I tried integrating Slack and ProWorkFlow with Zapier. And here’s what really happened.

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If you’re thinking about integrating Slack with a project management tool like ProWorkFlow using middleware like Zapier, read on.

I’m going to save you time and money.

It’s easy to see why people get excited about simplifying the software they use at work by integrating different tools.

For employees, getting different tools to talk to each other means less cutting and pasting, and ultimately, doing more with less.

For small business owners, it means more revenue on per employee.

For me, the promise of successful cloud software integration — of getting products like Slack and ProWorkFlow to work together — is better automation and greater productivity.

But inevitably, that excitement becomes disappointed when you learn that the different solutions don’t integrated quite as seamlessly as you’d hoped.

Plus, the prospect of changing business practices to take advantage of new tools can be equally challenging. A deep commitment to change management and employee training is required.

“I was living in a tent and you moved me into modern two-story house. I knew how to take care of my tent. I don’t know how to take care of a house. I don’t know where the air conditioning is. I don’t how to close the motorized window shades and get onto the internet. I can’t go back to my tent cause its all packed up,” one Los Angeles-based client in the professional services industry (who happens to be in throngs of leveraging a new cloud stack) told me.

Whether you’re in Los Angeles or Silicon Valley, migrations are always disruptive, particularly for small business owners who wear multiple hats and jet set around closing new business.

No matter how good you are at managing expectations, switching from legacy to best-of-breed cloud software can be tough. And the new cloud integration tools you deploy may not accommodate the exact same work processes, which can lead to frustration.

Overcoming Cloud Integration Challenges

Part of overcoming frustrations has to do with expectations management. After all, an expectation is often a resentment waiting to happen.

Most people think integration means everything works with everything, or that all features are easily combined.

How can you blame them?

The dirty little secret is that in the software world, integrations are limited, and those limitations are often not fully understood or disclosed by the software vendors who sell on the promise of integration.  Still, even if there was full transparency, it’s unlikely we’d appreciate the impact of their short comings prior to implementation.

Just ask anyone who’s tried to integrate project management workflow software like ProWorkFlow with Slack using a cloud integration platform like Zapier.

Sure, you can set up workflows (they call them Zaps) to send messages to Slack when a Project or Task gets changed, but the details of what’s changed aren’t in the message, forcing Slack users to click thru to ProWorkFlow and figure it out themselves.

There’s no way to send Slack DM notifications to task assignees when new tasks are created or updated.

Notifications for tasks with multiple assignees would need to be handled with employee specific filters, which means you’d need 20 filters to handle new and updated task notifications for 10 employees, and you’d have to maintain those rules manually as employees come and go.

Dig a little deeper and you discover that PWF messages with bold and italicized text come through as gibberish because the text isn’t ASCII compliant.  What sort of cloud integration methodology could possibly anticipate an issue like this?

So yes, you can integrate Slack and ProWorkFlow, but it certainly isn’t one of the best Slack integrations.  It’s cumbersome, doesn’t really save you any time or money, or overcome any SaaS integration challenges.

You could create a Slack App. But then you have to keep it current. Software integrations are like puppies. You have to take care of them.

At the end of the day, people just want their cloud software to play nice. They can’t always anticipate how, but when it doesn’t, they’re disappointed.

Here’s what it took to determine that integrating PWF and Slack with Zapier wasn’t going to work for my client. No disrespect to Zapier integrations, but in this case, an intermediary just wasn’t right choice.

On the other hand, another cloud project management solution called Asana integrates cleanly with Slack without an intermediary.

Asana sends messages to Slack that show the reason for the update without requiring users to click through to Asana to figure it out.

Asana’s Slack integration results in messages that are formatted to send Slack channel or DM notifications that say specifically what’s changed, so you know why the notification is being sent.

If you consider the many different states a digital ticket or work task might have, each would require dispatching different Slack message.

The Zapier integration tells users a task has “changed” but not what that change is. So it’s essentially an ineffective cloud integration.

Think about it.

Most software applications provide hundreds, even thousands of ways to complete a task. When you link two software applications together, the hope is that the options will multiply exponentially.  After all, shouldn’t combined or “stacked” applications give you more options once they’re coordinated?

The question “What is cloud integration data?” and “What are the top data integration tools?” is beyond the scope of this post.  But the short answer is simply “No” because integrated applications always offer fewer options together than they do individually.

As I said in the intro, the scope of cloud integrations are limited.

Small business owners looking to leverage best-of-breed cloud software and cloud data integration tools should know that integrations are never going to do everything they need and trying to anticipate exactly what you want before your stack is up and running is almost always cost prohibitive.

Once it’s done, the important thing is to budget the time and resources to retrain your people and yourself.

Cloud Integration Tutorials

My client said he feels like his new cloud software stack is a house he doesn’t know how to live in.

Sure, he knew going into it there would be pain.

But successfully deploying new software integrations requires internal change management efforts and software training, the latter of which needs to be done right.

“When demoing new integrations to clients, keep it simple,” says Rand Singer (@randsigner) of Los Angeles-based Singer Consulting, who specializes in helping entertainment companies tame IT.

“Don’t overwhelm users with the details of what it can do. Show them the easiest way to get their job done. Let them pick up advanced features as they acclimate,” he says.

Words of wisdom from an L.A. cloud software consulting vet.

Theres more than one way to skin a cat. But always show people the easiest way first.

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