Happy to Help: Boomi Community Champion Darrell Flenniken

June 25, 2020
Happy to Help: Boomi Community Champion Darrell Flenniken

The Boomi Community is the go-to place for our customers to learn, ask questions about the Boomi Platform, and engage with peers to understand the best approaches to their integration challenges. We periodically stop and recognize the most active and helpful Community participants, who we refer to as Boomi Community Champions.

One such champion is Darrell Flenniken, an information systems architect at Agendia, a provider of genetic testing for breast cancer.

With degrees in Microbiology and Biochemistry, Flenniken knows his way around laboratories. Early work at a hospital lab led to an interest in computers and programming, which he added to his professional life. So, it was a natural fit when he got the opportunity to work in an IT role in a scientific environment.

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How did you get into integration work?

Darrell Flenniken: I’ve been at Agendia for 10 years. I had done some integration for a long time in other jobs, although it may not sound like integration. I've always had to move data between systems, usually by writing programs to do it. That was tedious and not very efficient.

At Agendia, I had written database queries to consolidate a lot of different types of information into spreadsheets files — basically .csv files — so people could upload them into other systems. It was a hassle, because almost always something would have to be tweaked to make it work. Everybody got tired of doing it.

I looked around for integration platforms, and looked at Boomi and some others, and was able to get my manager to buy into the idea.

My first integration was really complicated, because it moved data out of our laboratory information system into Salesforce. It had something like 190 shapes. I used a Salesforce connector, database connector, email connectors, and filesystem connectors. It took a lot of manipulation to get it from the source form to the destination form. The first integration took about three months. During that process, I found the Boomi Platform to be extraordinarily effective, efficient, and reliable.

How did you find the transition from hand-coding to a low-code/no-code integration platform?

Darrell Flenniken: You have to understand you're not going to be in control of every line of code to get the job done. There's stuff that's been developed for you, and you have to understand how that works, as opposed to sitting down and writing the low-level code yourself.

It's good, because in the end, I don't really like writing code. It’s too time-consuming. Every line is an opportunity to make a mistake. You have to debug it; it's hard to test. You can look at a program and you can't tell what it's doing.

One of the nice things about visual low-code programming is you can look at it and know exactly what it's doing. You can drill into those shapes and then look at the details. I can go back and look at a part of an integration that I haven't looked at in a long time, and I can immediately go find where I need to make a change, and then drill down and make that change pretty simply. With code, you change something here and you don't know if that's going to impact something else over there.

With Boomi, the low-code approach is actually effective. I’ve done maybe 10 or 12 integrations so far. I do other things for my job, too.

"I wanted to help people on the Community, because it helped me. The Community is a great asset for becoming good at Boomi and getting your work done."
— Darrell Flenniken, Information Systems Architect, Agendia

When did you first get involved with the Boomi Community?

Darrell Flenniken: I went to the Community because I wanted to know more about how to use shapes. There weren’t a lot of examples in the documentation at that time. Now, there are libraries that have examples, but those didn't exist when I started.

I’m pretty stubborn. I'll bang my head against the wall longer than I should before I ask for help. But I learned to go to the Community, because there are people out there that know a heck of a lot more than I do. I like dealing with the users who know how things work and can give me some examples. I got a lot of answers and it was very helpful.

What features or capabilities do you most like using in Boomi?

Darrell Flenniken: I like the connectors, because without those connectors, there would be a lot of complex code to interact with. Not only is there a connector, but the connector has its own little kind of user interface where you pull up the objects and pick and choose which field you want in them, and you join them. And you're doing that all within the connector itself, as opposed to writing a bunch of code. That Salesforce connector is one of the nicest features. It would have just been too much work to do coding to deal with Salesforce.

I've done a web service that ran on Boomi; that was easy, those kinds of things. I'm not a web service programmer. So being able to do that kind of stuff without having to develop in that world, that's really nice.

As a laboratory, you have certain regulations — how does Boomi help you with compliance?

Darrell Flenniken: In the laboratory business, we are regulated by the FDA and a number of other agencies. We're regulated by different states and have to go through their inspections and meet their regulations. Every time we make a change, we have to go through a validation of some sort. But they all have pretty much the same set of quality criteria.

I address many of those criteria by building out a lot of logging for debugging. The built-in log doesn't give you a lot of detail about actually what happened. I'd rather write out log files. So, I add a lot of writing out to .csv files or wherever they may be handy, to figure out what I got out of that shape before I went on to the next shape. And creating those .csv files and being able to show that we did a regression test makes regulatory compliance pretty easy.

What advice or best practices would you give to somebody who is new to the integration role, and new to Boomi?

Darrell Flenniken: In addition to building more logging, I'd say design your integrations to be testable. Initially, I would have an integration, and then I would make a copy of it and change to the test environment. But it was hard to keep those things in sync. After a while, I realized it's better to have a switch with a global value to switch between the environments, so I know I'm always using the right current code. That way I didn't have to maintain essentially two systems, just one.

Also, the Community is a great asset for becoming good at Boomi and getting your work done. I used to log into the Community every day, just to see what people were saying, because it was a learning opportunity. I'd look at questions people posed, not necessarily because it was something that I was doing, but just to gain some understanding. Reading good questions with good answers can tell you a lot about how to do something.

When did you begin answering questions on the Community yourself — and why?

Darrell Flenniken:  Initially, I was logging in to learn. Then I'd come across questions I felt confident in helping answer, so I would. And then, I looked for those things that I could answer. I wanted to help people on the Community, because it helped me.

If I thought I had a reasonable answer, I would respond. I didn't want to talk over my head, if you will. Or say "maybe this or maybe that," because that doesn't help. That can just send people down the wrong path. But if I had encountered certain issues myself or I had an understanding of certain things, I'd help. I'm sure there's a lot of folks out there who have a lot more capability than I do. But I do what I can do to help people.

Discover the power of community: Join the Boomi Community today!

Boomiverse is the go-to location for our customers. It’s where they find answers to their questions, learn how to get the most from the Boomi Platform, and engage with peers to understand the best approaches to their integration challenges.

Throughout the year, we recognize the most active and helpful individuals in this group — our Community Champions. These leaders set the standard for how Community members can contribute and cultivate a rich conversation that helps everyone become better at integration.

If you enjoyed reading about Darrell Flenniken's professional experience as an integration architect, see our full set of Community Champion profiles.

About the Author

Danalynne Wheeler Menegus is a contributing writer and content marketer for Boomi. She has an extensive background in B2B technology marketing and communications, with companies including Dell, Enstratius, Sybase/SAP and IONA Technologies.