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Understanding Payroll API Integration: The Complete Guide

This payroll API integration guide teaches key payroll concepts, data models, top payroll APIs, popular payroll integration use cases and how to get started

As the nature of employment is constantly changing with dynamic employee benefit expectations, organizational payroll is seeing constant transformation. At the same time, payroll data is no longer used only for paying employees, but is increasingly being employed for a variety of other purposes. 

This diversification and added complexities of payroll has given rise to payroll APIs which are integral in bringing together the employment ecosystem for businesses to facilitate smooth transactions. 

What are payroll APIs?

Like all other APIs or application programming interfaces, payroll APIs help companies integrate their different applications or platforms that they use to manage employee payment details together for a robust payroll system. 

Essentially, it enables organizations to bring together details related to salary, benefits, payment schedule etc. and run this data seamlessly to ensure that all employees are compensated correctly and on time, facilitating greater satisfaction and motivation, while preventing any financial challenges for the company. 

Payroll concepts and information

To build or use any payroll API or HRIS integration, it is important that you understand the key payroll concepts and the information you will need to collect for effective execution. Since payroll APIs are domain specific, lack of knowledge of these concepts will make the process of integration complicated and slow. Thus, here is a quick list of concepts to get started.

1. Frequency and repetition 

The first concept you should start with focuses on understanding the frequency and repetition of payments. There are multiple layers to understand here. 

First, understand the frequency. In technical terms, it is called pay period. This refers to the number of times a payment is made within a specific period. For instance, it could be monthly, twice in a month, four times a month, etc. Essentially, it is how many times a payment is made within a particular period.

Second, is the repetition, also known as payroll runs. Within an organization, some employees are paid on a regular basis, while others might receive a one-time payment for specific projects. A payroll run defines whether or not the payment is recurring. Your payroll run will also constitute a status to help understand whether or not the payment has been made. In case the payment is being calculated, the status will likely be unprocessed. However, once it is complete, the status will change to paid or whatever nomenclature you use. 

2. Pay scale and in-hand pay

As a part of the payroll concepts, it is extremely important for you to understand terms like pay scale, in-hand pay, compensation, pay rate, deduction, reimbursements, etc. We’ll take them one at a time.

Pay scale/ Pay rate

A pay scale or pay rate determines the amount of salary that is due to an employee based on their level of experience, job role, title, tenure with the organization, etc. 

A pay scale or a pay rate can be in the form of an hourly or weekly or even a monthly figure, say INR xx per week or INR yy per hour. It may differ for people with similar experience at the same level, based on their tenure with the company, skills and competencies, etc. 


Based on the pay scale or pay rate, a company can calculate the compensation due to any employee. Generally, the math for compensation isn’t linear. Compensation is also referred to as the gross pay which includes the pay rate multiplied by the time period that the employee has worked for along with other benefits like bonuses and commissions that might be due to the employee, based on their terms of employment. 

For instance, some organizations provide a one-time joining bonus, while others have sales incentives for their employees. All of these form a part of the compensation or gross pay. 


In addition to the benefits mentioned above, an employee might be eligible for others including a health cover, leave-travel allowance, mental wellness allowance etc. These all together add up to benefits that an employee receives over and above the pay rate


Within the compensation or the gross pay are parts of deductions, which are not directly paid to the employees. These deductions differ across countries and regions and even based on the size of the company. 

For instance, in India, companies have to deduct PF from the employee’s gross pay which is given to them at the time of retirement. However, if an organization is smaller than 20 people, this compliance doesn’t come into existence. At the same time, based on the pay scale and pay rate, there are tax deductions which are due. 

In-hand pay

The in-hand pay is essentially the amount an employee receives after addition of all due payment and subtraction of the aforementioned deductions. This is the payment that the employee receives in his/ her bank account.


Another concept within the payroll is reimbursements. There might be some expenses that an employee undertakes based on the requirements of the job, which are not a part of the gross pay. For instance, an employee takes out a client for dinner or is traveling for company work. In such cases, the expenses borne by the employee are compensated to the employee. Reimbursements are generally direct and don’t incur any tax deductions.

3. Cost to employer

The above concepts together add up to the cost to the employer. This refers to how much an employee essentially costs to a company, including all the direct and indirect payments made to them. The calculation starts with the pay scale or pay rate to which other aspects like contribution to benefits and em

Payroll data models/ data schemas 

Now that you have an understanding of the major payroll concepts, you also need to be aware about the key data or information that you will need to comprehend to work on payroll APIs. 

Essentially, there are two types of data models that are most used in payroll APIs. One focuses on the employees and the other on the overall organization or company.

