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Build vs Buy: The Best Approach to SaaS Integrations

Should you Build integrations in-house? Or Buy a third-party solution? Read this article to find the best integration strategy that suits your business roadmap

Any SaaS company on an average uses 350+ integrations. While SaaS unicorns use 2000+ integrations, a new startup also uses 15+ integrations on average. What is common to all SaaS companies is the increasing number of integrations they are using. To facilitate a faster time to market and increased data/ information exchange, quality SaaS integrations have become a go-to for almost all businesses. 

However, when it comes to building, deploying and maintaining SaaS integrations, companies tend to get overwhelmed by the costs involved, engineering expertise needed, security concerns, among others. 

Invariably, there are one of two paths that businesses can explore, either building integrations in house or buying them/ outsourcing the process to a third-party platform. In this article, we will uncover:

  • Top two approaches to SaaS integration
  • Build vs Buy for SaaS integrations: Key considerations
  • Which one to choose
  • Unified API as a solution for SaaS integrations
If you are interested to learn more about the types, trends, and forecast of SaaS integrations, download our State of SaaS integration: 2023 report

Which integration stage are you at?

Before we discuss the pros and cons of the two parallel ways of achieving integration success, it is important to understand which integration stage you are at. Put simply, each integration stage has its own requirements and challenges and, thus, your integration approach should focus on addressing the same. 

Stage I: Getting started

It is the first stage, you are in the launch phase where you are all set to go live with your product. However, currently, you don’t have any integration capabilities. While your product might be ripe for integration with other applications, the process to facilitate the same is not yet implemented. 

This might lead to a situation where your customers are apprehensive about trying your product as they are unable to integrate their data, and may even see it as underdeveloped and not market-ready. 

At this stage, your integration requirements are:

  • Low cost integration deployment and maintenance
  • Prevention of diversion of focus from core product enhancement for your internal engineering team
  • Ability to quickly and easily integrate with different applications and systems to drive adoption of your product

Stage II: Scale up

In the second stage, your product has been in the market for sometime and you have managed to deploy some basic integrations that you have built in-house. 

Now your goal is to scale your product, ensure deeper market penetration and customer acquisition. However, this comes with an increased customer demand of deploying more complex integrations as well as the need to facilitate greater volume of data exchange. Without more integrations, you will find yourself unable to scale your business operations. 

For scale up, your integration requirements are:

  • Facilitating new customer acquisition and preventing business revenue loss with streamlined integration experience 
  • Accelerated integration addition and implementation to keep pace with customer demand
  • Real-time integration support for customers queries to prevent any delays 
  • Ability to maintain and manage integrations, error handling, troubleshooting etc. for a seamless experience 

Stage III: Sustain and grow

In the third stage, you have established yourself as a credible SaaS company in your industry, who provides a large suite of integrations for your customers. 

Your goal now is to sustain and grow your position in the market by adding sophisticated integrations that can drive digital transformation and even lead to monetization opportunities for your business. 

This stage has its own unique integration requirements, including:

  • Comprehensive integration support without additional costs for maintenance and management
  • Increase in integration coverage across different APIs and new-age integrations
  • Monetization of integrations by offering them as exclusive features at a premium to add business value for customers
  • Preventing costs of adding incremental updates and API changes for smooth functioning
Overall, across all the three stages, while the requirements change, the expectations from integrations revolve around being cost effective, easy maintenance and management without draining resources, supporting the large integration ecosystem and ultimately creating a seamless customer experience. 

Therefore, your integration strategy must focus on customer success and there are two major ways you can go about the same. 

Two modes of integration: Build vs Buy

Irrespective of which integration stage you are at, there are two approaches that you can consider to traverse the integration ecosystem. Put simply, you can either build integrations in-house or you can partner with an external or third party player and buy integrations. 

  • Building integrations in-house will give you end-to-end control and the option to customize each functionality to give a very native feeling. This is ideal if you have to add only a couple of integrations, which your engineering team can manage along with core product development. 
  • However, buying or outsourcing integration development and management enables you to scale at speed and makes the process more cost efficient, resource lite and faster. Companies that prefer buying integrations believe that their developers should solely focus on product development and the supplementary efforts for integrations should be outsourced. 

The integration development process

If you are using SaaS integrations, you are likely to rely on APIs to facilitate data connectivity. This is the case whether you build it in-house or outsource the process. From a macro lens, it looks like a streamlined process where you connect different APIs, and integrations are done. However, on a granular level, the process is a little more complex, time consuming and resource intensive. 

Here is a snapshot of what goes into the API based integration development:

1. Get publicly available APIs or build them in-house 

The first step is to gauge whether or not the full version of the API is publicly available for use. If it is, you are safe, if not, you have to put in manual effort and engineering time to build and deploy a mechanism like a CSV importer for file transfer, which may be prone to security risks and errors. 

2. Access to comprehensive documentation

Next, it is important to go through the documentation that comes along with the API to ensure that all aspects required for integration are taken care of. In case the API data importer has been built in-house, documentation for the same also needs to be prepared. 

3. API alignment with product use case

Furthermore, it is vital to ensure that the API available aligns and complies with the use case required for your product. In case it doesn’t, there needs to be a conversation and deliberation with the native application company to sail through. 

