The Ultimate Guide to SaaS Integrations: Unlock Growth and Efficiency

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The Ultimate Guide to SaaS Integrations: Unlock Growth and EfficiencyThe Ultimate Guide to SaaS Integrations: Unlock Growth and Efficiency

SaaS (software-as-a-service) applications make up 70% of total company software use and by 2025, 85% of the business applications will be SaaS based. Furthermore, the average number of SaaS applications used by a company reached as high as 370+ in 2023. Naturally, the investments in SaaS application procurement and deployment is on an exponential rise. However, to maximize their return on investment in SaaS applications, businesses are focusing cloud software integration to facilitate seamless exchange of data. While initially, the focus was on end users driving integrations, in the current scenario, the onus has largely shifted, where SaaS providers are expected to offer integrations for scalable adoption. 

Essentially, in SaaS integrations, SaaS applications are connected with one another via their API (application programming interface) i.e. API integration to facilitate data exchange, build workflows and automate repetitive tasks. As the number of SaaS applications used by a company grows, integrations become more of a necessity than just a competitive advantage. In fact, the SaaS integration market is projected to grow from $4.4 billion in 2020 to $11.4 billion by 2025, clearly illustrating the growing importance of integrations in today’s market landscape. 

While seamless data exchange between applications to ensure different apps are able to work together efficiently is a clear rationale behind SaaS integrations, other factors play a pivotal role in the SaaS integration rise movement. A boost in efficiency and accuracy due to reduced manual data entry, data-driven decision making and even a better employee experience are some key business benefits of SaaS integrations. 

However, building and managing SaaS integrations poses significant challenges for businesses. Right from compatibility and data normalization challenges between different applications to security and privacy risks, especially when it comes to exchange of sensitive and confidential data. Furthermore, lack of robust API documentation and the overall increasing demand for integrations ends up making software connectivity a nightmare for developers. 

Invariably, the increasing need for SaaS integrations coupled with the challenges companies face in building and maintaining them has given rise to the adoption of third party SaaS integration platforms. 

In this article, we will give a detailed overview of the SaaS integration landscape, focusing on:

  • What are SaaS integrations
  • Business case for SaaS integrations along with use cases
  • Challenges in building and maintaining SaaS integrations
  • Different strategies to power SaaS integrations and the best practices
  • Future of cloud software integration 

Decoding SaaS integrations 

SaaS integrations follow the process of connecting a SaaS application to either another SaaS application or some in-premise software. The underlying objective is to enable flow of data from one application or software to the other, while automating workflows across the different platforms in use leveraging the API. In simple terms, the API facilitates communication between two applications, enabling them to request and send data and information to one another, fostering data integration. Generally, SaaS integrations are either: 

  • Internal integrations, where companies connect applications they use internally with one another to ensure smooth operations. For instance, when companies connect their HRMS platform with Payroll software to ensure all employee data regarding leaves, new hires, is synced with the payroll system to facilitate accurate compensation disbursement. 

  • Customer facing integrations, where companies offer integrations between their SaaS product and other SaaS applications that a customer might use to facilitate greater adoption and enhance customer delight. For instance, an ATS platform integrating with the customer’s HRMS platform to ensure details of all new hires are updated automatically once the candidate is onboarded 

SaaS integrations essentially serve the purpose of facilitating data flow between two applications. Whether it is for internal or external use, businesses need to narrow down on the approach or type of integration process they will follow. Depending on the needs and scope, businesses can adopt one of the following types of integrations:

  • Native integrations: These integrations are built directly between two applications, and the onus generally lies on one or both of the applications to build and maintain these integrations. Thus, native integrations require in-house resources and engineering bandwidth to build, manage and sustain data integration. Native integrations prevent the additional coordination with any third party vendor and gives businesses complete control over their integration process. However, they can be difficult to scale, considering they need to be built and maintained 1:1. At the same time, it may lead to resource inefficiency for your engineering resources.  
  • Third party integrations: Unlike native integrations, third party integrations rely on external or third party platforms also known as integration platforms to help businesses build and manage SaaS integrations, leveraging APIs. Like native integrations, they can be used for internal and customer-facing requirements. As largely an outsourced process, third party integrations facilitate easier scalability, saves developer bandwidth and accelerates the time to market (especially for customer-facing integrations). On the flip side, these integration platforms give businesses limited visibility into integration performance and come with the risk of relying on a 3rd party vendor.  
  • Custom integrations: Lastly, there are custom integrations, which are essentially tailored to the needs and requirements of a single customer. They are not necessarily an approach to building and managing integrations, but a specific type which are exclusive to a client and not meant for deployment at a mass scale. 