Employee details

From an employee standpoint, any payroll API will need to have the following details:


The part of the world where the employee resides. You need to capture not only the present but also the permanent address of the employee.


Employee profile refers to a basic biography of the concerned person which includes their educational backgrounds, qualifications, experience, areas of expertise, etc. These will help you understand which pay scale they will fit into and define the compensation in a better way. It is equally important to get their personal details like date of birth, medical history, etc. 


An employee ID will help you give a unique identifier to each employee and ensure all payments are made correctly. There might be instances where two or more employees share the same name or other details. An employee ID will help differentiate the two and process their payrolls correctly. 


Information on dependents like elderly parents, spouses and children will help you get a better picture of the employee’s family. This is important from a social security and medicare perspective that is often extended to dependents of employees.

Company details

When it comes to company details, working with a payroll API, you need to have a fair understanding of the organizational structure. The idea is to understand the hierarchy within the organization, the different teams as well as to get manager details for each employee.

A simple use case includes reimbursements. Generally, reimbursements require an approval from the direct reporting manager. Having this information can make your payroll API work effectively.

Top payroll API use cases

Invariably, a payroll API can help you integrate different information related to an employee’s payroll and ensure a smooth payment process. However, it is interesting to note that many SaaS companies are now utilizing this payroll data collected from payroll APIs with HRIS integration to power their operations. Some of the top payroll API use cases include:

1. Insurance and lending

Often, information about payroll and income for individuals is siloed and insurance and lending companies have to navigate through dozens of documents to determine whether or not the individual is eligible for any kind of insurance or loans. Fortunately, with payroll APIs, this becomes easy by enabling several benefits. 

  • First, payroll API can help lenders or insurance agents with streamlined information on whether or not the person has the ability to pay the installments or loans. 
  • Second, any kind of lending also requires a background verification which payroll APIs with HRIS integration can easily provide. Thus, with payroll APIs, SaaS based insurance and lending companies can easily process verification and loan underwriting. 

2. Accounting

Accounting and tax management companies have for long struggled with manual paperwork to file company taxes which comply with the national and regional norms. With payroll API, SaaS based accounting firms find it extremely easy to access all employee related tax information at one place. They can see the benefits offered to different employees, overall compensation, reimbursements and all other payroll related technicalities which were earlier siloed. 

Armed with this data, courtesy payroll APIs, accounting firms find their work has been highly streamlined as they no longer have to manually document all information and then work to verify its accuracy and compliance.

3. Employee benefit companies

There are several SaaS companies today that are helping businesses set up their benefits plans and services for high levels of employee satisfaction. These employee benefits companies can take help of data from payroll APIs to help businesses customize their benefits packages to best suit employee expectations and trends. 

For instance, you might want to have different benefits for full-time versus contractual employees. With payroll API data, employee benefit companies can help businesses make financially prudent decisions for employee benefits. 

4. Performance management systems

The recent years have seen a rise in the adoption of performance management systems which can help businesses adopt practices for better employee performance. Armed with HRIS and payroll API data from different companies, these companies can identify motivators in payroll for better performance and even help identify rate of absenteeism and causes of poor performance. 

Such SaaS based companies use payroll APIs to understand which pay scale employees take more time off, what their benefits look like and how this gap can be bridge to facilitate better performance. Invariably, here, payroll data can help streamline performance management from a benefits, incentives and compensation standpoint.As well as, it makes HRIS data makes it a one click process to gather all relevant employee information. 

5. Consumer fintech companies

Consumer fintech companies, like those in direct deposit switching, are increasingly leveraging payroll APIs to facilitate their operations. Payroll API integrations allow consumers to directly route their deposits through their payroll with direct deposit switching. The account receiving the deposit is directly linked to the employee’s payroll account, making it easy for consumer fintech companies to increase their transactions, without manual intervention which increases friction and reduces overall value. 

5. Commercial insurance 

Finally, there are SaaS companies that deal with commercial insurance for companies for different purposes. Be it health or any other, payroll API data can help them get a realistic picture of the company’s people posture and their payroll information which can help these commercial insurance companies suggest the best plans for them as well as ensure that the employees are able to make the payments. They can achieve all of this without having to manually process data for all employees across the organization.

Payroll fragmentation challenges

Research shows that the payroll market is poised to grow at a CAGR of 9.2% between 2022 and 2031, reaching $55.69 billion by 2031. 

While the growth is promising, the payroll market is extremely fragmented. Undoubtedly, there are a few players like ADP RUN, Workday, etc. which have a significant market share. However, the top 10 players in the space constitute only about 55%-60% share, which clearly illustrates the presence of multiple other smaller companies. In fact, as you go down from the top 2-3 to the top 10, the market share for individual applications dwindles down to 1% each. 