4. Legal/ compliance requirements for data access

Finally, you need to ensure that all legal or compliance requirements are adhered to revolving around data access and transfer from their API, through some partnership or something along those lines. 

Should you build integrations in-house? 

Now that you have a basic understanding of the requirements of the integration development process, answer the following questions to gauge what makes more sense, building integrations in-house or outsourcing them. 

#Q1. How many integrations do you have?

Start by taking a stock of how many integrations you have or need as a part of your product roadmap. Considering that you will have varied customers with diverse needs and requirements, you will need multiple integrations, even within the same software category. 

For instance, some of your customers might use Salesforce CRM and others might use Zoho. However, as a SaaS provider, you need to offer integrations with both. And, this is just the top of the iceberg. Within each category, there can be 1000s of integrations like in HRIS with several vertical categories to  address. 

Thus, you need to gauge if it is feasible for you to build so many integrations in-house without compromising on other priorities.

#Q2. Do you have domain expertise with the concerned integrations?

Second, it is quite possible that your engineering team and others have expertise only in your area of operation and not specific experience or comprehensive knowledge about the integrations that you seek. 

For instance, if you are working with HRIS integrations, chances are your team members don’t understand or are very comfortable with the terminologies or the language of data models being used. 

With limited knowledge, data mapping across fields for exchange can become difficult and as integrations become more sophisticated, the overall process will get more complex. 

#Q3. When do you want to roll out the integrations?

Next, you need to understand what is your timeline for rolling out your product with the required integrations. 

A single integration can take up to 3 months to build from planning, design and deployment to implementation and testing. Thus, you need to ask yourself if this duration sits well with your go-to-market timeline. 

At the same time, you need to consider the impact any such delay due to integration might have on your market penetration and customer acquisition vis-a-vis your competitors. Therefore, building integrations in-house which are too time consuming can also add an opportunity cost. 

#Q4. Have you calculated the costs associated?

Undoubtedly, one is the opportunity cost that we have discussed above, which might result from any delays in going live due to delay in building integrations. However, there are direct costs of building and maintaining the integrations. 

Based on calculations of time taken for building integrations and factoring in the compensation for developers, each integration can cost on an average 10K USD. At the same time, you lose out on the productivity that your engineering time might have spent on accelerating your product roadmap timeline. 

It is important to do a cost benefit analysis as to how much of business value in terms of your core product you might need to give up in order to build integrations. 

#Q5. Do you have enough resources?

This is a classic dilemma that you might face. If you are building integrations in-house, you need to have enough engineering resources to work on building and maintaining the integrations. Invariably, overall, there has been a shortage of software development resources as reported by many companies. Even if you have enough resources, do you think diverting them to build integrations is the most efficient use of their time and effort? 

  • On one hand, this could result in a delay or hamper your product core functionalities. 
  • On the other hand, your developers might not even be interested in working on something that doesn’t contribute to the core product. 

Therefore, you are likely to face a resource challenge and you must deploy them in the most productive manner. 

#Q6. Have you considered security and authentication?

A key parameter for API integration is authentication to ensure that there is no unauthorized access of data or information via the API. If you build integrations in-house, managing data authorization/ authentication and compliance can be a complicated process. 

While generally, integrations are formed on OAuth with access tokens for data exchange. However, other measures like BasicAuth with encoded username, OAuth 2.0 with access using third-party platforms and private API keys are also being used. 

At the same time, even one SaaS application can require multiple access tokens across the platform, resulting in a plethora of access tokens for multiple applications. You need to gauge if your teams and platforms are ready to manage such authentication measures. 

#Q7: What about data normalization and mapping?

Once your integration is ready, the next stage of data exchange comes to life. While deciding whether to build integrations or buy them, you need to think about how you will standardize or normalize the data you receive from various applications to make sure everyone understands it. For instance, some applications might have one syntax for employee ID, while others might use it as emp ID. There are also factors like filling missing fields or understanding the underlying meaning of data.

Normalizing data between two applications in itself can be daunting, and when several applications are at play, it becomes more challenging. 

#Q8. Have you considered the management and maintenance required?

An integral role that you take up when building integrations in-house is their management and maintenance which has several layers. 

  • First, you need to constantly refresh the data to ensure that any fresh data in one application is automatically synced with the other one by refreshing the cache. 
  • Second, systems or APIs might fail, leading to errors in functioning. You need to be prepared for handling such errors and troubleshooting challenges to ensure that the business continuity of your customers is not disrupted. This might require unnecessary bandwidth deployment in addressing minor technical issues with the teams of applications from where you have received your API. 
  • Third, the API you are using might not have the customization capability needed for your use case, which might take up considerable bandwidth.
  • Fourth, the APIs are updated often and these changes need to be tracked and fixed before the customers realize. 

Build vs Buy: Which way to go?

