Senior Writer: Joydeep Das
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications are a part of every organization’s technology stack today due to their easy accessibility and deployment. Be it in the form of customer relationship management (CRM), human resources information system (HRIS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), or remote collaboration solutions; most organizations make use of SaaS applications regularly. In fact, the average enterprise organization uses almost 300 of them, with many of them flying under the radar.
SaaS apps can offer several benefits if appropriately integrated with your organization’s technology stack. But what does SaaS Software integration really mean, and how do you ensure proper integration of this software distribution model? This blog will take you through the meaning, importance, and challenges associated with the effective integration of SaaS applications. We will also discuss different integration approaches and help you choose an ideal SaaS implementation strategy.
So let the learning begin!
What is SaaS Integration?
SaaS integration, or SaaS application integration, deals with connecting a SaaS application with another software (cloud-based or on-premise systems) using application programming interfaces (APIs). The integration allows apps to request and share data, reducing effort, saving time, and simplifying business processes.
A SaaS integration platform allows two or more applications to work in tandem and allows easy (and automated) data relay between them. They also eliminate human error and improve transparency, making processes more efficient and scalable.
SaaS Integration vs. App Integration vs. API Integration
Terms like SaaS integration, app integration, and API integration are used interchangeably today. This is because SaaS has become so common that terms like integration are enough to describe it. However, this may confuse many new users. So let’s clear the air!
The basic difference between app and SaaS integration is that desktop applications (apps) have to be installed on computer units, whereas SaaS applications can be accessed from anywhere using the internet. Users only need to login for SaaS products, while computer applications need to be downloaded and integrated first to be used. Thus, installation isn’t needed for SaaS integration, while it is a must for desktop applications.
API integration describes the method by which integrations are done. An API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of code-based instructions indicating how data is to be sent or received from a given application. This is the basis for any app or SaaS management software integration.
API integrations require developers to define how one application interacts with another through code. In recent times, there has been an increased use of iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service) platforms allowing users to do API integrations without coding or technical API knowledge.
What are the Benefits of SaaS Integration?
Integration of SaaS tools in your company’s ecosystem can help you do more with less effort. Integration helps apps conversate and reduce your workload tremendously by minimizing the total number of activities to be performed. As a result, your staff and you can focus more on strategic work. Below are a few other advantages of SaaS integrations:
1. Provides transparency
SaaS integration services allow your team to discover data easily and learn more about your processes, activities, and tasks statuses. Smooth integration enables data to be present at the right place at the right time without lag. In addition, data provided to one application is automatically updated in other integrated applications, reducing to-and-fro. As a result, discovering errors and issues is much faster, leading to quick decision-making.
2. Saves a significant amount of time
As discussed above, SaaS app integration automatically relays data (with your permission), reducing manual intervention and human errors. This saves your team’s time which would have otherwise been spent looking for, entering, and tallying data.
3. Improves the employee & customer experience
Using SaaS applications can significantly benefit your staff and employees, improving their experiences. With data integrated and readily available, employees can do fewer manual data entry tasks and focus more on strategic tasks. They can also serve customers much faster since all the latest insights and information are at their fingertips. This means less waiting time for your customers and faster resolutions, which can improve brand image.
4. Reduces or eliminates human error
SaaS integrations automate tasks and processes, reducing the need for manual intervention. This leads to far fewer human errors and miscalculations. Manual mistakes require additional resources for making corrections and can cause delays and customer dissatisfaction. SaaS software integration removes the need for a middle person, improving accuracy and leading to auto-updation of information.
5. Makes processes scalable
As companies grow, the number of functions increases, leading to a lot of unaccounted data. SaaS application integration automates such processes, ensuring no data is left out, entered twice, or mistyped. Thus, SaaS integration services are a must for enterprises with hundreds of business applications, departments, and processes.
SaaS integration approaches
There are multiple approaches to integration of Saas apps, each with its pros and cons, which can be broadly categorized into the following two categories:
1. Vendor-based approaches
As the name suggests, these approaches involve having a commercial relationship with a software vendor that delivers your integrations. These could be partnerships or customer-vendor relationships where you would use their expertise to provide value to your customers.
A common vendor-based approach that many businesses use of solution integrators (SIs) that build and deploy custom integrations as per customer requirements. SIs may often use common frameworks/practices for integrating SaaS to reduce cost and time. They are ideal for complex and domain-specific enterprise applications.