Here is a quick snapshot of the payroll market segmentation to help understand its fragmented nature and the need for a unified solution to make sense of payroll APIs. 

Before moving on to how payroll fragmentation can be addressed with a unified solution, it is important to understand why this fragmentation exists. The top reasons include:

Changing and diverse employee demographics

First, different businesses have different demographics and industries that they cater to. Irrespective of the features, each business is looking for a payroll solution that provides them with the best pricing based on their number of employees and employment terms. While some might have a large number of full time salaried employees, others might have a large number of contractual workers, while the third kind might have a balanced mix of both. These diverse demographic requirements have given birth to different payroll applications, fragmenting the market. 

Dynamic market conditions

Next, it is important to understand that market conditions and employment terms are constantly in flux. 

  • On one hand, the compensation and benefits expectations are continually changing. 
  • On the other hand, with the rise of remote and hybrid work, employment models are undergoing transformation. 

Therefore, as businesses need new and fresh approaches to deal with their payroll requirements, a consequent rise of fragmentation can be observed. 

New and tech enabled solutions

Finally, organizations are increasingly adopting white labeled or embedded payroll solutions which enable them to either brand the solutions with their name or embed the API into their existing product. This is enabling market players in other verticals to also enter the payroll market, which further adds to the fragmentation. 

  • On one hand, there are completely new SaaS players entering the market to address new business needs and changing market conditions. 
  • On the other hand, existing players from other verticals are adding to their capabilities to address payroll requirements. 

Unified API for payroll integration

With so many payroll applications in the market for HRMS integration, it can be extremely daunting for businesses to make sense of all payroll related data. At the same time, it is difficult to manage data exchange between different payroll applications you might be using. Therefore, a unified payroll API can help make the process easy. 

Data normalization

First, the data needs to be normalized. This means that your unified payroll API will normalize and funnel data from all payroll providers about each employee into a consistent, predictable and easy to understand data format or syntax, which can be used. 

Data management

Second, a unified API will help you manage all employee payroll data in the form of unified logs with an API key to ensure that you can easily retrieve the data as and when needed. 

Make informed decisions

Finally, a unified payroll API can help ensure that you are able to make sense of the payroll data and make informed decisions during financial planning and analysis on factors like pay equity, financial prudence, etc. 

Payroll API data with Knit 

As a unified payroll API, Knit can help you easily get access to the following payroll data from different payroll applications that you might be using to facilitate seamless payment processing and payroll planning for the next financial year. 

Employee Profile

Seamlessly retrieve all employee data like first name, last name, unique ID, date of birth, work email, start date, termination data in case of former employees, marital data and employment type. 

Employee Organizational Structure

Hierarchical data for the employee, including information on the employee’s title and designation, department, manager details, subordinates or those who report to the employee, etc. 

Employee Dependents

Details about the family members of the employees including children, spouse and parents. The information includes name, relation, date of birth and other specific data points which can be useful when you are negotiating insurance and other benefits with third party companies. 

Employee Location 

Information on where the employee currently resides, specific address as well as the permanent address for the employee. 

Employee payroll

All kinds of details about the compensation for the employee, including gross pay, net pay, benefits and other earnings like commissions, bonuses, employee contributions to benefits, employer contributions, taxes and other deductions, reimbursements, etc. 

Wrapping up: TL:DR

Overall, if you observe it is very clear that increasingly, the payroll market is becoming more and more fragmented. Invariably, it is becoming extremely difficult for businesses using multiple payroll applications to normalize all data to facilitate understanding and exchange. To make sense of payroll APIs, you need to first acquaint yourself with the key payroll concepts like pay period, payroll run, compensation, in-hand pay, gross pay, reimbursements, benefits and deductions, etc. 

Once you understand these, you will agree that a payroll API can make the payment process seamless by helping in employee onboarding and payroll integration, management of reimbursements, administration of benefits and easy deductions, tax and net pay management, accounting and financial planning, among others. 

Increasingly, data from payroll APIs is also enabling other SaaS companies to power their operations, especially in the finance and fintech space. If you look closely, lending, insurance, portfolio management, etc. have become very streamlined, automated with a reduced reliance on manual process. At the same time, HR management has also become simplified, especially across performance management. Payroll data can help performance management companies help businesses identify the right incentive structure to motivate high performance. 

However, with increasing fragmentation, a unified payroll API can help businesses easily extract salary information, data on benefits and deductions and records about how and when the employees have been paid along with tax related information from a single source. Thus, if  you are adopting payroll API, look out for data normalization and data management for maximum business effectiveness. 

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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