Building integrations in-house can be cost intensive and complicated, whereas, buying or outsourcing integrations is resource-lite and a scalable model. To help you make the right choice, we have created a list of conditions and the best way to go for each one of them.

build vs buy: best approach for SaaS integration

Unified API to outsource integrations

Undoubtedly, there are several ways you can adopt to outsource or buy integrations from third party partners. However, the best outsourcing can be achieved with a unified API. Essentially, a unified API adds an additional abstraction layer to your APIs which enables data connectivity with authentication and authorization. 

Here are some of the top benefits that you can realize if you outsource your integration development and management with a unified API. 

Faster time to market and scale

With a unified API, businesses can bring their time-to-market to a few weeks from a few months. 

  • On one hand, this helps them reach the market before their competition, giving an edge for market penetration. 
  • On the other hand, a unified API also allows them to add more integrations and scale keeping pace with customer demands. 

When it comes to the overall picture, a unified API can help businesses save years in engineering time with all integrations that they use. At the same time, since the in-house engineering teams can focus on the core product, they can also launch other functionalities faster. 

Greater coverage

A unified API also provides you with greater coverage when it comes to APIs. 

If you look at the API landscape, there are several types and API endpoints. A unified API will ensure that all API types and endpoints are aggregated into a single platform. 

For instance, it can help you integrate all CRM platforms like Salesforce, Zoho etc. with a single endpoint. Thus, you can cover the major integration requirements without the need to manually facilitate point-to-point integration for all.  

Low costs and operational efficiency

Undoubtedly, a unified API brings down the cost of building integrations. 

  • First, the hard costs associated with building integrations like developer time and storage costs are significantly reduced. 
  • Second, soft costs like opportunity costs due to delays in market entry can also be eliminated. 
  • Third, a unified API also takes care of maintenance with error handling, troubleshooting, managing expired tokens, fixing API source schema change etc. For instance, Knit Unified API offers a dedicated dashboard with RCA and resolution as well as proactively fixing them for its users as and when necessary. This adds to the operational efficiency for your developers, preventing unnecessary diversion of focus for them. 

Opportunity to monetize

A unified API can help you provide unparalleled features to your customers which blend beautifully with your core functionalities. You can even automate certain tasks and actions for your customers. This  leads to a significant impact for your customers as well in terms of cost and time saving. 

In such a situation, chances are very high that your customers will be happy to pay a premium for such an experience, leading to a monetization opportunity which you might have not been able to achieve if you build integrations in-house, considering the volume you need to address for monetization. 

Single API knowledge required

Finally, a unified API ensures that your engineering teams only need to learn about the nuances, rules and architecture of one API as opposed to thousands in case of in-house integration development. This significantly reduces the learning hours that your developers can invest in value oriented tasks and learning. 

Wrapping up: TL:DR

As we draw the discussion to a close, it is evident that building and maintenance of integrations can be a complex, expensive and time consuming process. Businesses have two ways to achieve their integrations, either build them in-house or outsource them and buy them from a third party partner. 

While building integrations in-house keeps end to end control with the businesses, it can be difficult to sustain and maintain in the longer run. 

Thus, buying or outsourcing integrations makes more sense because it is:

Cost and time effective, facilitating faster time-to-market at a lower cost 

  • Resource-lite and doesn’t add burden to developers, preventing diversion of focus away from product roadmap
  • Has the potential to add multiple integrations at once, leading to higher coverage
  • Takes care of authentication, authorization and security
  • Ensures access to all APIs, irrespective of whether they are publicly available or not
  • Takes away the time and effort related to ongoing integration maintenance.
  • A unified API is a smart solution and a competent alternative to building integrations in-house for businesses in different stages of the integration cycle. You integrate once with a single API and get access to hundreds of apps within a single category. 

Looking to outsource you integration efforts? Check out what the Knit Unified API has to offer or get API keys today.

Sudeshna Roy

Lead Content Strategist, Knit

Decoding product and generating users with valuable content

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Sep 29, 2023

New Feature: User Management


Knit has recently rolled out one of its most anticipated features: User Management.

With the User Management feature you can now add multiple users with different capabilities to your Knit account based on their roles. 

In this article, we will discuss how to get started with the User Management feature and maximize its benefits.

What is User Management?

The User Management feature allows you to add multiple users to your organization’s Knit account and also assign them roles and permissions . It means multiple users can login and have access to your organization’s integrated accounts and various other features as a part of integration management. 

Knit currently serves 3 categories of possible roles for any organization. 

1. Admin

Admins have full access to all the features in the dashboard. They are in a way the primary users who have the right to add/edit/remove new users.  

2. Member

Members have access to only manage integrations and webhooks. Unlike Admins, they cannot add/update users or make changes to the organization’s account with Knit.

3. Billing Contact

Billing contact has access to only billing related options, like editing payment details, selecting plans etc.

For more information on setting up the User Management feature, take a look at this video

How to access the User Management page

When you\ sign up to your Knit Dashboard, you will be logged in as an administrator of the organization you have just created. 

You can then access user management by going to the settings page.

In the settings page you will have access to user management, among other settings.

The User Management screen shows you all the users assigned to your organization, their emails, permissions and also gives you the option to see and edit their roles.

To invite a new user to your org, click on the Add User button on top right.

Here, you can enter the email ID of the person you’d like to invite to join your organization. You can also set their role. Invited users will receive an invite link on their respective email ID.

