Integration and workflow automation is hard!
Yet, there is increasing consumer demand for SaaS tools to be integrated with third party cloud applications they use. Moreover, sophisticated end-users expect SaaS tools to provide workflow automation capabilities giving them more flexibility in tailoring the solutions to their unique business goals.
This puts a lot of SaaS vendors between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, meeting these consumer demands for custom API integration is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. On the other hand, they will risk losing their customers to the competition if they do not meet these demands.
Do you feel stuck in this challenging situation? Are you looking for a solution that can help you deliver integration and workflow automation capabilities within your product in a fraction of time? You’re not alone! Available solutions are confusing. To ease your choice we've put together a comprehensive guide that covers industry best-practices on how to choose the right Embedded iPaaS. Before you go further, you can download it here.
Embedded iPaaS platforms come to the rescue by providing ready-to-use and extensible software components that help SaaS vendors in delivering integration and workflow automation fast and in a scalable and maintainable manner. As a result, you will:
- Make your product “stickier”
- Increase customer retention
- Give your product a competitive advantage
- Reduce R&D costs
- Accelerate time-to-market
In this article, you’ll learn what iPaaS is and how it differs from Embedded iPaaS. Then, we’ll dive deeper into what you and your customers can gain from leveraging the benefits of Embedded iPaaS.
What is iPaaS?
Before we go into the details of Embedded iPaaS platforms, let us introduce iPaaS platforms in general so we can later build on these foundations when we add “Embedded” into the mix.
iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) provides a set of tools for connecting software applications. Typically, an iPaaS platform provides pre-built connectors, business rules, middleware, utilities, and transformations that facilitate the building and maintenance of integration flows. They provide a toolkit that makes it easy to develop, maintain, and monitor integrations. Without iPaaS, vendors build one-to-one integrations for each application they want to connect. This becomes unmanageable and unscalable with each new integration.
iPaaS provides a middleware that allows you to develop an integration once and then re-use it in different scenarios. Moreover, the iPaaS middleware is a perfect place to introduce business logic, rules, schedulers, and automations.
Where Did It All Start?
Software as a service (SaaS) software has been around for more than two decades. Since its inception, the SaaS industry has seen significant annual growth rates. It’s not surprising that the delivery model of SaaS is attractive. Lower costs, scalability, upgrades, and easier adoption being some of the top advantages. With the SaaS industry’s rise, vendors realized that their customers needed to share data across their different business applications, and APIs provided an effective way to do this.
iPaaS Platforms are Heavy Users of APIs, So Let’s Just Recap What an API Really Is...
API, also known as Application Programming Interface, allows applications to talk to one another. They provide a standard interface for other applications to connect to over the network to perform tasks that the user would do using the UI.
For example, a CRM SaaS vendor may provide an API to create and read contacts. These contacts can be created directly by the end-user using the CRM UI, or additionally, the contacts can be created automatically by an email application for each new email received by an unknown sender.
APIs are a great way to share data between applications. However, they are not aimed to be used by end-users. One would need to know programming in order to connect two applications using their APIs. These connections are the building blocks of an integration.
Now that we know what iPaaS is, we can dive deeper into different iPaaS options. As explained earlier, iPaaS helps with integration and is also the perfect place to add automation logic. The main differences are in how this is achieved and in what form.
One of the main questions to ask is:
Do you want to integrate cloud tools that you use internally for daily work (e.g. to reduce repetitive tasks or automate data flows between apps);
Do you want to offer integration capabilities within your product for your end-users to use so they can customize their own workflow automation?
Typically, iPaaS platforms are categorized as:
iSaaS (integration software as a service) is an acronym coined with the rise of “citizen integrators”, individuals, or business users that want to automate their daily routines. These tools are simple to use and are mostly used to configure simple, linear integration flows between business or IoT apps. Examples of such tools are Zapier, IFTTT or Microsoft Flow.
What iSaaS platforms are for individuals, iPaaS platforms are for “developers” within an enterprise. These platforms help with integration of business apps within an enterprise and are aimed for internal use only. They tend to be comprehensive and “technical”. Examples of such platforms include Mulesoft or Dell Boomi.
While iPaaS enables enterprises to resolve their internal integration problems, Embedded iPaaS is aimed at SaaS vendors that want to deliver integration and workflow automation capabilities within their products.
They are not meant to be used directly by end users but rather are seamlessly embedded into third-party products. They provide a set of software components, tooling, and UI kits that speed up the development of integrations and workflow automations and make it easier to maintain and monitor integrations.
Moreover, some Embedded iPaaS come with ready-to-use and beautiful UI widgets that make your product instantly look better and more advanced! Examples of these platforms are Appmixer, Cyclr, and Cloud Elements.
