Insights
-
Jul 9, 2024

14 Best SaaS Integration Platforms - 2024

Organizations today adopt and deploy various applications, to make their work simpler, more efficient and enhance overall productivity. However, in most cases, the process of connecting with these applications is complex, time consuming and an ineffective use of the engineering team. Fortunately, over the years, different approaches or platforms have seen a rise, enabling companies to integrate applications for their internal use or to create customer facing interfaces. 

In this article, we will discuss the different options available for companies to integrate with SaaS applications. We will detail the diverse approaches for different needs and use cases, along with a comparative analysis between the different platforms within each approach to help you make an informed choice. 

Types of SaaS integrations

As mentioned above, particularly, there are two types of SaaS integrations that most organizations use or need. Here’s a quick understanding of both:

Internal use integrations

Internal use integrations are generally created between two applications that a company uses or between internal systems to facilitate seamless and data flow. Consider that a company uses BambooHR as its HRMS systems and stores all its HR data there, while using ADPRun to manage all of its payroll functions. An internal integration will help connect these two applications to facilitate information flow and data exchange between them. 

For instance, with integration, any new employee that is onboarded in BambooHR will be automatically reflected in ADPRun with all relevant details to process compensation at the end of the pay period. Similarly, any employees who leave will be automatically deleted, ensuring that the data across platforms being used internally is consistent and up to date. 

Customer facing integrations

On the other hand, customer-facing integrations are intrinsically created between your product and the applications used by your customer to facilitate seamless data exchange for maximum efficiency in operations. It ensures that all data updated in your customer’s application is synced with your product with high reliability and speed. 

Let’s say that you offer candidate communication services for your customers. Using customer-facing integrations, you can easily connect with the ATS application that your customer uses to ensure that whenever there is any movement in the application status for any candidate, you promptly communicate to the candidate on the next steps. This will not only ensure regular flow of communication with the candidate, but will also eliminate any missed opportunities with real time data sync. 

Best SaaS integration platforms for different use cases

With differences in purposes and use cases, the best approach and platforms for different integrations also varies. Put simply, most internal integrations require automation of workflow and data exchange, while customer facing ones need more sophisticated functionalities. Even with the same purpose, the needs of developers and organizations can be varied, creating the need for diverse platforms which suit varying requirements. In the following section, we will discuss the three major kinds of integration platforms, including workflow automation tools, embedded iPaaS and unified APIs with specific examples within each. 

Internal integrations: Workflow automation tools/ iPaaS 

Essentially, internal integration tools are expected to streamline the workflow and data exchange between internally used applications for an organization to improve efficiency, accuracy and process optimization. Workflow automation tools or iPaaS are the best SaaS integration platforms to support this purpose. They come with easy to use drag and drop functionalities, along with pre-built connectors and available SDKs to easily power internal integrations. Some of the leaders in the space are:

Workato

An enterprise grade automation platform, Workato facilitates workflow automation and integration, enabling businesses to seamlessly connect different applications for internal use. 

Benefits of Workato

  • High number of pre-built connectors, making integration with any tool seamless
  • Enterprise grade security functionalities, like encryption, role-based access, audit logs for data protection
  • No-code/ low code iPaaS experience; option to make own connectors with simple SDKs

Limitations of Workato 

  • Expensive for organizations with budget constraints
  • Limited offline functionality

Ideal for enterprise-level customers that need to integrate with 1000s of applications with a key focus on security. 

Zapier

An iSaaS (integration software as a service) tool, Zapier allows software users to integrate with applications and automate tasks which are relatively simple, with Zaps. 

Benefits of Zapier

  • Easily accessible and can be used by non-technical teams to automate simple tasks via Zaps using a no code UI
  • Provides 7000+ pre-built connectors and automation templates
  • Has recently introduced a co-pilot which allows users to build their own Zaps using natural language

Limitations of Zapier

  • Runs the risk of introducing security risks into the system
  • Relatively simple and may not support complex or highly sophisticated use cases

Ideal for building simple workflow automations which can be developed and managed by all teams at large, using its vast connector library. 

