In today’s world of cloud computing and on-demand information, businesses are more reliant than ever on third party systems and solutions to power their company. A manufacturer may use one system for ecommerce, another system for inventory management, and yet another system for shipping and packaging, not to mention different systems for time tracking and human resource management. Here at Lform, we’re using quite a few, including:
- Asana for project management and forecasting
- Forge for server configuration and deployment
- G Suite for scheduling, teleconferencing, email, and file sharing/collaboration
- GitHub to host client code repositories and facilitate code review and organization
- Harvest for time tracking and project budgeting
- Justworks for HR management
- LambdaTest for automated and cross-browser front-end testing
- Quickbooks for estimates and invoicing
- Sentry for error reporting and tracking
- SharpSpring for automated marketing, our CRM, and sales projections
- Slack for internal (and occasionally client) communication
- Uptime Robot for monitoring client web application uptime
While that may seem like a lot of services—especially for a small team like ours, the fact of the matter is that this has become the norm. The Software as a Service (SaaS) market is seeing rapid growth rates—and with 80% of all businesses using at least one SaaS application1, the market is expected to hit $157 billion this year, up from $63.19 billion in 20142. The reason for this growth is simple: more offerings and greater access to better solutions that are more affordably priced3. With no need to develop proprietary software, companies are able to adopt systems faster—and often cheaper—than before while allowing for changing market conditions, greater uptime, and business continuity4.
SaaS Integration: How It Works + What Is Right For Your Company
While all of these offers are great on the surface, they do come at a cost. Between 2015 and 2017, the average number of SaaS applications used by an organization doubled from 8 to 165. This means that most businesses are using a hodgepodge of essential SaaS platforms—each running it’s own software and pulling data from various cloud and on-site systems—to satisfy all of their needs in order to create a perfect solution. Because of this, data becomes siloed across multiple platforms, opening a company to loss of data, disjointed or fragmented information, or misalignment6. Say your business has an inventory management system and ecommerce website that do not communicate. Once a product gets updated on the inventory management system, it needs to be updated manually on the ecommerce website. If this is forgotten or done incorrectly pricing data, inventory, etc. may not be accurate across both systems potentially leading to upset customers or loss of revenue. To add to the potential pitfalls if an order is placed on the ecommerce website, that purchase order would then need to be manually entered into the inventory management or point of sales system. If not entered properly, even more upset customers or potentially lost revenue. Factor in an external shipping service and you’ve got a recipe for disaster with only 3 or 4 platforms! To put this into perspective, a recent study by Ascend2 found that 57% of marketers find this to be their largest barrier to success, while another study conducted by MuleSoft found that:
- Integration with existing systems is a “common” or “very common” occurring sales hurdle for nearly 90% of respondents, and they have been unable to integrate with customers’ existing systems.
- According to 94% of respondents, integration with other systems is “important” or “extremely important” in winning new customers.
- Integration or data importing was found to be “highly time consuming” for 20% of survey respondents and more than 60% find it to be “somewhat time consuming”.
Thus, integration has become an increasingly common problem for many businesses.
To combat this, many organizations are turning to cloud-based integration solutions in order to allow their independently designed applications and services to work together. This allows for organizations to manage data from a singular location, so they can spend less money on keeping data aligned with a reduced chance for human error. Enter Integration Services as a Platform (iPaaS): iPaaS allows users to connect otherwise disjointed applications across multiple web services and organizations and to deploy these integrations without having to install new hardware, software, or to create custom code, allowing for integration and data sharing across these systems7. Once a user connects or integrates their SaaS application to an iPaaS platform, they can instantly integrate it with all other SaaS platforms on that iPaaS8. Zapier, alone, claims to connect over 2,000 services, and they are far from the only iPaaS platform out there. For a more robust list, check out our post here. While iPaaS provides a cheap solution to a complicated problem, there are many situations where it might not be the best option. These point-to-point integration solutions can provide basic SaaS to SaaS connectivity, but they are not sophisticated or flexible enough to handle more complex scenarios. Many iPaaS platforms are limited, and lacking in the following areas:
- Do not support legacy systems
- Do not run in real-time
- Have a set number of actions
- Cannot transform, normalize, or validate data where necessary
- Provide Rube Goldberg-esque workarounds when a direct one-to-one integration is unavailable
All while keeping users reliant on yet another platform to manage the integrations.
When an out-of-the-box integration is not the optimal solution, the remaining option is for custom-developed connections. Working with a developer to architect a solution can enable unique connections between systems that would otherwise not work together, allowing for near limitless connectivity. It can also allow for more robust, all-encompassing multipoint connections or back-and-forth communication with legacy software. Additionally, working with a custom solution can allow for even more flexibility with the ability to add custom components such as a custom administrative panel with custom reporting.
- Public Cloud Trends in 2019 and Beyond
- Total size of the public cloud software as a service (SaaS) market from 2008 to 2020
- SaaS Growth is Old News
- 2019 SaaS Industry Market Report: Key Global Trends & Growth Forecasts
- 2018 Annual SaaS Trends Report
- The Ultimate Guide to iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service)
- The Growing Trend of Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS)
- The Future of SaaS is Integration