To sum it up, if you’re looking to automate your daily routines, data entries, or sync data between multiple business apps as an individual user, look for iSaaS or iPaaS platforms. If you’re a SaaS vendor wanting to extend your product and offer your end-users new integrations and workflow automation, Embedded iPaaS is the right platform to investigate.
Workflow automation is an essential part of Embedded iPaaS. Point-to-point integrations are great when it comes to straightforward data movement from one application to another. However, in real world scenarios, the customer wants to be more in control of when, how, and under what conditions their applications exchange data.
Moreover, it is common for customers to integrate not just two but multiple applications together in one unified workflow. Workflow automation allows the customer to orchestrate the flow of data between any number of applications and use logic and transformations to configure how the data moves.
Embedded iPaaS platforms often provide a visual drag-and-drop workflow builder UI that allows the customer to have full control over designing their workflows. This allows even non-technical customers to create automations without writing a single line of code.
The benefits of workflow automation are:
- Your customers can create sophisticated business logic without writing a single line of code
- Power-users can get the most out of your SaaS product
- Reduce engineering support by providing customers with a high-level of customization
Why is Embedded iPaaS Crucial?
Customers have an increasing demand for cloud tools to be tailored to their unique business goals. SaaS providers cannot provide built-in features to support all the different use cases of their customers. Sophisticated customers need more flexibility in automating and integrating tasks and data right within the tools.
For SaaS providers to stay competitive, they need to either implement workflow automation and integration features into their products or send their customers to third-party platforms that provide these capabilities. The former, i.e. native implementation of workflow automation and integration, is time consuming and cumbersome to maintain. The latter means that their customers are "left on their own" to do the job they need.
So why should you consider Embedded iPaaS?
- Native integrations offer superior customer experience.
Your customers expect your product to be integrated by default. As a SaaS vendor, you should know best what integrations your customers desire. With native integrations, you can tailor the details of the integration logic right into your product.
- Keep your customers in your product.
If you don’t provide integrations in your product, your customers will be left on their own to find third-party integration tools that will let them achieve their integration results. If they do so, they will come across other SaaS applications similar to yours.
Since the integration platform offers conversion of data from your app to the other, your customers will see an opportunity to easily switch. You can easily reduce this risk by offering your customers native integrations that keep them in your product.
- Retain users by providing power tools.
As your users become more sophisticated, they will start demanding features that will let them tailor your application to their specific needs. By providing them with a workflow automation builder with custom logic, you give them the right tools to automate their daily tasks and get the most out of your product.
The more familiar they become with your product’s workflow automation capabilities, the more likely they will stay with you. Thus, your product becomes more “sticky”.
- Reduce dependencies on high-skilled integration specialists.
Good Embedded iPaaS platform provides tooling to speed up the development of integrations and takes care of the “heavy lifting” associated with implementing new connectors. Features critical to connecting APIs such as error handling, authentication, quotas and limits, automatic recovery, and others bring complexity to your R&D.
Embedded iPaaS should provide tools to simplify these tasks or even take care of them by default in its entirety, saving you costs on integration specialists and time of your internal development. This subsequently frees up your R&D to focus on your core business.
- Let your business users build integrations without involving IT.
The low to no-code nature of Embedded iPaaS allows even non-technical people to deliver integration flows. Thanks to the fact that these users are closer to your customers, the time to deliver new integrations according to your customer requests is much reduced. Moreover, by letting your business users innovate, you’re promoting the democratization of development using a DIY approach.
The Benefits of Embedded iPaaS
The SaaS industry is becoming more and more fragmented. The era of vendors providing monolithic applications is moving towards a more verticalized market where SaaS vendors provide tools to solve a specific problem and “do it right.”
In this fragmented market, SaaS applications cannot exist in silos. Customers expect them to communicate with each other. The more integrations an application provides, the easier it is for customers to adopt. Embedded iPaaS systems make it easy to deliver new connectors speedily. Moreover, the automation and workflow capabilities of embedded iPaaS turn SaaS products into powerful tools that delight even the most sophisticated customers. Better yet, these capabilities make SaaS products more “sticky” and difficult to replace.
The main advantages of embedded iPaaS are:
Deliver new integrations rapidly
Embedded iPaaS gives you the tooling and UI kits to deliver new native integrations fast. Deliver integrations instantly by using ready-to-use connectors provided by your Embedded iPaaS or build your own new integrations quickly.
You don’t have to worry about features such as proper error handling, authentication, quotas & limits, automatic recovery and others since those are provided to you by default. Building custom connectors should only be about pushing or pulling data to/from an API.
At best, you don’t even have to re-deploy your SaaS application. Adding new integrations becomes dynamic and with zero downtime. Your customers will be delighted with your fast time-to-market.
Save cost on development and maintenance
Thanks to the foundations of Embedded iPaaS, you don’t need to have a deep understanding of all the intricacies associated with building API connectors.