Mulesoft

Mulesoft is a typical iPaaS solution that facilitates API-led integration, which offers easy to use tools to help organizations automate routine and repetitive tasks.

Benefits of Mulesoft

  • High focus on integration with Salesforce and Salesforce products, facilitating automation with CRM effectively
  • Offers data integration, API management, and analytics with Anytime Platform
  • Provides a powerful API gateway for security and policy management

Limitations of Mulesoft

  • Requires a steep learning curve as it is technically complex
  • Higher on the pricing, making it unsuitable for smaller organizations

Ideal for more complex integration scenarios with enterprise-grade features, especially for integration with Salesforce and allied products. 

Dell Boomi

With experience of powering integrations for multiple decades, Dell Boomi provides tools for iPaaS, API management and master data management. 

Benefits of Dell Boomi

  • Comes with a simple UI and multiple pre-built connectors for popular applications
  • Can help with diverse use cases for different teams
  • Adopted by several large enterprises due to their experience in the space

Limitations of Dell Boomi

  • Requires more technical expertise than some other workflow automation tools
  • Support is limited to simpler integrations and may not be able to support complex scenarios

Ideal for diverse use cases and comes with a high level of credibility owing to the experience garnered over the years. 

SnapLogic

The final name in the workflow automation/ iPaaS list is SnapLogic which comes with a low-code interface, enabling organizations to quickly design and implement application integrations. 

Benefits of SnapLogic

  • Simple UI and low-code functionality ensures that users from technical and non-technical backgrounds can leverage it
  • Comes with a robust catalog of pre-built connectors to integrate fast and effectively
  • Offers on-premise, cloud based on hybrid models of integration

Limitations of SnapLogic

  • May be a bit too expensive for small size organizations with budget constraints
  • Scalability and optimal performance might become an issue with high data volume

Ideal for organizations looking for automation workflow tools that can be used by all team members and supports functionalities, both online and offline. 

Customer facing integrations: Embedded iPaaS & Unified API

While the above mentioned SaaS integration platforms are ideal for building and maintaining integrations for internal use, organizations looking to develop customer facing integrations need to look further. Companies can choose between two competing approaches to build customer facing SaaS integrations, including embedded iPaaS and unified API. We have outlined below the key features of both the approaches, along with the leading SaaS integration platforms for each. 

Embedded iPaaS

An embedded iPaaS can be considered as an iPaaS solution which is embedded within a product, enabling companies to build customer-facing integrations between their product and other applications. This enables end customers to seamlessly exchange data and automate workflows between your application and any third party application they use. Both the companies and the end customers can leverage embedded iPaaS to build integration and automate workflows. Here are the top embedded iPaaS that companies use as SaaS integrations platforms. 

Workato Embedded

In addition to offering an iPaaS solution for internal integrations, Workato embedded offers embedded iPaaS for customer-facing integrations. It is a low-code solution and also offers API management solutions.

Benefits of Workato Embedded

  • Highly extensive connector library with 1200+ pre-built connectors and built-in workflow actions
  • Enterprise grade embedded iPaaS with sophisticated security and compliance standards

Limitations of Workato Embedded

  • Requires customers to build each customer facing integration separately, making it resource and time intensive
  • Lacks a standard data model, making data transformation and normalization complicated
  • Cost ineffective for smaller companies and offers limited offline connectivity

Ideal for large companies that wish to offer a highly robust integration library to their customers to facilitate integration at scale. 

Paragon

Built exclusively for the embedded iPaaS use case, Paragon enables users to ship and scale native integrations.

Benefits of Paragon

  • Offers effective monitoring features, including event and failure alerts and logs, and enables users to access the full underlying API (developer friendly)
  • Facilitates on-premise deployment, especially, for users with highly sensitive data and privacy needs
  • Ensures fully managed authentication and user management with the Paragon SDK

Limitations of Paragon

  • Fewer connectors are readily available, as compared to market average
  • Pushes customers to create their own integrations from scratch in certain cases

Ideal for companies looking for greater monitoring capabilities along with on-premise deployment options in the embedded iPaaS. 

