Sitecore provides an extensive suite of marketing tools - no argument there, Sitecore is a winner! But marketing is only one element of a successful business and by providing only marketing features, Sitecore customers must rely on integrations to build an effective fully connected system.
In many cases, this passes the challenge to integrators who need skills in both Sitecore and the connected system e.g. CRM, ERP, WMS, LMS, TMS, MAP, PIM, etc. In each system, there are numerous vendors, product variations, and seemingly endless permutations on how they can be best connected to add business value. From a commercial perspective, there is a finite number of Sitecore customers who would purchase an integration - and only if the features meet their business requirements.
It's no wonder most integrators build generic endpoint connectors and pass the real business challenge to developers to do the hard stuff.
So what choices are available to customers wanting to integrate their business systems? Sitecore integrations come in two broad flavors - shallow, loosely coupled generic integrations that work with any CMS, and deep, tightly coupled integrations dedicated to exploiting what Sitecore offers.
By definition, loosely coupled integrations, like Google Analytics (GA) or Sitecore Connect™ for Salesforce CRM, have fewer touchpoints. This makes them less prone to upgrade issues but, at the same time, they don't tap into the true power of both systems. These types of integration typically talk to API endpoints and usually require developer effort in both systems to implement complex use cases. A flag that the integration is loosely coupled is seeing words like "sync", "scheduler", and "batch". These words warn about the veracity of data at any given time as users cannot know if the information is accurate or pending an update.
An indicator of a tightly coupled integration is where Sitecore specific functionality is actually embedded in the external system e.g. the FuseIT's S4S integration has Sitecore related personalization features installed in Salesforce CRM (and Sitecore). Tightly coupled integrations favor a single source of data - usually with the master data residing in one system. These integrations are often more effective because both systems intimately "know" about each other. They tend to be complete solutions, where the pieces fit and work together, with little integration effort and no redundant data.
First and foremost, the integration must achieve your objectives e.g. "When a visitor completes a web form, push Sitecore goals to the CRM lead record". In this scenario, a loosely coupled integration can sync the form data and a single goal to a field in the CRM. Typically though, more than one goal is in play and these need to be presented in the CRM in a structured way - requiring a more tightly coupled integration.
If simple blind syncing is required then a loosely coupled system may suffice. If your needs are complex, or the data is required in real-time, a tightly coupled system is more likely to yield success. If you want to learn more about how we integrate Sitecore with Salesforce CRM or Marketing Cloud, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.