Whether you go for native integration or third party integrations, the route is generally via APIs or application programming interface. An API is specifically a single or a collection of endpoints for an application, with each endpoint enabling users to access data or functionality for that application. It enables applications to talk to each other by extracting and sharing data between them. Research shows that 90% of developers use API and they play a significant role in SaaS integration. APIs facilitate data integration by enabling software interoperability between different applications. Additionally, most APIs come with robust documentation which allows developers to build integrations with the applications they use for data exchange, workflow automation, while ensuring authentication and encryption. 

The business benefits of SaaS integrations

There are several reasons businesses invest in SaaS integrations, here are the top few:

Benefits of internal SaaS integrations 

By integrating SaaS applications used internally, businesses can:

Boost efficiency, productivity and accuracy

SaaS integrations effectively eliminate or significantly reduce data silos between different teams and departments, facilitating the seamless flow of relevant information and enhancing workplace efficiency. By automating data entry, these integrations not only save valuable human time but also minimize errors that could lead to financial and reputational damage. For example, manual data entry errors—such as incorrect compensation values when transferring information from HRMS to payroll—can result in overpaying or underpaying employees. Consequently, SaaS integrations improve accuracy and productivity, allowing teams to concentrate on value-added work.

Get effective customer insights

When businesses integrate various applications that interact with their customers, they gain a more comprehensive understanding of customer expectations. For instance, integrating CRM and marketing platforms can provide insights into customer personas, preferences, and behaviors, enabling businesses to create more targeted campaigns. If a customer responds to a particular type of campaign, sales representatives can use this information to tailor their pitches and reach out to the customer during their engagement with the campaign. However, this level of insight is only achievable when these SaaS applications communicate with each other in real time, thereby illustrating the need for SaaS integrations. 

Automate repetitive tasks

SaaS integrations enable businesses to automate various routine and repetitive tasks, ensuring they are completed efficiently and without human intervention or delay. For example, when a customer's status changes in the marketing automation platform, it is automatically updated in the CRM, alerting sales representatives to activate the customer. Similarly, integrating CRM with ERP systems can automate invoice generation, ensuring accuracy and consistency each month. This automation via SaaS integrations leads to higher reliability and precision in execution of repetitive tasks. 

Improve employee experience

SaaS integrations for internal applications greatly enhance the employee experience in several ways. First, they significantly reduce employees' dependence on one another for information, streamlining workflows and improving efficiency. Second, by automating data entry tasks, employees can focus on more engaging and intellectually stimulating activities that align with their interests. Overall, these integrations lead to higher employee engagement and satisfaction.  

Benefits of customer-facing SaaS integrations

Building customer facing SaaS integrations also has specific benefits to SaaS providers, enabling them to:

Expand market reach

SaaS integrations provide companies with a clear competitive edge over providers that lack this functionality. When a SaaS provider offers more integrations compared to its competitors, customers are more likely to choose their service. This capability also opens up new markets and customer segments that require integrations with their core products.

Retain more customers

Integrations play a crucial role in customer retention for SaaS businesses. When customers can easily use your application alongside their other tools, they experience greater business benefits, leading to higher satisfaction and reduced churn. Additionally, once customers start using your integrations, they are less likely to switch to competitors or develop native integrations, resulting in increased customer stickiness.

Receive more customer insights

Offering integration support with other applications provides access to valuable insights about customers and their preferences. This data helps you better understand your customers and personalize your engagement strategies, ultimately delivering a smoother and more tailored user experience.

