Mike’s View

The Interface Question: ‘We do’ versus ‘we can’

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A couple of weeks ago we fielded a request through our website from a credit union in the northeast who is looking to add online member enrollment and account opening to their web offering.  The question for us … do you do this and can you help?  I spoke with my inquiring friend for several minutes and answered her questions … all to her liking.  We ended the conversation with a pledge to set up a web meeting the following week to explore whether our solution would be a good fit for them.

A couple of minutes later my new friend called back and sheepishly asked whether we had an existing interface to their host processing platform.  “We don’t today” I replied.  Her bosses immediately said “No way, we’ll only look at providers who have an existing interface!”  End of story.

Except, that is, it gave me an idea to write this.

The existence of a specific interface – host or otherwise - is a oft- and ill-used form of profiling.  Whether or not a technology firm has an existing interface to your host processor is certainly a factor – but there are probably several other things to ask about that indicate whether or not it is a show stopper.  Here are a couple of ideas to consider:

  • Does the target system (in our example the host processor) provide reasonable access for third party providers to develop an interface?  In most cases host processing firms are not willing to entertain a third party provider until there is a current (or better yet a potential) client who wants it to happen.
  • Does this firm support robust interfaces to host processors? Beware – there are many clients disappointed in the feature set of already existing interfaces!
  • Does this firm understand its role and capabilities regarding interfaces?  Other interfaces that do exist for this product and the firm’s approach to the activity of interfacing to other systems.

Those of us who are on the vendor side of this equation often talk about this qualifying question in a semi-lighthearted manner.  It doesn’t really matter, we say … but then again it does really seem to matter.

So, to my friend who we could not help – sorry about that and best wishes in your search!

To those of you who are using ‘The Interface Question’ as a go/no-go factor - I encourage you to rethink.  You might be surprised!  And thanks for the idea – I may even write an article about it.

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