Nor will you need to dedicate a lot of R&D resources to build new integrations. You also don’t need to hire expensive integration specialists. This leads to cost saving on both the development and ongoing maintenance.
Add new power-user features
Power users are the most intensive users of your product. They aim for maximum efficiency and automation of their use of your product. By using Embedded iPaaS, you can give your power users workflow automation tools, including a visual drag-and-drop workflow builder that allows them to automate their daily tasks right within your product.
These sophisticated users will not search for alternative solutions or third-party automation tools; they will happily stay in your product.
Maintaining integrations requires constant monitoring of all third-party APIs and their vendors to keep track of changing APIs or new versions. Embedded iPaaS takes this burden away from you by having processes and automated tests in place for all the connectors. The Embedded iPaaS vendor is then responsible for releasing updates that make sure all connectors are working properly.
Building a couple of connectors to third-party platforms may still be manageable. But once you add more and more connectors, you’ll quickly realize that this approach is not scalable. One-to-one connectors means you have to connect your internal product API with each new API introduced.
Embedded iPaaS provides a middleware, allowing you to build connectors for your internal APIs only once and connect these with other APIs through a standard interface. Thanks to the Embedded iPaaS providing a central hub for your integrations, you’ll gain better visibility in monitoring the performance and usage of all your integrations.
Since Embedded iPaaS provides the middleware for your integrations, it is the perfect place to add automation logic or data transformations to the mix. You can either pre-build your own automations or data transformations for your end-users, or you can let your end-users build their own by using a drag-and-drop workflow builder with simple point-and-click features. Even non-technical people can build automations without writing a single line of code.
Make your product visually appealing
Embedded iPaaS often provides user interfaces that you can embed in your own web product. Modern and beautiful UI widgets that you include will make your product instantly look better and more attractive to your customers.
Some SaaS products might not even have a UI or provide only a basic one (data processing, AI technology). By adding integration and workflow automation drag-and-drop builder UIs or even BI dashboards with charts, your product will become easier to market and sell.
How to create value for your customers using Embedded iPaaS
What businesses can benefit from Embedded iPaaS? SaaS Vendors from the following industries can take advantage of Embedded iPaaS:
Marketing Technology (Martech)
Digital marketers typically use a plethora of cloud applications to automate marketing activities and build automated funnels. Sophisticated marketers use workflow automation tools to orchestrate flow of data and events within a single application or from one application to another.
SaaS vendors use embedded iPaaS to provide native integrations and workflow automation capabilities right within their products instead of sending their customers to third-party applications.
Sales software, including CRMs, BI, Communication, and others, involve many data entry tasks, notifications, follow-ups, scheduling reports, and more. These tasks often combine to sequences that can be automated using workflow automation tools. Embedded iPaaS provides vendors of these products features they can instantly integrate to make their customers more productive and, therefore, happier, leading to increased customer retention.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technology Companies
AI companies often provide a technology that lacks a user interface. Without a UI, the product is hard to understand and use. Embedded iPaaS provides the AI layer a visual representation, integration with other applications, and the customer a UI where they can take full advantage of the underlying AI technology. Examples are document data extraction systems, document workflow systems, conversational technologies (chatbots, IVR) and more.
Typically, companies providing IVR for their customers use embedded iPaaS and workflow automation systems to let their customers configure call flows and use data from third-party cloud applications within the call flows.
Omnichannel communications companies are inherently integrated by combining multiple communication channels (email, sms, messaging platform, voice) into a singular experience for consumers. Again, embedded iPaaS and workflow automation allow these vendors to provide their customers with high customization capabilities.
You now understand the difference between iPaaS and Embedded iPaaS. You also have a clearer picture of the different benefits and values each one provides you.
With this understanding, you can now better evaluate which platform will serve your needs and business objectives. If you have reached the conclusion that Embedded iPaaS is what you need to make your SaaS more powerful and competitive, the next thing you need to do is select the right Embedded iPaaS platform for your SaaS product.
Once you have the right Embedded iPaaS platform, you can enjoy faster development to meet your customer’s demands and open the path to scale your business to the next level of success.
How to Choose The Best Embedded iPaaS For Your SaaS Product
To help you select the best Embedded iPaaS platform, we have prepared for you a comprehensive resource, “The Ultimate Guide to Embedded iPaaS: How to provide integration and automations in your SaaS Product”.
In this guide, you’ll learn more about Embedded iPaaS and how to consider multiple important factors that directly affect the success of your integration. The guide will give you insight and best-practices to evaluate Embedded iPaaS solutions, helping you answer important questions such as:
What’s the quality of UI/UX of the embedded UIs? Who controls the data? What are my options when it comes to customization? Am I comfortable with the ROI? How secure is the platform?
To learn more about Embedded iPaaS and to ensure you make the right choice in your product, download the free guide here.