Unlock upselling/ new revenue opportunities

Offering customer-facing integrations can also open up new opportunities for upselling and additional revenue generation. While some integration can be given as free, others can be offered for a premium or at a small cost, enabling you to monetize SaaS integrations. You can eventually explore which features customers engage with more, to add them as core functionalities for your product as well. Furthermore, if you have integrations with applications that need in-app purchases or payments that you can route through your app, creating another revenue opportunity. Facilitating sales for any integrated application/ software, makes you eligible for commissions.

Related: Importance of SaaS Integration: Why Do You Need Them?

Popular SaaS Integration Use Cases

While we have discussed the overall business benefits of SaaS integrations, let us have a quick look at some specific use cases. This section will focus on how integrating one type of applications with the other results in business impact. 

Sync HRMS and payroll data for accurate compensation

Data integration between HRMS and payroll applications is beneficial when it comes to employee compensation. This ensures that as soon as any employee is onboarded on HRMS, their compensation and related details are automatically added to the payroll system. At the same time, relevant information needed for creating the payroll like attendance, paid/ unpaid leave, bonus, etc. captured in HRMS is directly updated on the payroll system. 

Such integration between HRMS and payroll ensures every employee is compensated as per the due, without any delays or inaccuracies. At the same time, once the pay run is over, the details of compensation disbursed are updated in HRMS to maintain all employee records in one place. 

Related: Everything you need to know about HRIS API Integration

Add employee information from ATS to onboarding systems

Onboarding systems generally require all critical employee information to ensure smooth induction. Connecting the ATS and onboarding system can ensure that all relevant employee information (like email address, phone number, physical address, etc.) is transferred to the onboarding system in real time. 

This ensures that as soon as a selected candidate signs the offer letter and becomes an employee, he/she receives all the onboarding documents. In addition, any other onboarding incentives or gifts are also delivered in a timely manner. Once the integration is established, every time a candidate is marked as hired in ATS, the details are automatically sent to the onboarding system and a new profile is created in real time.  

Sync lead data between marketing platforms and CRM

A classic SaaS integration use case is connecting marketing automation platforms with the CRM. Generally, both the sales and marketing team work towards nurturing leads for closure. Connecting marketing automation platforms like Hubspot/ Mailchimp with CRM (sales) like Salesforce can ensure that whenever a new lead is created post engagement with some campaign, the same is reflected in the CRM for sales reps to nurture and pursue the same for closure. SImilarly, if there is any change in the status of the lead at any end, updating the status in the other platform helps personalize the messaging as per the lead’s new position in the sales funnel. 

Therefore, integrating these SaaS applications ensures that any change or addition in either platform is immediately reflected in the other to ensure real time action and faster sales closure. 

Related: CRM API integration: All you need to know

Connect CRM and contract management system for customer onboarding

Next, connecting CRM to contract management systems and the storage applications used by an organization ensures seamless customer onboarding and documentation. Whenever a prospect’s status is changed to customer in CRM, integration with the contract management system can ensure that a standard contract and paperwork is automatically disbursed.

Similarly, when any customer documents are uploaded in the CRM, an integration with file storage applications (like DropBox) can ensure that a repository of all files are created in the latter. While the CRM might have restricted access, the file storage system can be centralized providing necessary access to files to all those who need it. A bi-directional sync can also help ensure that all files and related changes are reflected in both the CRM and file storage system. 

Sync HRMS and payroll data for benefits administration

Many companies now use benefits administration software to manage the benefits, incentives, etc. they offer to their employees. Syncing HRMS and payroll data with such benefits software can help streamline the process exponentially. For instance, if the organization recognizes the employees on their work anniversary, data sync from HRMS can help facilitate gift-giving/ recognition. At the same time, whenever any data is updated in HRMS or payroll, integration ensures that it is reflected in the benefits administration platform (promotions, increase in salary, attendance), which may have an impact on the incentives and benefits an employee receives. 

