I have?
  • Is it adequate to solve my problem?

Then, and only then can you start considering the target systems that you’re trying to connect.

The other inference of ‘plug and play’ integrations is that any organization, regardless of the size of their IT teams, can simply slot in a piece of software and off they go. Integration Platforms and low-code solutions have already brought great benefits, but for something on the scale of DAM, PIM or headless CMS, the process often depends on detailed technical knowledge.

Ideally, the business is aware of the technical needs of the implementation and has specialists in house that understand the data and the processes involved. And it should be part of the consultation process with integrators or software vendors during project initiation, that they should prepare the customer for what’s ahead.

As I’ve already mentioned, the most common reason for failure during an implementation is not having properly assessed the data structures, making sure they have clean and usable data sets. It is often something so frustratingly simple that can cause the process to fail. A whole PIM implementation can become a white elephant just because the teams have failed to agree a file naming convention. Great systems integrators look out for small details like this.

The final piece of the puzzle in making ‘plug and play’ successful is getting comfortable with the idea that it’s an ongoing process. Again, the implication of ‘plug’ is that you put it in, turn it on and off you go. And again, the reality is somewhat different.

Over time, processes change and data structures are rarely static. For any integrated system, it’s an ongoing program of data cleansing iteration, and improvement. Supporting that program should be a platform or system that is flexible, adaptable over time and one that can cater to changes in data structures. Sometimes, that flexibility comes at the expense of simplicity, and systems like censhare’s, are indeed highly versatile and can adjust to the customer’s needs as their business grows.

Much is promised in the software space that solutions can be seamlessly integrated, scale with ease, and should be easily exchangeable. But we must be pragmatic. There is no one size fits all and, indeed, analysts like Forrester are seeing a move away from the all-encompassing suites of solutions to implementing core systems on which they can build a ‘best in breed’ ecosystem. Our strategy has always been to build a platform that is open to proper connectivity that allows us to plug together (there’s that word again!) best of breed products. Focusing on core DAM, PIM and CMS functionality, then integrating or cooperating with others to extend where there are more optimal solutions.

The promise of ‘plug and play’ is that systems are easier to integrate than ever before, and they continue to evolve in this direction by focusing on connectivity, ease-of-integration, self-service and usability. That is to be welcomed and to be expected from modern software. But both software vendors and their clients must be aware of the groundwork that is essential for these solutions to be a success. Remember what they say, 80% preparation, 20% execution. There’s no getting around doing the hard yards first.

About censhare

censhare´s proven omnichannel content platform lets you master your content in any language, locally or globally, to provide a consistent omnichannel customer experience. Clients like Allianz, Lands’ End, Dyson, Christie’s and hundreds more rely on censhare to deliver brand accurate, up-to-date content, and make the most of every opportunity to reach the right customer at the right time.

Master your content.

Alexander Röthinger
Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at censhare

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