For detailed information about dashboard access for each role, be sure to check out the User Roles tab.

You can also edit the roles for a user, and resend the invitation to invited users.

What if we have already created multiple separate accounts and want to combine them?

If you have already created multiple separate accounts (by signing up separately with your individual email IDs), we can help you combine them into a single account. 

In the process, we will also combine your integrated accounts, and organizations from multiple accounts.

However, it would not be possible to transfer pre-existing syncs, logs and issues. As a result, once the integrated accounts are transferred, you’ll have to restart the sync for them.

Note: If you have created multiple accounts for testing and production, we recommend that you do not to merge them as the User Management feature does not provide for segregation of environments. 

Thus, it is best to have a separate account for production and for testing in that case.

Let’s get started

Please reach out to with the list of email addresses (along with their respective roles) that you would like to combine and we’d be happy to help you through it! 

Use Cases
Sep 26, 2023

How Can Marketing Automation Tools Build More CRM Integrations in 80% Less Time


Marketing automation tools are like superchargers for marketers, propelling their campaigns to new heights. Yet, there's a secret ingredient that can take this power to the next level: the right audience data

What better than an organization’s CRM to power it? 

The good news is that many marketing automation tools are embracing CRM API integrations to drive greater adoption and results. However, with the increasing number of CRM systems underplay, building and managing CRM integrations is becoming a huge challenge. 

Fortunately, the rise of unified CRM APIs is bridging this gap, making CRM integration seamless for marketing automation tools. But, before delving into how marketing automation tools can power integrations with unified CRM APIs, let’s explore the business benefits of CRM APIs. 

10 ways marketing automation tools can maximize results with CRM API integration

Here’s a quick snapshot of how CRM APIs can bring out the best of marketing automation tools, making the most of the audience data for customers. 

1. Customer segmentation and content personalization  

Research shows that 72% of customers will only engage with personalized messaging. CRM integration with marketing automation tools can enable the users to create personalized messaging based on customer segmentation. 

Users can segment customers based on their likelihood of conversion and personalize content for each campaign. Slicing and dicing of customer data, including demographics, preferences, interactions, etc. can further help in customizing content with higher chances of consumption and engagement. Customer segmentation powered by CRM API data can help create content that customers resonate with. 

2. Enhanced lead nurturing for higher conversion 

CRM integration provides the marketing automation tool with every tiny detail of every lead to adjust and customize communication and campaigns that facilitate better nurturing. At the same time, real time conversation updates from CRM can help in timely marketing follow-ups for better chances of closure. 

2. Churn prediction and customer retention

As customer data from CRM and marketing automation tools is synched in real time, any early signs of churn like reduced engagement or changed consumer behavior can be captured. 

Real time alerts can also be automatically updated in the CRM for sales action. At the same time, marketing automation tools can leverage CRM data to predict which customers are more likely to churn and create specific campaigns to facilitate retention. 

3. Upsell and cross-sell campaigns

Users can leverage customer preferences from the CRM data to design campaigns with specific recommendations and even identify opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. 

For instance, customers with high engagement might be interested in upgrading their relationships and the marketing automation tools can use this information and CRM details on their historical trends to propose best options for upselling. 

Similarly, when details of customer transactions are captured in the CRM, they can be used to identify opportunities for complementary selling with dedicated campaigns. This leads to a clear increased revenue line. 

4. Automated campaign workflow to reduce operational overheads

In most marketing campaigns as the status of a lead changes, a new set of communication and campaign takes over. With CRM API integration, marketing automation tools can easily automate the campaign workflow in real time as soon as there is a status change in the CRM. This ensures greater engagement with the lead when their status changes. 

5. Event triggered campaigns for faster TAT

Marketing communication after events is an extremely important aspect of sales. With CRM integration in marketing automation tools, automated post-event communication or campaigns can be triggered based on lead status for attendance and participation in the event. 

This facilitates a faster turnaround time for engaging the customers just after the event, without any delays due to manual follow ups. 

6. Lead source automation

The integration can help automatically map the source of the lead from different marketing activities like webinars, social media posts, newsletters, etc. in your CRM to understand where your target audience engagement is higher. 

At the same time, it can facilitate tagging of leads to the right teams or personnels for follow ups and closures. With automated lead source tracking, users can track the ROI of different marketing activities. 

7. Tailored social media campaigns and multi-channel marketing

With CRM API integration, users can get access to customer preference insights to define their social media campaigns and audience. At the same time, they can customize scheduling based on customer’s geographical locations from CRM to facilitate maximum efficiency. 

8. Data enrichment for enhancing lead profiles

With bi-directional sync, CRM API integration with marketing automation tools can lead to enhancement of lead profiles. With more and more lead data coming in across both the platforms, users can have a rich and comprehensive profile of their customers, updates in real time across the CRM and marketing tools. 

9. Lifecycle marketing automation

Overall, integrating CRM API with marketing automation tools can help in automating the entire marketing lifecycle. It starts with getting a full customer view to stage-based automated marketing campaigns to personalized nurturing and lead scoring, predictive analytics and much more. Most of the aspects of marketing based on the sales journey of the customer can be automated and triggered in real time with CRM changes. 