An iPaaS partnership is another vendor-based integration approach where a company with expertise in integrations helps you synchronize your business solutions. They are ideal for addressing customer-specific integration requests and helping organizations with less technical expertise.
An ‘embedded iPaaS’ is another approach where SaaS providers sell a cloud product allowing vendors to white-label configuration-based SaaS software integrations into their own product. Such products can be a variation of standard Saas products that can be built to be embedded and used by your customers.
2. Developer-based approaches
These approaches use a team of developers (owned or outsourced) to deliver integrations. The most straightforward developer-based approach is to offer bespoke integrations to each customer, which requires custom development. Bespoke integrations are expensive to build and maintain and need an expert team of developers to function successfully.
A propriety integration framework is another approach where organizations build their own proprietary integration framework for a reusable commercial option. The results are much more consistent than bespoke deployment, but your product team has to maintain it constantly.
If you want to build and deploy your own integrations, an open-source integration should be a good match for you. They are less complex than proprietary integration frameworks and can normalize challenging operational concerns.
SaaS Integration Challenges
Integrating SaaS into your organizational ecosystem can be challenging for the following reasons:
1. SaaS Sprawl
One of the biggest challenges that integration can solve is a SaaS sprawl. A SaaS sprawl is a potential data silo and a manual procedure mess that happens when multiple applications are running within an organization. Such overlapping applications and their unchecked permissions and implications can make it challenging to meet organizational objectives.
Integrating SaaS can cost an organization dearly. Dedicating your expensive technical resources to building integrations that could have been used to develop products or additional revenue-generating activities would also be foolish. Hence you should always evaluate the following:
- If the integration is worth the investment
- Which and how much resources should be invested
- Which integration tool should be used
A SaaS integration platform can greatly help you do a cost vs. benefit analysis and also help you integrate applications smoothly with your existing technical infrastructure.
Setting up integrations can be time-consuming. However, investing that time is essential to ensure that future issues can be avoided. Some integration platforms leverage pre-built integrations to ensure excellent usability and cost and time-saving daily.
SaaS Integration Using iPaaS
The ultimate goal of integration is to have a ‘connected enterprise’ where all applications work seamlessly with each other, creating a fully functional network of integrated tools. SaaS software integration using iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service) allows your teams to enjoy complete connectivity across business apps sharing data.
An iPaaS SaaS integration platform allows users to build their own integration flows without labor-intensive setups. Such integration flows lead to a seamlessly integrated tech stack without manual errors and missing data, which saves you a great deal of money and time.
How to choose a SaaS integration strategy?
Choosing a SaaS integration strategy for your business depends on your company goals, technical expertise, organizational structure, and your existing technology stack. For instance, if your company valuation will be based on how your integrations are deployed, investing in is your best bet.
The technical skills needed to deploy an integration can vary across integration approaches and the number/type of integrations you need. In addition, consider the time and money you are willing to invest for the variations required for each of your customers.
It is wise to outsource projects you need to gain expertise for, but outsourcing leaves you with less control and privacy. So, in short, the integration strategy (or strategies) you choose must be in alignment with your objectives, expertise, resources, and customer expectations.
SaaS integrations can help businesses in numerous ways if done well. However, implementation requires additional planning to ensure that all capabilities needed can be added. There can be multiple approaches to integration of SaaS, but you will need to decide on the approach that best suits your business objectives in order to be successful.
SaaS integration FAQ's
SaaS integration involves connecting a SaaS application with another on-premise software or cloud-based app using application programming interfaces (APIs). This allows the applications to share and request data among themselves.
SaaS integrations connect two applications with each other and allow the free exchange of data between them. Business process automation relays data between applications, saving time and energy while reducing manual errors.
If the software has integration capabilities, it can be integrated with other SaaS products via APIs. However, you would need to check the capabilities of both your core software and the Saas application in question to determine if the integration is possible.
Microsoft, OpenText, Snaplogic, IBM, and ControlHippo are some examples of organizations that help incorporate users’ needs for creating integration service platforms.
There are multiple approaches to Saas integration, which should be chosen based on the goal of implementation, budget, type of configuration needed, number of applications, customizations required, etc.