Choosing the Right SaaS Integration Strategy

Once you are convinced that integrations are critical for your business, it is time to decide on how you want to navigate the SaaS integration strategy and process. Irrespective of whether a SaaS provider is leveraging integrations for internal software connectivity or building customer-facing integrations, there are largely two options to choose from i.e. Build vs Buy. 

Building native integrations in-house

As an integration strategy, building integrations requires in-house developers and engineers to develop point-to-point connections with API of software you wish to integrate with. As a 1:1 process, the integrations feel like an extension of your own application, thereby offering a native experience. 

Building integrations in-house is ideal when you:

  • Only have a few applications to integrate with (internally or customer facing)
  • Wish to retain end to end control of the integration 
  • Need to customize multiple functionalities
  • Have to build integrations which are very simple, with publicly available APIs
  • Have integrations that impact your core offering, requiring complete code control
  • Have relevant domain expertise, developer bandwidth and longer turnaround time

However, as the need to scale integrations arose, businesses started facing challenges. In fact, research shows that:

  • 70% of digital transformation projects fail due to lack of integration quality
  • 45% digital leaders believe poor integration is the second main barrier to the effective application of digital technology
  • $250,000 to $500,000 is the average cost to a business due to poor integrations 

These obstacles can be largely attributed to a series of factors, including:

  • Speed of scalability: Any integration can take between 2 weeks to even three months to build. Since building integrations in-house is a 1:1 affair, the feasibility comes under pressure when developers need to build 100s of integrations together. The speed of building integrations is seldom able to keep pace with the volume of demand for new integrations, making scalability a challenge. 

  • High cost of integration development: Taking into account the time and effort of developers, quality analysts and product managers involved in building integrations, the average cost of one integration stands at ~$10K. While this is the direct cost, loss of productivity from the core offering adds intangible expenses to the process. 

  • Limited API access and poor documentation: SaaS integrations require access to APIs of applications to connect with. However, APIs for all applications may not be available free of cost. Even for those where APIs are available, frequently, the API documentation is poorly written, difficult to understand and largely inadequate. This further increases the time developers have to spend on building integrations (sometimes the integrations don’t get built at all, despite all efforts).

  • Maintenance and management: In case an integration malfunctions, the process of identifying the issue, determining the course of remediation and actually performing those actions is often complex and time consuming. This can lead to inconveniences and a poor experience for internal users or end customers. 

  • Steep learning curve: Building integrations in-house often requires domain expertise for each integration you are working on. This is required when creating data models for normalization, mapping, etc. Without this knowledge, which often comes with a steep learning curve, building integrations can be difficult.   

  • Resource constraints: As mentioned, building and maintaining integrations in-house requires significant allocation of developer resources. And, this is not even a one-time requirement. The demand for integrations is largely never ending and, hence, businesses need consistent resource allocation for integrations, which can be a challenge as often the resources are limited and even if available, developers do not enjoy working on integrations, often leading to poor experience and work dissatisfaction. 

  • Data normalization, authentication and authorization: In-house integrations put the onus of managing data normalization as well as authentication on SaaS providers. On the one hand, data normalization becomes daunting as applications within the same category (e.g. HRMS) have different data models and syntax for the same field. On the other hand, each application might have a distinct authentication route, requiring developers to maintain different access tokens and manage their authentication. 

Related: Build vs Buy: The Best Approach to SaaS Integrations

Buying or outsourcing to third party integration platforms

As the need for SaaS integrations grew at an exponential pace, SaaS providers found building and managing integrations in-house complex and overwhelming. Thus the strategy of buying or outsourcing integrations to third party integration platforms gained momentum. Put simply, integration platforms have pre-built connectors with SaaS applications which they offer to SaaS providers, for both internal integrations, as well as to create customer facing integrations. 

Buying or outsourcing integrations is ideal when you:

  • Want to build multiple integrations in a short span of time
  • Have limited engineering bandwidth and core product priorities/ want your developers to focus on your core product
  • Want to optimize resource and monetary spend on integrations
  • Have limited domain expertise to add different categories of integrations
  • Don’t want to carry the burden of managing and maintaining integrations 
  • Wish to outsource the tedious tasks of data normalization, authentication and authorization
  • Don’t have access to well developed API documentation

Overall, building integrations in-house can be cost intensive and complicated and ideal for a small number of simple integrations, whereas, buying or outsourcing integrations is resource-lite and a scalable model. 