Pandium

Pandium is an embedded iPaaS which also allows users to embed an integration marketplace within their product. 

Benefits of Pandium

  • The embedded integration marketplace (which can be white-labeled) allows customers and prospects to find all integrations at one place
  • Helps companies outsource the development and management of integrations
  • Provides key integration analytics

Limitations of Pandium

  • Limited catalog of connectors as compared to other competitors
  • Requires technical expertise to use, blocking engineering bandwidth
  • Forces users to build one integration at a time, making the scalability limited

Ideal for companies that require an integration marketplace which is highly customizable and have limited bandwidth to build and manage integrations in-house. 

Tray Embedded

As an embedded iPaaS solution, Tray Embedded allows companies to embed its iPaaS solution into their product to provide customer-facing integrations. 

Benefits of Tray Embedded

  • Provides a large number of connectors and also enables customers to request and get a new connector built on extra charges
  • Offers an API management solution to to design and manage API endpoints
  • Provides Merlin AI, an autonomous agent, powering simple automations via a chat interface

Limitations of Tray Embedded

  • Limited ability to automatically detect issues and provide remedial solutions, pushing engineering teams to conduct troubleshooting
  • Limited monitoring features and implementation processes require a workaround

Ideal for companies with custom integration requirements and those that want to achieve automation through text. 

Cyclr

Another solution solely limited to the embedded iPaaS space, Cyclr facilitates low-code integration workflows for customer-facing integrations. 

Benefits of Cyclr

  • Enables companies to use seamlessly design a new workflow with templates, without heavy coding
  • Provides connectors for 500+ applications and is growing
  • Offers an out of the box embedded marketplace or launch functionality that allows end users to deploy integrations

Limitations of Cyclr

  • Comes with a steep learning curve 
  • Limited built-in workflow actions for each connector, where complex integrations might require additional endpoints, the feasibility for which is limited
  • Lack of visibility into the system sending API requests, making monitoring and debugging issues a challenge

Ideal for companies looking for centralized integration management within a standardized integration ecosystem. 

Unified API

The next approach to powering customer-facing integrations is leveraging a unified API. As an aggregated API, unified API platforms help companies easily integrate with several applications within a category (CRM, ATS, HRIS) using a single connector. Leveraging unified API, companies can seamlessly integrate both vertically and horizontally at scale. 

Merge

As a unified API, Merge enables users to add hundreds of integrations via a single connector, simplifying customer-facing integrations. 

Benefits of Merge

  • High coverage within the integrations categories; 7+ integration categories currently available
  • Integration observability features with fully searchable logs, dashboard and automated issue detection 
  • Access to custom objects and fields like field mapping, authenticated passthrough requests

Limitations of Merge

  • Limited flexibility for frontend auth component and limited customization capabilities
  • Requires maintaining a polling infrastructure for managing data syncs
  • Webhooks based data sync doesn’t guarantee scale and data delivery

Ideal to build multiple integrations together with out-of-the-box features for managing integrations.

Finch

A leader in the unified API space for employment systems, Finch helps build 1:many integrations with HRIS and payroll applications. 

Benefits of Finch

  • One of the highest number of integrations available in the HRIS and Payroll integration categories
  • Facilitates standardized data for all employment data across top HRIS and Payroll providers, like Quickbooks, ADP, and Paycom
  • Allows users to read and write benefits data, including payroll deductions and contributions programmatically

Limitations of Finch

  • Limited number of integration categories available
  • Offers  “assisted” integrations, requiring a Finch team member or associate to manually sync data on your behalf
  • Low data fields support limited data fields available in the source system

Ideal for companies looking to build integrations with employment systems and high levels of data standardization. 

Apideck

Another option in the unified API category is Apideck, which offers integrations in more categories than the above two mentioned SaaS integration platforms in this space. 