10. Customer reporting and analytics for decision making

Data insights from CRM API integrated with those from marketing automation tools can greatly help in creating reports to analyze and track customer behavior. 

It can help ensure to understand consumer trends, identify the top marketing channels, improve customer segmentation and overall enhance the marketing strategy for more engagement. 

Real-world Struggles of CRM Integration in Marketing Automation

While the benefits of CRM API integration with marketing automation tools are many, there are also some roadblocks on the way. Since each CRM API is different and your customers might be using different CRM systems, building and maintaining a plethora of CRM APIs can be challenging due to:

Data transformation inconsistency and campaign blunders

When data is exchanged between two applications, it needs to undergo transformation to become normalized with data fields compatible across both. Since each CRM API has diverse data models, syntax and nuances, inconsistency during data transfer is a big challenge. 

If the data is not correctly normalized or transformed, chances are it might get corrupt or lost, leading to gaps in integration. At the same time, any inconsistency in data transformation and sync might lead to sending incorrect campaigns and triggers to customers, compromising on the experience. 

Delays in campaigns 

While inconsistency in data transformation is one challenge, a related concern comes in the form of delays or limited real-time sync capabilities. 

If the data sync between the CRM and the marketing automation tool is not happening in real time (across all CRMs being used), chances are that communication with end customers is being delayed, which can lead to loss of interest and lower engagement. 

Customer data privacy and security concerns

Any CRM is the beacon of sensitive customer data, often governed by GDPR and other compliances. However, integration and data transfer is always vulnerable to security threats like man in the middle attacks, DDoS, etc. which can lead to compromised privacy. This can lead to monetary and reputational risks. 


With the increasing number of CRM applications, scalability of integration becomes a huge challenge. Building new CRM integrations can be very time and resource consuming — building one integration from scratch can take up to 3 months or more — which either means compromising on the available CRM integrations or choking of engineering bandwidth. 

Moreover, as integrated CRM systems increase, the requirements for API calls and data exchange also grow exponentially, leading to delays in data sync and real time updates with increased data load. Invariably, scalability becomes a challenge.  

Integration management

Managing and maintaining integrations is a big challenge in itself. When end customers are using integrations, there are likely to be issues that require immediate action. 

At the same time, maintaining detailed logs, tracking API calls, API syncs manually can be very tedious. However, any lag in this can crumble the entire integration system. 

Vendor management

Finally, when integrating with different CRM APIs, managing the CRM vendors is a big challenge. Understanding API updates, managing different endpoints, ensuring zero downtime, error handling and coordinating with individual response teams is highly operational and time consuming. 

How Unified CRM API ensures maximum integration ROI

Don’t let the CRM API integration challenges prevent you from leveraging the multiple benefits mentioned above. A unified CRM API like the one offered by Knit, can help you access the benefits without breaking sweat over the challenges. 

If you want to know the technical details of how a unified API works, this will help

Integrate in minutes with multiple CRM APIs

A unified CRM API facilitates integration with marketing automation tools within minutes, not months, which is usually what it takes to build integrations. 

At the same time, it enables connecting with various CRM applications in one go. When it comes to Knit, marketing automation tools have to simply embed Knit’s UI component in their frontend to get access to Knit’s full catalog of CRM applications.

Consistent data transfer guaranteed with normalized data models

A unified CRM API can address all data transformation and normalization challenges easily. For instance, with Knit, different data models, nuances and schemas across CRM applications are mapped into a single and unified data model, facilitating data normalization in real time. 

At the same time, Knit allows users to map custom data fields to access non-standard data. 

Real time campaigns and data exchange

The right unified CRM API can help you sync data in real time, without any external polling requests. 

Take Knit for example, its webhooks and events driven architecture periodically polls data from all CRM applications, normalizing them and making them ready for use by the marketing automation tool. The latter doesn’t have to worry about the engineering intensive tasks of polling data, managing API calls, rate limits, data normalization, etc. 

Furthermore, this ensures that as soon as details about a customer are updated on the CRM, the associated campaigns or triggers are automatically set in motion for marketing success. 

Never miss a data update

There can be multiple CRM updates within a few minutes and as data load increases, a unified CRM API ensures guaranteed data sync in real time. As with Knit, its in-built retry mechanisms facilitate resilience and ensure that the marketing automation tools don’t miss out on any CRM updates, even at scale, as each lead is important. 

Moreover, as a user, you can set up sync frequency as per your convenience.

Scale as you go

With a unified CRM API, you only need to integrate once. As mentioned above, once you embed the UI component, every time you need to use a new CRM application or a new CRM API is added to Knit’s catalog, you can access it automatically with sync capabilities, without spending any engineering capabilities from your team. 

This ensures that you can scale in the most resource-lite and efficient manner, without diverting engineering productivity from your core product. From a data sync perspective as well, a unified CRM API ensures guaranteed scalability, irrespective of the data load. 

Security at scale

One of the biggest concerns of security and vulnerability to cyberattacks can be easily addressed with a unified CRM API across multiple facts. Let’s take the security provisions of Knit for example. 

