To Integrate or Not to Integrate? That’s a Great Question

Why don’t some club management software companies integrate with others?

Occasionally, a club may need additional functionality not offered by a current technology provider. Club personnel spend time identifying and evaluating a modern and user-friendly tool to meet their needs, only to find that their current vendor won’t partner with them to connect the two solutions.

This causes the club additional headache deciding how to make the two solutions work alongside each other while minimizing disruption in the member experience and reducing manual entry.

This added effort could easily be avoided if only the two tools could integrate. Why don’t they?

While we can’t say for certain, our decades of experience in the technology industry give us some idea of what might be going on. The short answer is that either they won’t, or they can’t.

Inflexible at Best, Incompetent at Worst

If your vendor won’t entertain integrations, it may stem from a shark-like competitive strategy.

Refusing to integrate forces clients to use the vendor’s own functionality. This stems from a desire to keep clients hooked. If you as a customer have more functionality implemented with them, it makes it harder to break away, making their solution “sticky,” to use a term that investors love. A sticky solution gives stakeholders assurance that the vendor’s revenue stream will stick around, even if that solution is not the best one available to the customer.

This Machiavellian maneuvering considers clients as mere pawns in a stubborn vendor’s competitive game. This is not a client-first strategy and causes more harm than good by eroding clients’ trust.

Of course, it’s also possible that the vendor is not able to execute on the technical aspects of the integration, even if they’ve been around a while. Is the vendor’s skillset limited? Are they understaffed? Maybe key resources have departed, leaving the company with a talent gap. Or maybe they are locked into stringent policies and red tape by outside investors or stubborn leadership.

None of these are positive traits you want from your technology partner.

The Backfire Effect: Customer Frustration Leads to Customer Liberation

The hardline approach to integrations creates frustration among clients. Imagine having to reconsider a decision just because your vendor won’t play nice. Now on top of your day job, you’re juggling politics between vendors. No, thank you!

If the modern, open, and flexible vendor also provides the same modules as your existing vendor, you might start to wonder how much easier it would be to do business with them instead. You may start to investigate switching to a more cooperative company that values client partnership first.

If you had to decide between a vendor who is hostile, inflexible, and competitive, versus one that is welcoming, collaborative and flexible, which one would you choose?

Integration Unlocks Value

It is difficult to find any leading technology company in any industry that doesn’t integrate with other technologies. That’s because openness to integrations increases the value of their solution.

A classic example is the Apple iPhone and the app marketplace. Apple realized that they couldn’t possibly develop all the apps and tools their customers might want and need, so they allowed other developers to create apps. The app store astronomically increases the value of the iPhone. My phone is not only a phone, camera, calendar, and alarm clock but also delivers the news, connects me with my friends, allows me to trade stocks, do daily workouts, and so much more.

Examples of this strategy are myriad. Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM, Hubspot, Google, Facebook, Oracle, etc. all have integrated with other systems. It’s a smart approach that increases the value of their products and improves the lives of their customers.

Integration is not optional. It is a core competency of any technology company that’s going to keep their customers happy for the long term. At the bare minimum, your vendors should provide you an export of any data, from member info to reservations, that you can give to another vendor to load into their system. You own your data, they are obligated to give it to you (and they shouldn’t charge you for it, either).

Maybe the club software companies who refuse to integrate know something Apple doesn’t…Or maybe this strategy will come back to bite them as it starts to drive a wedge between them and their customers.

If you’re sick of getting stuck in the crossfires of your vendor’s competitive games, contact Cobalt and experience the difference Cobalt’s client-first approach can bring to your club.

Stephanie Castro
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