Why integration is at the heart of our product design

Categories :


Table of Contents

Adrien Deyhim is a Product Manager at Toucan Toco, a Customer Facing Analytics solution that allows all users to better understand their data through Data Storytelling. Adrien is in charge of data management at Toucan, including integration issues with data-driven services.

Toucan Connectors

Like many product managers, I work alternatively between product vision, roadmapping, discovery, delivery...And between the tools for these different missions, I receive product feedback on Slack channels, I consolidate these ideas on a Product Board where I design roadmaps, I pilot the delivery on Jira, I look at my analytics on Mixpannel... Each of these tools serves me at different times, but they often lose some of their value if used alone or unrelated to each other. Their designers are aware of this: this ecosystem offers a lot of integrations to ensure that my experience as a Product Manager is covered by a certain "seamless" continuum. I can push Slack feedbacks into Product Board, build roadmap candidates there, then push the proposed features into Jira as EPICs and track their progress. This continuum is discussed in this excellent article from Open View, who have endorsed "Product Led Growth": A New Era for PLG: Introducing the Age of Connected Work. 

Integrating with the best tools on the market to cover a business workflow is now a pillar of our product strategy at Toucan.

Every SaaS product needs integration

Integrations to supply Toucan with data

Integrations are a must in the SaaS world today. Users have more and more specialized products at their disposal that allow them to gain efficiency in everything they do: sales, CRM, project management, analytics. Therefore, they need to be able to link these ecosystems to each other in order to use them better: the example of a Product Manager who has to switch from one tool to another illustrates this well. Most SaaS companies have understood this: they offer their own APIs to facilitate integrations.

In Toucan's case, integrations have been an essential part of the product from the beginning: Toucan is a Guided Data Analytics platform, which aims to make companies' data more understandable and accessible through Data Storytelling. In short: we allow our users to present their data in a more intuitive, educational and ergonomic way. But for us to do what we do best, we need access to our raw material: data. Our priority, very quickly, was to create connectors that allow us to get data wherever it is stored, whether in excel files or business tools like Salesforce, Hubspot, Anaplan... or data warehouses like Snowflake or Redshift. The connectors, which allow you to access and extract data from a service, have quickly become a very important selling point for our product. And my mission is to propose the connectors that allow you to connect to the most relevant solutions and to determine why you should prioritize the connection to one database rather than another and to one API rather than another?

The question of make, buy or partner?

But it wasn't just the question of data sourcing that drove us to give so much importance to our connectors and integration. Like any product team, we quickly asked ourselves the question of build, buy or partner: Do we want to develop the entire product stack ourselves to meet our users' needs and control their end-to-end experience? Or do we prefer to take advantage of the expertise of other specialized players without being in control of product choices? Here again, the answer seemed obvious: we want to offer our users the best of the best, by combining these alternatives. We are putting all our energy into developing a Guided Data Analytics solution, and we are proud to say that we are succeeding in being very competitive in this segment.

There are other players on the market that are extremely good in their respective specialties.  We can (roughly) break down the capabilities of a BI tool functionally as follows: data preparation, dashboard design, sharing and actionability of insights. If we look at the first point, preparation implies being able to compute on large volumes of data. Rather than developing our own data warehousing technology, we sought to develop deep integrations with market-leading data warehouses such as Snowflake or Amazon Redshift. In concrete terms, Toucan offers a graphic interface, whose experience we control, to prepare the data, but the computations are performed by the data warehouse. Toucan becomes a front-end overlay and offers a simple user experience for non-technical users. The data warehouse manages the storage and computation with performances that we could not match at our size.



Integrations boost user engagement and reduce churn

A simpler experience for your users

Let's use our Amazon Redshift integration as an example. It's hard to use Redshift if you don't know how to write SQL queries and master the technical nuances of databases. High-performance solutions such as Redshift remain the prerogative of technical and expert populations... at the cost of business users who want to create business indicators that make sense to them and do not feel able to use the data in these data warehouses. Toucan makes it easier for them to access it, even if they don't have technical skills. In doing so, we are maximizing our customers' investment in these data warehouses by enabling a new persona, business users who want to drive their business, to access the data within Redshift, transforming it autonomously, without bottlenecking IT teams - who have many other concerns on even more technical issues.

New Workflows

Integrations have the advantage of allowing your users to interact with your product in new ways by integrating it with new workflows. Take Productboard, for example: their two integrations with Slack and Jira have allowed me to create a workflow that is essential to my work, from my business contacts to my dev team. With Toucan, we wanted to give our users the opportunity to create workflows that corresponded to them. We realized that in terms of data, it was not enough to have access to information, we also had to be able to share it and act quickly and efficiently as a team. It was not enough to build "pull" connectors that would allow us to source the data, we also needed "push" connectors that would allow us to share the results obtained on Toucan. This is why we chose to build Slack, MS Teams, and email integrators.  