  • First, Knit ensures double encryption, i.e. it encrypts data at rest as well as when in transit for exchange. It also encrypts data with an additional layer of application security.
  • Second, Knit is the only unified API that doesn’t store any copy of the data and acts as a pure passthrough proxy. Data is only processed in Knit’s server and is directly sent to the customer’s webhooks. Protection of end-user data like this helps you easily gain customer confidence during sales conversations.
  • Third, Knit has wide ranging authorization capabilities, including, OAuth, API key or a username-password based authentication. Irrespective of what authorization protocol the vendor has, it can integrate with Knit.

Catch potential errors early on

Finally, integration management to ensure that all your CRM APIs are healthy is well taken care of by a unified CRM API. 

  • A unified CRM API like Knit provides access to a detailed Logs, Issues, Integrated Accounts and Syncs page for all integrations to monitor and track them along with possible RCA and solutions. This empowers your CX team to solve customer issues immediately without involving the tech team.
  • Furthermore, it enables you to track every API call, data sync, etc. as well as the status of webhooks registered for real time visibility in errors — ensuring that you are always on top of your data and minimizes the chances of any errors.  

Constant monitoring and on demand customer support

Finally, when you are using a unified API, you don’t have to deal with multiple vendors, endpoints, etc. Rather, the heavy lifting is done by the unified CRM API provider. 

For instance, with Knit, you can access 24/7 support to securely manage your integrations. It also provides detailed documentation, links and easy to understand product walkthroughs for your developers and end users to ensure a smooth integration process.

Get started with unified CRM API

If you are looking to integrate multiple CRM APIs with your product, get your Knit API keys and see unified API in action. (Getting started with Knit is completely free)

You can also talk to one of our experts to see how you can customize Knit to solve your specific integration challenges.

Sep 25, 2023

Unified API vs Workflow Automation: Which One Should You Choose?


In today's SaaS business landscape, to remain competitive, a product must have seamless integration capabilities with the rest of the tech stack of the customer. 

In fact, limited integration capabilities is known as one of the leading causes of customer churn. 

However, building integrations from scratch is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process for a SaaS business. It often takes focus away from the core product.

As a result, SaaS leaders are always on the lookout for the most effective integration approach. With the emergence of off-the-shelf tools and solutions, businesses can now automate integrations and scale their integration strategy with minimum effort.

In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of two most popular integration approaches: Unified APIs and Workflow Automation tools and provide you with clear instructions to choose the approach that suits your specific product integration strategy. (We also have a checklist for you to quickly assess your need for the perfect integration approach in this article. Keep reading)

We will get to the comparison in a bit, but first let’s assess your integration needs. 

Types of product integrations

In order to effectively address customer-facing integration needs, it is crucial to consider the various types of product integrations available. These types can vary in terms of scope and maintenance required, depending on specific integration requirements. 

To gain a comprehensive understanding of product integrations, it is important to focus on two key aspects. 

  • Firstly, identifying the applications that need to be integrated to determine the scope of the integration. 
  • Secondly, considering the number of integrations that will need to be regularly managed as time progresses.

Based on these considerations, you can gauge whether or not you will be able to take care of your integration needs in-house. 

Read: To Build or To Buy: The practical answer to your product integration questions

1) Internal integrations

When working on any product, it is often beneficial to connect it with an internal system or third-party software to simplify your work processes. This requires integrating two platforms exclusively for internal use. 

For example, you may want to integrate a project management tool with your product to accelerate the development lifecycle and ensure automatic updates in the PM tool to reflect changes and progress.

In this scenario, the use case is highly specific and limited to internal execution within your team. Typically, your in-house engineering team will focus on building this integration, which can be further enhanced by other teams who reap its benefits. Overall, internal integrations are highly distinct and customizable to cater to individual organizational needs.

2) Occasional customer-facing integrations

Another type of integrations that organizations encounter are occasional customer-facing integrations, which are not implemented at scale. Occasional customer-facing integrations are typically infrequent and arise as specific requests from customers.

In these cases, customers may have specific software applications that they regularly use and require integration with your platform for a seamless flow of data and automated syncing. For example, a particular customer may request integration of Jira with your product, with highly specific requirements and needs.

In these situations, the integration can be facilitated by the customer's engineering team, third-party vendors, or other external platforms. The resulting integration output is highly tailored and may vary for each organization, even if the demand for the same integration exists. This customization ensures that the integration reflects the structures and workflows unique to each customer's organizational needs. 

3) Scalable customer-facing integrations

Finally, there will be certain integrations that all your customers will need. These are essential functionalities required to power their organizational operation. 

Instead of being use case or platform specific, scalable or standardized customer facing integrations are more generic in nature. For instance, you want all your customers to be able to connect the HRMS platform of their choice to your product for seamless HR management. 

These integrations need to be built and maintained by your team, i.e. essentially, fall under your purview. You can either offer these integrations as a part of the subscription cost that your customers pay for your software or as add-ons at an extra cost. Offering such integrations is important to gain a competitive edge and even explore a new monetization model for your platform. 

Standardizing the most common integrations is extremely helpful to provide your customers with a seamless experience. 