Top SaaS integration platforms to buy integrations

Within the buying or outsourcing model of integrations, there are several types of SaaS integrations you can choose from, depending on your requirements and scope. 

Integration platforms for internal integrations

iPaas (integration platform as a service) or workflow automation is an ideal choice when looking for integration platforms for internal software connectivity. They come with pre-built connectors that you can directly use to integrate two or more applications within your software suite. Additionally, also offer SDKs which allow SaaS providers to custom develop any integrations or functionalities, if needed. 

One of the biggest benefits of iPaaS is that they offer low-code or no-code solutions to build automated workflows between the applications in use. This enables diverse teams to leverage the tool, without the need to engage developers at every step. Such a solution reduces the reliance on manual data export and import or the dependence on in-house engineering team to build API integrations. Team members don’t really need to understand how APIs work to leverage iPaaS for integrations. 

iPaaS enables SaaS providers to:

  • Accelerate the pace of integration development for internal use
  • Empower their non-technical team members to build and manage integrations
  • Reduce the dependency on engineering teams and democratizing access 
  • Leverage the drag and drop integration functionalities, allowing them to visualize how the integration works 

Some of the top players in the iPaaS market today are:

  • Workato: Provides enterprise grade workflow automation with a high number of pre-built connectors, however, is considered expensive for smaller organizations and comes with limited offline functionality. 

  • Zapier: Comes with 7000+ pre-built connectors and its no-code UI allows non technical teams to automate tasks, however, the use cases are rather simple and may not be able to support very complex integrations. 

  • Mulesoft: Ideal for integration with Salesforce and Salesforce products along with API management, but requires more technical expertise than other players in the market. 

Integration platforms for customer-facing integrations

While for a long time, internal integrations were the norm, where end customers built integrations for the applications they used, gradually, the customer sentiment changed. Increasingly, now customers expect SaaS providers to offer integrations which are embedded within their product, shifting the onus on the latter for building and managing integrations. As the number of applications that customers use showed an increase, managing the entire process in-house became daunting. At the same time, complexity of integrations also increased, where customers wanted more functionalities, than simple workflow automation. Hence, SaaS providers were expected to offer out of the box integrations which are customer facing. 

Essentially, embedded or customer facing integrations enable SaaS providers to easily connect their software with other applications that their customers are using. For instance, an ATS provider may provide embedded integrations to connect with the HRMS used by the customer. This integration will help the ATS provider to automatically update all relevant information to the customer’s HRMS as soon as a candidate is onboarded for all HR processes to be conducted. With embedded integrations, SaaS providers can:

  • Automate the data flow between their application and the other tools used by the end customer
  • Quickly connect with different customer applications, leading to exemplary customer experience
  • Build integrations with customer applications without the need to write heavy codes for each integration
  • Provide an almost native integration and cohesive brand experience

Within the embedded integration space, there are two routes that SaaS providers can explore, including:

Embedded iPaaS

As the name suggests, this is an embedded version of the iPaaS solution. While iPaaS is meant for internal integrations, this tool is embedded within the SaaS provider’s application, facilitating workflow automation with customer’s other applications. Embedded iPaaS allows SaaS providers to either implement integrations for their customers or enable customers to implement the integrations they want within the SaaS product offered. A combination of both these alternatives can also be leveraged. 

Embedded iPaaS offers a varied set of pre-built connectors that SaaS providers can use to build integrations and embed them within your product. It allows you to manage authentication, normalization, etc. for your end users. While embedded iPaaS providers offer a wide range of out of the box connectors, some also allow developers to custom build connectors in case their use case is not covered. At the same time, an embedded iPaaS is built on a serverless architecture, which allows developers to focus entirely on integration logic, without diverting attention to infrastructure management. Some embedded iPaaS solutions include:

  • Workato embedded: Comes with a pre-built integration library of 1200+ connectors, along with enterprise grade security and compliance, but lacks a standard data model.