More frequent interactions with your products

We could divide SaaS products into two categories. On the one hand, tools that are highly specialized for a specific business or function and are used mainly by a specific team (Hubspot, Aircall or GoogleAds for example), on the other hand, cross-functional tools that are intended to be used by everyone within a company (the Microsoft suite or Slack). With its ambition to make data accessible to everyone, Toucan clearly falls into the second category. This is both a strength and a weakness: we can claim to have a larger reach, but our users spend very little time with us during their working day. Which non-data scientist spends more than 5 minutes manipulating data? So rather than hoping that users will come to Toucan on their own, we need to find ways to integrate with the must-have applications they use every day. When someone receives a push message directly from Toucan in their corporate email, they are more likely to click on it and interact with our product. This boosts engagement and reduces churn as we become more and more integrated into our users' daily lives. By choosing to develop connectors for Slack and MS Teams, the two leaders in internal company messaging, we made sure we could reach a wider market. This leads us to...

How to prioritize your integration strategy

Prioritize your integrations

Very well, you are convinced of the interest of integrations for your product. But here's the thing: you still need to know where to start. You probably don't have unlimited resources, so you have to choose which connectors to develop first. At Toucan, we usually base our decisions on the RICE framework criteria: Reach, Impact, Confidence, Effort. We are not fanatics of prioritization frameworks, but we have to admit that they lead to ask good questions and have richer conversations with the design, technical and business teams. Without going into a lesson on RICE, which is very present in the product literature, here is how we apply it to the case of integrations:

  • Reach: before developing or improving a connector, we ask ourselves who the audience is. For example, if we know that the most used connector is Google Sheets, we try to improve it first. In the case of connectors to be created, we look at the addressable market and we try to prioritize connectors with the most used products.  
  • Impact: Impact is often an elusive concept. It is necessary to establish precise criteria to evaluate it. Here, we ask how easy the connector makes the connection compared to the "universal" connectors we will discuss later. Ease of connection is measured quite simply by the success rate of a connection on the first try.
  • Effort: Finally, we ask ourselves about the feasibility of the integration. Is the API or database easy to access, is it well documented, is it well maintained, how much complexity do we estimate our development team has to do?
  • Confidence: it is a question of how much we are on the assumptions of Reach, Impact, and Effort advanced previously.

Co-marketing opportunities

Frameworks are not everything. We are careful not to be blinded by the scores of our favorite frameworks and we remain attentive to all partnership and co-marketing opportunities that arise, especially when they can give our product a boost in reputation. Here again, you have to know how to optimize your decisions between the notoriety of the partner product and its will to put you forward and to enhance your value. Sometimes, everything coincides, and we can set up a nice strategy. This was the case for Toucan with Amazon Redshift. Not only is Redshift one of the most recognized data warehouses on the market, but it gives us extra visibility. The Redshift connector is becoming a key part of our integration strategy with the AWS ecosystem: thanks to it, we benefit from a presence on the marketplace and the possibility of managing invoicing with Amazon credits, connectors for Amazon S3 or Athena. The association with such a renowned name has, of course, an extremely positive effect on the Toucan brand. It is obvious that in view of all these elements, we chose to prioritize the Redshift integration.

​​Each case has its own connector

Not all integrations are created equal. When we decide to prioritize one integration over another, we need to know what to do with the other projects that remain in the backlog. One solution is to modulate the level of investment: we put more effort according to the priority of the integration and the level of impact we are looking for according to the targeted persona. The most strategic projects are entitled to native integration, while the others are satisfied with third-party integration.

We decide together as a team what level of integration we want to give to a particular product. To do this, we can choose between different types of integration:

  • The use of "generic" connectors: these are connectors that allow access to the data of many services. For example, our "HTTP API" connector allows you to connect to services using a Rest API (i.e. most modern business applications). This Swiss Army knife connector requires technical expertise because many parameters have to be entered manually. This is our benchmark in terms of minimum experience
  • Specific connectors: these are connectors dedicated to a given service, the interface is designed to require only what is necessary to connect to a given service for a simpler experience
  • Native integrations: these are connectors that will not only allow you to retrieve data but also delegate certain functionalities. For example, data calculation for Redshift and Snowflake. A more important UX work is also done on these connectors to guide the user in the different steps of the connection.


Regardless of the level of integration you choose and the number of connectors you put in place, the most important thing is to enable your product to interact with a broad ecosystem, in order to maximize the PM's sacrosanct: product value. Most users have a wide range of products at their disposal that allow them to do their jobs. Being able to easily integrate into their daily workflows gives your product an even greater chance of being noticed, viewed, used and loved by the greatest number of people.


Why and how to integrate analytics into your offer

Watch the webinar

Build and embed analytics in minutes with Toucan

Embedded analytics - blog image
Get the Ebook

Table of Contents