Different approach to integrations

While companies can always build integrations in-house, it’s not always the most efficient way. That’s where plug-and-play platforms like unified APIs can help. Let’s look at the top approaches to leveraging integrations. 

1) In-house integration development and maintenance

Undoubtedly, the most obvious way of integrating products with your software is to build integrations in-house. Put simply, here your engineering team builds, manages and maintains the integrations. 

Building integrations in-house comes with a lot of control and power to customize how the integration should operate, feel and overall create a seamless experience. However, this do-it-yourself approach is extremely resource intensive, both in terms of budgets and engineering bandwidth. 

Building just integration can take a couple of months of tech bandwidth and $10-15k worth of resources. Integration building from scratch offers high customization, but at a great cost, putting scalability into question. 

2) Workflow automation 

Workflow automation tools, as the name suggests, facilitate product integration by automating workflow with specific triggers. These are mostly low code tools which can be connected with specific products by engineering teams for integration with third party software or platforms. 

A classic example is connecting a particular CRM with your product to be used by the end user. Here, the CRM of their choice can be integrated with your product following an event driven workflow architecture. 

Data transfer, marketing automation, HR, sales and operations, etc. are some of the top use cases where workflow automation tools can help companies with product integrations, without having to build these integrations from scratch. 

3) Unified API / API Aggregators

Finally, the third approach to building and maintaining product integrations is to leverage a Unified API. Any product that you wish to integrate with comes with an API which facilitates connection and data sync. 

A unified API normalizes data from different applications within a software category and transfers it to your application in real time. Here, data from all applications from a specific category like CRM, HRMS, Payroll, ATS, etc. is normalized into a common data model which your product understands and can offer to your end customers. To learn more about how unified APIs work, read this

By allowing companies to integrate with hundreds of integrations overnight (instead of months), a unified API enables them to scale integration offerings within a category faster and in a seamless manner. 

Now that you have an understanding of the different types of integrations and approaches, let’s understand which approach is best for you, depending on your scope and needs. 

workflow automation vs unified API

When to use Unified API

If you want scalable and standardized integrations, choosing a unified API is a sensible option. Here are the top reasons why unified API is ideal for standardized customer-facing integrations: 

  • They cover almost all integrations within a particular category or type. This suggests that you can integrate with all CRM platforms, including Salesforce, Zoho, etc using just one unified CRM API for example. (Check out Knit’s integration catalog across ATS, HRIS, Payroll. CRM and Accounting software)
  • Integration code is universal. You just need to integrate the unified API code into your application for a particular category once. Even when new apps are added within the unified API category, you automatically get access to and start syncing data with the new app without writing any additional line of code. This means that you build once and scale perpetually. 
  • It is extremely developer friendly and doesn’t require a lot of technical expertise or engineering bandwidth to understand and execute. 
  • You can retain a great degree of control. The integration backend can be managed by your engineering team, keeping control of transfer logic and also facilitating high levels of security. 
  • The data you receive into your product is normalized and can be directly synched without the need for any processing or transformation. (Moreover, unified APIs like Knit also allow you to map any custom data field from a specific integration that’s not included in the standardized model. Learn more)
  • Most unified APIs completely take care of integration maintenance once it is built. It means, your tech team need not worry about addressing ongoing customer issues at all. 

However, if you want only one-off integrations, with a very high level of customization, using a unified API might not be the ideal choice. 

Therefore, choose a unified API if you want:

  • To create standardized customer-facing integrations
  • High levels of data normalization and standardization
  • Scalable integrations that can be replicated across customers
  • Ability to add more integrations with minimal resource requirements
  • To control the backend code and drive customizations to a certain extent 
  • A native integration experience and feel and adherence to your brand guidelines

When to use Workflow Automation

Depending on the nature of your organization and product offerings, you might need integrations which are simple, external and needed to enable specific workflows triggered by some predetermined events. 

In such a case, workflow automation tools are quite useful as an integration approach. Some of the top benefits of using workflow automation to power your integration journey are as follows. 

  • Negligible engineering expertise needed. Workflow automation tools are created in a drag and drop manner, facilitating low-code or no- code functionalities. Event triggers are all you need to facilitate data sync from integrations. 
  • They come with pre-built connectors. This means that you can easily get started with pre-established workflows and integration patterns between different applications. 
  • You can easily outsource integration or hand it over to teams beyond your core engineering team as integration using workflow automation doesn't require knowledge about your core product, etc. 
However, the low-code functionality comes with a disadvantage of lack of developer friendliness and incidence of errors. At the same time, data normalization is a big challenge for applications even within the same category. 

The presence of different APIs across applications necessitates the need to develop customized workflows. Invariably, this custom workflow need adds to the cost of using workflow automation when scaling integration. As API requests increase, workflow automation integration turns out to be extremely expensive. 

Therefore, choose workflow automation if you want:

  • A low code integration solution
  • One-off customer facing integration or integrations for internal use
  • Limited functionalities for data normalization
  • Off-the rack workflows and integration syncs

How to choose the right tool for your integration strategy?

In the previous section, we explored different scenarios for building product integrations and discussed the recommended approaches for each. However, selecting the appropriate approach requires careful consideration of various factors. 