  • Paragone: Provides complete access to underlying API, with robust monitoring features and supports on-premise deployment, but comes with a limited number of pre-built connectors. 

  • Pandium: Offers an embedded integration marketplace, allowing customers to find all integrations together, but with a limited catalog of connectors. 

  • Tray embedded: Provides a large number of connectors, with the option to add more connectors on request along with API management functionality, but offers limited capability to automatically detect and remedy integration issues. 

While an embedded iPaaS definitely easies the process of building and managing customer facing integrations, it generally requires a high level of technical expertise to use and master. Furthermore, within embedded iPaaS, integrations need to be built on a 1:1 model, i.e. one integration at a time and gives limited visibility into the integration performance. Also, not all embedded iPaaS tools offer complete white-labeling, disrupting a consistent and uniform user experience. 

Related: 14 Best SaaS Integration Platforms

Unified API

Addressing some of the challenges of embedded iPaaS for building and managing customer-facing integrations, unified APIs have come to the forefront. A unified API can be considered as an aggregator of APIs that enables developers to integrate with multiple applications within a category by a single time effort. Essentially, it accelerates the integration process by moving from a 1:1 to 1:many approach. Here are some of the reasons why businesses are moving towards unified APIs from embedded iPaaS:

  • Gives an opportunity to SaaS providers to offer both depth (integrations within a category) and width (more number of categories) at an accelerated pace with a universal API which can connect all APIs within that category.

  • Provides a centralized dashboard to monitor the health of all integrations from a single pane of glass, ensuring that most integration issues are detected automatically with the functionality to initiate remedial action. 

  • Superior customer experience, enabling end customers to leverage integrations seamlessly without the need for excessive technical intervention and expertise. 

  • Relieves engineering bandwidth as developers only have to understand documentation and connect with a single API for one category, ensuring resource optimization, while facilitating rapid deployment.

  • Facilitates bulk data transfer, data sync in multiple rows with smart rate limit management.

  • Some unified APIs like Knit also support a unified data model to facilitate high speed data normalization, but also have room for custom data models for fields that remain outside the standard ones. 

Related: Whitepaper: The Unified API Approach to Building Product Integrations

Some of the top unified API providers include:

  • Knit: Ensures robust horizontal and vertical coverage in integrations and uses a webhooks based architecture, ensuring real time data sync without the need to maintain any infrastructure. Guarantees scalability and delivery, irrespective of the data load, offering a 99.99% SLA. It is the only unified API which doesn’t store a copy of customer data as all the requests are pass through in nature. 
  • Finch: Provides one of the highest number of integrations in the HRMS and payroll space with standardized data for all employment data, however, the categories supported are limited and maintains assisted integrations, which requires an external involvement for data sync.
  • Merge: Offers integration in 7+ SaaS categories with fully searchable logs, dashboard and automated issue detection, however, it requires businesses to maintain a polling infrastructure and its webhook based data sync doesn’t guarantee scale and data delivery.

As the market sentiment is driving greater adoption of unified APIs for integration building and management, businesses often face the question of how they can choose the best unified API platform for their needs. Here is a quick break down of the factors you should consider while finalizing the unified API partner you wish to go with:

  • API and application coverage: On the one hand, you need to check the horizontal and vertical coverage of integration and categories supported by the unified API. Choose a unified API which offers integration not only with applications you want to connect with right now, but also those you can anticipate coming as a need from customers in the future. On the other hand, you must evaluate how many API endpoints the unified API covers. It is important that your unified API covers REST, SOAP, GraphQL, to facilitate maximum coverage. 
  • Security and authentication: Understand the authentication and encryption used by the unified API. Preferably choose a partner which not only complies with all industry standards, but also facilitates encryption in transit as well as at rest. Factors like least privilege, etc. should also be considered. Finally, consider platforms which do not store a copy of the customer data for maximum privacy. 
  • Data sync model: Check whether the unified API requires you to maintain an additional polling infrastructure or relies on a webhook based architecture. The latter one is preferable as it facilitates real time sync. But, even in the case of the latter, check the scalability and delivery guarantee with increasing data load, opting for platforms that offer 99.99% SLA. 
  • Integration maintenance: You also need to ensure that the unified API provides you with detailed Logs, Issues, Integrated Accounts and Syncs page and supports you to keep track of every API calls, data syncs and requests. 

