Importance of SaaS Integration: Why Do You Need Them?
Integrations help one app connect with another in order to exchange data freely and securely. To learn more about the need for faster SaaS integration, read on
Co-founder and CEO, Knit
One of the biggest blockers to SaaS product development is scaling integrations. Yet, without relevant and popular integrations no SaaS business can struggle to close more deals. SaaS integrations can play a major role in accelerating data exchange and improving customer and employee experience leading to business growth. SaaS integrations facilitate scalability and even has the potential to add more revenue.
What are SaaS integrations?
Let’s dive straight into what integrations are. As a developer, there are several software functionalities that you may want to offer. You can incorporate such functionalities within your application via ‘INTEGRATIONS’.
Integrations connect different applications via their API or Application Programming Interface. This enables the applications to exchange data and communicate. Thus, integrations can help you provide a holistic technology solution for your customers. Here, everything works as a unified interface. For instance, if you have a SaaS solution for employee engagement, you can use an integration to help your customers directly capture key engagement data into a CRM they are using.
Importance of integrations for SaaS businesses
When it comes to developers, especially for SaaS businesses, integrations are important. There are several benefits of integrations for technical readiness and business impact, including:
1. Product enhancement with customer intel with integration use
When you use different integrations, you receive important data about your customers. You may not be able to capture the same without the said integration.
For instance, if you have a chatbot integration and you see your customers spending a great amount of time engaging with the same, you may want to add this software functionality to your core offering. This will help you enhance the value of your product for your customer. You will be able to achieve better experience and stickiness.
2. Better customer experience: Leading to faster acquisition and retention
Customers today no longer wish to toggle from one platform to another. They don’t want to manually carry their data. Integrations have a tangible impact on customer experience. They allow customers to address all their requirements from a unified platform. Thus, all their important data has one melting point.
Such a unified interface will help you keep your existing customers, and also help you get new ones. This will help you achieve higher market penetration at a lower cost.
3. Increased engagement/ greater use time with users
When you have many integrations, chances are higher that your customers will engage with your application more than if you have no integrations. Having integration with trigger notification reduces the need to switch apps and makes customers spend more time on your tool.
This increased time spent by customers can be vital for you to gauge consumer behavior. With this, you can create new functionalities to improve the user interface and user experience for your customers.
4. New source of revenue: Upgrade potential
Adding more integrations can help you create new business models and unlock new sources of revenue.
While you can offer some integrations in your base pricing model, there can be others which you can offer in a tiered pricing strategy. Here, your customers will need to upgrade their package or subscription to the next tier. This will enable you to get more revenue for the integrations you are offering.
Furthermore, if you have integrations that need in-app purchases or payments that you can route through your app, creating another revenue opportunity for you. If you are facilitating sales for any integrated application/ software, you are eligible for commissions. This is another business model worth exploring, besides generating revenue for your application.
API integrations Vs No-code/ workflow tools for integrations
API integrations are integrations which are built in-house to provide for data exchange with other third party softwares.
Pros of API integrations
Own a part of the code for the integration
Make customizations as and when needed
Ensure all working parts of different applications work well for you
When to use API integrations?
Choose API integrations if you:
Want to keep a part of the code for your control
Have a robust team of developers in-house
Need customizations for a better customer experience.
No-code/ workflow tools
No-code or workflow tools are less resource and effort intensive and cost effective. They are becoming sought after by citizen developers.
Pros and cons of no-code/workflow tools
Get a drag and drop solution for integrations
No need to work on the backend codebase
Add integrations at lower developmental costs
When to use no-code/workflow tools?
Choose no-code/workflow tools is you:
Have limited technical capabilities with many priorities in the product development roadmap
Don’t want to invest in maintenance and other efforts
Wish to only focus on your product functionalities
Want to add integrations to your solution and go to market within days.
Challenges to SaaS integrations
Integrations seem to be one of the most important prerequisites for businesses today. But, many SaaS companies struggle with the following challenges when it comes to integrations:
1. Effort of doing integrations in-house
First, achieving SaaS integrations in-house can be expensive, time consuming and resource heavy. There are strategies like ETL (extract, transform, and load) for SaaS integrations. But, they need high levels of training and technical expertise.
Second, in-house integrations also need optimized data transformation. This helps ensure data communication between applications is at the right place at the right time. Achieving this level of accuracy is time and cost intensive.
Finally, implementation of integrations in-house comes with its set of security challenges. Multi-layer security controls are also important, which may be difficult to ensure in-house.
To understand the ROI and compare the cost of building and managing integrations in-house vs using an API aggregator like Knit, read our in-depth guide on Build vs Buy
2. Maintenance cost and effort of integrations
As a developer, you would agree that technology is changing at a fast pace. Thus, integration deployment is an ongoing process. With technology and business priorities changing, you may need new integrations frequently. At the same time, the maintenance costs of integrations can be quite high. This is to ensure they run smoothly and are bug free.
Besides building new integrations, some existing ones might need to be re-implemented. You may also need to change some integrations with other products in the same segment.
Wrapping up: TL DR
To sum it up, it is evident that integrations can help a SaaS business in many ways. Here are some of the top reasons why you should consider integrations from a technology lens:
Close more deals
Greater innovation with customer insights from third party applications
Reduction in errors which may result due to manual communication of data
Integrations can help you deliver the best products to your customers. This comes without extra burden on new code development on you or your IT team. You can use dedicated integration platforms (iPaaS) to facilitate the following —
Shorter development cycle leading to faster time to market
Lower costs of achieving goals in product development roadmap
Easier codebase focusing only on product core functionalities
Increase in development productivity and efficiency
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.