Understand Your Users and Their Needs: Boomi Community Champion Ryan Tokash

July 20, 2020
Understand Your Users and Their Needs: Boomi Community Champion Ryan Tokash

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 recognize the most active and helpful Community participants, our Boomi Community Champions. They are remarkable in their commitment to making the Community the best possible resource for integration professionals.

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

Our latest Community Champion, Ryan Tokash, is a business systems administrator for Arcos, which provides on-demand resource-management software for the utility industry. In his 14 years at Arcos, Tokash has done many integrations along with his administrator tasks.

What led you to working with integration techology?

Ryan Tokash: When I was in school, integration didn't exist. My degree is in electronic engineering, so I didn't have any background that prepared me for what I do now. When I joined ARCOS, we had just purchased Salesforce and were working with our own software as a service (SaaS) product. SaaS was a whole new realm of technology and new concepts. I didn’t work on data integration until about 10 years into my job.

Our product is a resource management solution with real-time scheduling and automated call-out capabilities. We have a pretty robust API that we integrate or that can be integrated with other applications: HR, SAP, or other outage management software, even homegrown stuff. Basically, we give customers an API they can interact with. Personally, I would be proud if we became partners with Boomi at some point.

When did you start using Boomi?

Ryan Tokash: We started using Boomi in late 2014. We had transitioned our financial platform to NetSuite from an on-premises version of QuickBooks. When NetSuite found out we were Salesforce users, they suggested we purchase Boomi and use that to integrate Salesforce and NetSuite.

By then, I was very familiar with the Salesforce API. I had a lot of working knowledge of how to use things like Postman and other integration tools. Our management decided that with my experience and knowledge of Salesforce and our own APIs, I had the technical aptitude to take this on. So, we had a Boomi consultant come out, put me through bootcamp, and train me on how to build integrations. I built a couple to integrate data between NetSuite and Salesforce, and we were off and running. I quickly learned to love no-code/low-code and the visual drag-and-drop interface.

What were your next Boomi integrations after Salesforce and NetSuite?

Ryan Tokash: Less than a year later, somebody said hey, we want to also have Salesforce talk to Jira, we want to have Salesforce talk to Zendesk, we want Zendesk to talk to Jira.

Somebody says there's data they need out of system A and they primarily work in system B and my first thought is always “How can I get the data they need in the system they work in? I could probably do that through Boomi.” That's the way my mind has shifted rather than thinking "if you need information in Salesforce, you need a Salesforce license."

My job is trying to make everybody else's job a little bit easier and helping them accomplish more in a day than they could before.

How long have you been active in the Boomi Community?

Ryan Tokash: I've tried to be active in the Boomi Community since I started using Boomi, because as the sole architect at my company, I don't have internal resources to bounce ideas off. So, I looked to the Community to find that. That's why I post questions on the board and if I see questions on things I've experienced, I'm happy to comment.

A lot of people on the Community are business users rather than architects. So, they might need some architectural insight to help them. Or somebody who is the sole user of the system might be as stuck as I was. You really need collaboration, especially with any type of design or architectural processes.

Sometimes I'll post a comment first and then see if they come back with more information or more questions before I get too far into the weeds on something. So, I might say, “Yes, I've dealt with this before. Have you thought about this?” If they come back, I share some screenshots.

I've done a lot of customer service work. Even when I was in school, I was a tutor and a lab assistant. I guess I've always had a drive to try and help. I figure, if I answer a question, maybe somebody will answer mine. Maybe it's just a pay-it-forward type of thing.

What tips do you have for people who are just starting out in integration?

Ryan Tokash: When it comes to testing integrations and figuring out how to make these things work, a tool like Postman can really help you see what you're getting back and what the data layout is going to look like. I found that to be a huge help.

Another tip is to always keep your integration as simple as possible. If you want to integrate six things, that's fine. But start with one endpoint to one endpoint and just break that up and map it out piece by piece, because it's really easy to get lost in the weeds. Just keep it simple. Build one thing and then expand on that rather than trying to build the whole process at one time. Start with a couple of integration points, test each one, make sure the connection is working, that data is transferring, and then get more elaborate. That way, at least you've gotten the basics down.

It's easier to troubleshoot that way too, instead of spending three days building an elaborate map and all these custom scripts in the data manipulation to find that now it doesn't work. I've integrated two or three little things, that works. Okay, now I add on to it, and now it doesn't work anymore. So the problem has to be something that I just added.  Step through it rather than trying to eat the elephant all in one bite.

Are there any best practices you'd recommend integration architects follow?

Ryan Tokash:  Understand your users and what their use case is.  Really dig into the "why," because a lot of times business users don't really know what they're asking for or how to ask for it. So, helping them realize what their vision truly is will make your job easier and will make the integration easier, because you won't have as many iterations.

If you don’t clarify what they need, you'll often deliver it and it either won't be what they really wanted, or they'll ask for more. So just sitting down with the folks that are requesting data and making sure you understand what they're asking for — and why — goes a long way.

Also, when you build something, take notes on why you did it. I’ve been with this organization for 15 years, I'll go back through and I'll find things that I built years ago and wonder why I did something. If you keep track, when the new VP of Sales, who has been on board for six months asks about what all the opportunity fields are, you can explain things like "That one was added because the guy in your role three years ago asked for it for this reason."  Then you can determine whether it still makes sense.

What are you doing to survive the quarantine period?

Ryan Tokash: Even though I can't do the things I would normally do, I enjoy what I can: getting outside, getting sunlight, and taking walks in the neighborhood.  I'm thankful that we have these SaaS applications that allow us to keep working without going into the office. I can work from my phone. I can do my job anywhere because I can log into Boomi from any device I have and integrate something, or look into an issue, or log into any other data system that we use and see what's going on. Whether it be my phone, tablet, or laptop, being able to access Boomi from anywhere is always good.

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 Ryan Tokash'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.