Related: What Should You Look For in A Unified API Platform?

Best Practices for Successful SaaS Integrations

Here are some of the best practices to keep in mind to unlock SaaS integration success:

Start with a Clear Goal and Integration Priorities

When you decide to add integrations, you need to have clarity on the purpose and the objectives that you seek to achieve. Do you want to automate internal workflows to save your team from unnecessary data entry work and ensure accuracy, or do you want to offer customer facing integrations for better product appeal or is it a combination of the two, or some other goal entirely. Having a clear goal will help you better understand which approach or integration strategy to go with. 

At the same time, you need to prioritize and differentiate between integrations that are a must have, good to have, may be needed in the future, not relevant. Simply because you are getting an integration as a part of a package may not necessarily be the reason to go for it. Each integration is likely to serve a different purpose with varying degree of impact on the time savings, customer acquisition, retention, etc. Therefore, it is important to understand the value that each integration will bring to the table vis-a-vis the resources or inputs needed to achieve the same. Prioritize integrations which facilitate a high return on investment and are business critical in the beginning. 

Choose the Ideal Approach

Once you have a clear goal and integration priorities set, choosing the ideal integration approach will be a cakewalk. For instance:

  • If you only have to build a one-off integration and wish to retain complete control, build the integration in-house.
  • If you want to build a suite of integrations to facilitate software connectivity between the applications you use internally, go for an iPaaS solution. 

  • If you want pre-built connectors to offer customer-facing integrations, but have the time and resources to build them 1:1, embedded iPaaS is a good option. 

  • If you want to scale customer facing integrations quickly and connect with a single API to integrate with almost all applications within a category, choose a unified API. 

Your choice of the right integration approach will largely depend on the (illustrative):

  • Number of integrations you wish to build
  • Primary goal or type of integration needed
  • Time you have before you want to deploy the integrations
  • Complexity and available API support for each integration
  • Availability of in-house resources and expertise to build and manage integrations

Prioritize Security and Authentication

Since integration is primarily built on the foundation of data exchange, it is extremely important to prioritize security, privacy via robust authentication and authorization. On the one hand, it is extremely important to ensure compliance with the standard norms and guidelines like SOC2, GDPR, and ISO27001 when it comes to data privacy. 

However, to ensure SaaS integration success, SaaS providers need to go a step beyond to ensure encryption of data, both in transit and at rest. In addition, securing all PII and user credentials should also be secured in an additional application security layer.  Furthermore, if you choose to go with a third-party integration platform, delve deep into their rate limiting practices, assess authentication and authorization protocols, and review incident response plans. Also, check how they access or use the data that flows through them (ideally, the integration platform should not store a copy of customer data). 

Related: API Security 101: Best Practices, How-to Guides, Checklist, FAQs

Test Thoroughly

A seamless integration experience is what defines success. Any major issue or bug can lead to reputational and monetary damages, both for internal and customer-facing integrations. In fact, in the latter, it can initiate customer churn and make new customer acquisition extremely difficult. Therefore, thorough and robust testing is critical. In fact, API testing, especially in a simulated environment, can help proactively detect and determine remediation actions for potential problems. You should test for:

  • Scalability of data to ensure that your integration is able to guarantee scalability and data delivery irrespective of the data load, consistently. 

  • Volume of requests, facilitating integration and data exchange smoothly when processing a high number of requests.

  • Version and backward compatibility to ensure compliance with different versions of the third party API as well as ascertaining that any modifications in the third party API do not disrupt any other ongoing functionality. 

  • Error handling to get a real world experience of how if an error occurs, it will be identified and remediated and whether or not it meets the expectations set, i.e. the ability to handle errors without the system crashing.