In this section, we will provide you with a list of key factors to consider and essential questions to ask in order to make an informed choice between workflow automation tools and unified APIs.

1) Integration complexity

You need to gauge how complex the integration will be. Generally, standardized integrations which are customer facing and need to be scaled, will be more complex. Whereas, internal or one-off customer facing integrations will be less complex. 

Try to answer the following questions:

  • How complex is your integration need?
  • Do you want to connect with multiple applications within a category or only one?
  • How much tech bandwidth do you need to spend on complex data transformation or normalization?

Depending on the nature and scope of complexity, you can choose your integration approach. More complex integrations, which need scale and volume, should be achieved through a unified API approach. 

2) Customization requirements

Next, you must gauge the level of customizations you need. Depending on the expectations of your customers, your integrations might be standardized, or require a high amount of customizations. 

If you need an internal integration, chances are high that you will need a great degree of customization. You may want to check on:

  • What is the level of customization you need for your integrations?
  • Do your customers need unique workflows in integrations? 

If you need to customize your integrations for specific workflows tailored to your individual customers, workflow automation tools will be a better choice.

Note: At Knit, we are working on customized cases with our unified API partners every day. If you have a niche use case or special integration need, feel free to contact us. Get in touch

3) Scalability and growth

It is extremely important to understand your current and expected integration needs

Internally, you might need a limited number of integrations, or if you have a very limited number of customers, you will only need one-off customer facing integrations. 

However, if you wish to scale the use of your product and stay ahead of competition, you will need to offer more integrations as you grow. Even within a category, you will have to offer multiple integrations. 

For instance, some of your customers might use Salesforce as CRM, but others might be using Zoho CRM. Invariably, you need to integrate both the CRM with your product. Thus, you must gauge:

  • How many integrations do you need currently and what is the scale of growth expected?
  • Do you need more than a few integrations or applications within the same category?
  • How integral is integration scalability to your business or product growth?

If scaling integrations faster is your priority, unified APIs are the best choice for you.

4)Technical expertise available

Your choice of the right integration approach will also depend on the technical expertise available. 

You need to make sure that all of your engineering bandwidth is not spent only on building and maintaining integrations. At the same time, the integrations should be developer friendly and resilient to errors. 

Try to check:

  • How much bandwidth does your engineering team have to dedicate to integrations, without diverting focus from core product? 
  • Has your team worked with a particular integration approach in the past?
  • Will your team need additional training to align well with the chosen integration approach?
It is important that not all your technical expertise is spent on integrations. An ideal integration approach will ensure that other team members beyond core engineering are also able to take care of a few action items. 

5) Turnaround time and budgets

You need to gauge how much budget you have to ensure that you don’t overshoot and stay cost effective. At the same time, you might want to explore different integration approaches depending on the time criticality. 

Time and budget critical integrations can be accomplished via unified API or workflow automation. It is important to take a stock of:

  • What is the available budget you have for integration building and maintenance?
  • How many integrations do you seek to accomplish with those budgets?
  • What are the expected timelines for the integrations to be implemented?

It is important to undertake a cost benefit analysis based on the cost and number of integrations. 

For instance, a unified API might not be an ideal choice if you only need one integration. However, if you plan to scale the number of integrations, especially in the same category, then this approach will turn out to be most cost effective. The same is also true from a time investment perspective. 

6) Ecosystem support

When you go for an external integration approach like workflow automation or unified APIs, beyond in-house development or DIY, it is important to understand the ecosystem support available. 

If you only get initial set up support from your integration provider/ vendor, you will find your engineering team extremely stretched for maintenance and management. 

At the same time, lack of adequate resources and documentation will prevent your teams from learning about the integration to provide the right support. Therefore, it is ideal to get an understanding of:

  • What is the support being offered by your integration partner?
  • What are the capabilities available within your team to facilitate the integration process?
  • Will the integration partner provide comprehensive documentation and resources for knowledge sharing?
  • What is the quality of pre-built connectors/ API that are being provided?

7) Future outlook and considerations

Finally, integrations are generally an ongoing relationship and not a one-off engagement. The bigger your business grows, the higher will be your integration needs both to close more deals as well as to reduce customer churn.

Therefore, you need to focus on the future considerations and outlook. The future considerations need to take into account your scale up plan, potential lock-in, changing needs, etc. Overall, some of the questions you can consider are:

  • How well will your integration approach support your scale up plan?
  • Will the integration approach seamlessly adapt to the changing integration landscape?
  • Are there lock-ins or commitments that come along with any particular approach?

Understanding these nuances will help you create a long-term plan for your integrations. 

Wrapping up: TL:DR

When building integrations, it is best to understand your use case or type of integrations that you seek to implement before choosing the ideal product integration approach. While there are numerous considerations you must keep in mind, here are a few quick hacks.

  • Choose workflow automation for one-off customer facing integrations where you need a low-code editor with pre-built connectors. 
  • On the other hand, go for a unified API approach if you want to create standardized customer-facing integrations which you can scale.

Knit unified API helps you connect with multiple applications within the CRM, HRIS, ATS, Accounting, category in one go with just one API. Talk to one of our experts to explore your use case options or try our API for free

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