Three Best Practices for Third-Party API Integration

September 10, 2015

This is the second and final installment in our series covering Acquia Global Support Team’s third-party API integration with Zendesk (part one covered Five Ways to Leverage Third-Party APIs: The Drupal-Zendesk Integration). 

Acquia’s Drupal-Zendesk integration allowed them to build an expert Help Center for their Global Support team. Using Zendesk’s documented API to build a Customer UX in Drupal, Acquia was able to seamlessly integrate all their existing systems into a shiny, new Acquia Help Center.

The new Drupal-Zendesk system generated huge results. SLA increased to 99%, and support teams reduced average time spent on ticket by 25%. Additionally, the new system allowed the team to handle a 60% volume increase of tickets with less than 10% increase of staff. These results prove that the Acquia Help Center is fast, efficient and keeps both customers and support teams happy.

However, developing such a dynamic integration isn’t without its challenges. Not all partnerships will be a match made in API integration heaven. Here are three best practices you can adopt when integrating with third-party APIs.

1. Know your requirements and be honest

Acquia has a lot of fantastic in-house engineering talent, and could have built a ticketing system to service their support team. However, Acquia’s core business is not to maintain a support request system. In addition to solving tickets, individuals on the support team write knowledge based articles, attend meetings and works to heighten the power of the Drupal and Acquia communities.

Jeannie Finks, Director of Global Support Systems and Programs at Acquia, says through a Drupal-Zendesk integration they were able to “develop a unified complementary system that allows us to focus on our core business.” Zendesk’s core competency is providing a customer service software and that takes a lot of work to maintain. By utilizing Zendesk’s expertise, Acquia was able to make their product stronger.

“A lot of companies definitely want to do it all,” Finks says, “but having a good understanding of your requirements allows you to invest resources with a vision.” That means being honest about what your team can fulfill and learning to leverage products like Zendesk. At Acquia, customers can continue to rely on the Help Center for 24/7 global support.

2. Build an environment that will evolve

Finding an API that provides flexibility is essential for a company that plans to grow with evolving technology. Keep systems and programs simple so teams can work towards continued improvement. Evolutionary success will stem from solutions that are not strictly out of the box. Allocate time and resources towards efforts that will enable you to customize products for the long term success of your team.

Acquia’s partnership with Zendesk provided them the flexibility needed to integrate existing systems like JIRA and Toggl. With an API like Zendesk, companies are able to extend framework capabilities through customized integrations. This mobility will allow Acquia’s team to quickly adapt and transform their systems to advancing technical environments.

3. Value "Minimum Loveable Product" over "Minimum Viable Product"

At Acquia, the Global Support team placed priority on the Minimum Loveable Product over the Minimum Viable Product methodology. The MVP may offer quick and easy solutions, but often compromises the product quality that ensures customer support and satisfaction.  

“A lot of people are very invested in the minimum viable product,” Finks explains. “But if your staff and customers aren’t enjoying or loving their experience, it doesn’t really matter how viable it is”.

At Acquia, the Support Team’s MLP reduced the number of steps required for support agents to get the job done. The ability to aggregate all systems under Zendesk’s API relieved staff pain points and streamlined workflow, making the Acquia Help Center a loveable platform for supporting customers. Companies can build an MLP with clear and driven decisions. Keeping products simple enables companies to execute them well.

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Acquia’s Global Support Team, along with Engineering, completed their Drupal-Zendesk integration at 11pm on February 13th 2014. With a looming New England blizzard and Valentine’s Day around the corner, the team was able to implement a new Acquia Help Center before the start of Acquia APJ’s work day.

“Ultimately it is about understanding where your business comes into play, and having a great team of people to help accomplish your goals,” Finks says.

Acquia seems to have both, as their Drupal-Zendesk integration serves as a model for companies looking to leverage third-party APIs.

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