  • Security, compliance, authorization and encryption to ensure all security protocols are implemented effectively and will prevent any security breach from happening. 

Document the Process

Irrespective of whether you build or buy integrations, ensure that each step of the process is documented effectively. At the same time, ensure engaging more than one developer in the integration process to expand the knowledge base within the team. These two practices will ensure that even in a situation of employee turnover, there is no gap or challenge. Additionally, in case there is a resource gap, this practice will help ensure even a new developer is able to pick up the integration development or management tasks. 

Monitor and Maintain

Lastly, it is extremely important to monitor the health of your integrations via detailed logs, issues, etc. on a regular basis. This can help you determine any potential threat proactively to address the same. Furthermore, it is important to reevaluate integration goals and priorities at regular intervals and the expectations and requirements might change, which are likely to demand a change in the approach and other factors as well. 

The Future of SaaS Integrations: Trends Shaping the Landscape

The landscape of SaaS integrations has undergone a complete transformation since inception. While initially designed for internal simple use cases, SaaS providers today require complex customer-facing integrations. And, this is just the beginning. Technological disruptions and changing market sentiments will constantly redefine SaaS integrations. Some of the trends for the foreseeable future of SaaS integrations include:

AI-Powered Integrations

Automation and AI will make integrations smarter. While till now integrations have been automating workflows and data exchange between applications, the rise of Generative AI is likely to unleash smarter, faster and more efficient integration processes. Currently, integration deployment still requires developer intervention and can take up to a few days to deploy. However, with AI, integrations may enter an auto-pilot phase automating the entire integration process, accelerating it exponentially. At the same time, with increased adoption of NLP in integrations, the process is likely to become more intuitive. 

Focus on Vertical SaaS Integrations

The near future (and in some cases, the near past) is likely to see a focus on industry-specific integrations. While each application has a specific domain, we will increasingly witness integration solutions which are specifically tailored for an industry, taking into account the data requirements, syntax and models, and sync frequency that the industry needs. In fact, integration providers may even offer out of the box industry specific solutions. 

For instance, when it comes to customer facing integrations, a CRM provider working exclusively with the healthcare industry might be offered with vertical coverage of integration with billing, inventory, etc. applications, while those working with the manufacturing industry might have different needs.  

Increased Focus on Security and Compliance

A trend that is likely to continue all over to the future will be a focus on security and compliance. While security is already a predominant factor impacting integration decisions, however, as data privacy regulations become more stringent and attacks become more sophisticated, the focus on zero-trust architecture, the option to completely eliminate the need to store data copies, etc. will gain more momentum. 

The future is likely to make integrations more accessible for a higher number of SaaS providers, enabling it to play a pivotal role in business growth, especially by leveraging AI, industry specialization and heightened security. 

TL:DR

The SaaS integration landscape will continue to evolve and disrupt software interoperability, enhancing the utility and connectivity between different applications for SaaS providers and their end customers. By facilitating seamless data exchange and workflow automation, SaaS integrations lead to increased productivity, reduced human errors, better employee and customer experience, and overall, positively impact the bottom line for any business. 

While the need for integrations is well accepted, SaaS providers often find themselves confused between the best way to achieve their integration goals. Some prefer maintaining complete control and build and manage all integrations in-house. However, this process lacks the scope for scale. Thus, many are now moving towards leveraging third party integration platforms, including iPaaS, embedded iPaaS and unified API. Each of these alternatives is suited for different requirements (internal vs customer-facing integrations) and requires varying degrees of developer resources to accomplish the integration process. 

For those looking to scale customer facing integrations quickly, unified APIs have come up as a credible solution. With a single API for all integrations within a category, the time to market with unified APIs is exceptionally quick and some of the top solutions ensure that SaaS providers don’t have to maintain any polling infrastructure for data sync, while ascertaining the highest security standards. 

Overall, it is important for SaaS providers to prioritize their integration requirements and focus on security, testing, documentation and monitoring consistently to ensure a seamless integration experience. As technology and market disruption impact the SaaS space, AI and automation are likely to streamline integrations further, leading to higher efficiency, productivity and business outcomes.