Benefits of Apideck

  • Higher number of categories (inc. Accounting, CRM, File Storage, HRIS, ATS, Ecommerce, Issue Tracking, POS, SMS) than many other alternatives and is quick to add new integrations
  • Popular for its integration marketplace, known as Apideck ecosystem
  • Offers best in class onboarding experience and responsive customer support

Limitations of Apideck

  • Limited number of live integrations within each category
  • Limited data sync capabilities; inability to access data beyond its own data fields

Ideal for companies looking for a wider range of integration categories with an openness to add new integrations to its suite. 

Knit

A unified API, Knit facilitates integrations with multiple categories with a single connector for each category; an exponentially growing category base, richer than other alternatives.

Benefits of Knit

  • Seamless data normalization and transformation at 10x speed with custom data fields for non-standard data models
  • The only SaaS integration platform which doesn’t store a copy of the end customer’s data, ensuring superior privacy and security (as all requests are pass through in nature)
  • 100% events-driven webhook architecture, which ensures data sync in real time, without the need to pull data periodically (no polling architecture needed)
  • Guaranteed scalability and delivery, irrespective of the data load, offering a 99.99% SLA
  • Custom data models, sync frequency and auth component for greater flexibility
  • Offers RCA and resolution to identify and fix integration issues before a customer can report it
  • Ensures complete visibility into the integration activity, including the ability to identify which records were synced, ability to rerun syncs etc. 

Ideal for companies looking for SaaS integration platforms with wide horizontal and vertical coverage, complete data privacy and don’t wish to maintain a polling infrastructure, while ensuring sync scalability and delivery. 

Best SaaS integration platforms: A comparative analysis

Best SaaS Platforms - Comparative Analysis

TL:DR

Clearly SaaS integrations are the building blocks to connect and ensure seamless flow of data between applications. However, the route that organizations decide to take large depends on their use cases. While workflow automation or iPaaS makes sense for internal use integrations, an embedded iPaaS or a unified API approach will serve the purpose of building customer facing integrations. Within each approach, there are several alternatives available to choose from. While making a choice, organizations must consider:

  • The breadth (horizontal coverage/ categories) and depth (integrations within each category) that are available
  • Security, authentication and authorization mechanisms
  • Integration maintenance and management support
  • Visibility into the integration activity along with intuitive issue detection and resolution
  • The way data syncs work (events based or do they require an additional polling infrastructure)

Depending on what you consider to be more valuable for your organization, you can go in for the right approach and the right option from within the 14 best SaaS integration platforms shared above. 

Insights
-
Jul 9, 2024

The 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.

Insights
-
Jun 20, 2024

What is an Embedded iPaaS: Definition, Features, Uses, Benefits

Any business today will have multiple requirements to facilitate a pleasant customer experience. Since not all functionalities can be developed in house, because of limited resources and bandwidth, most businesses are turning to third-party solutions. To ensure smooth communication and exchange of data between, integrations have been the go-to solution for all developers and technology leaders. The rise of integrations led to the rise of iPaaS or Integration Platform as a Service. 

What is iPaaS?

For simple understanding, Integration Platform as a Service or iPaaS refers to a platform which makes it easy for businesses to connect different applications and processes. iPaaS enables developers to connect applications, replicate and exchange data and ensure all other integration initiatives are carried out easily. iPaaS allows users to build and deploy workflows on the cloud, without installing any software or hardware. It helps you to benefit from integrations, but at a significantly lower cost and effort. 

What is an embedded iPaaS? 

As a developer, there are two types of integrations that you will come across during the development cycle. From an end user perspective, you will add certain integrations that your customers will ultimately use, connecting them with your product. The iPaaS that you will use to streamline and connect these integrations is called embedded iPaaS. With embedded iPaaS, you can build and manage integrations that easily connect with your product and offer additional functionalities to your customers.

Embedded iPaaS helps SaaS businesses provide multiple integrations or connected third party applications to their customers. In general, a business at any point uses 100+ applications, most of which are SaaS apps. However, unless these applications interact with one another, exchange data, generate insights and ensure workflow automation based on data exchange, they don’t make business value. Thus, embedded iPaaS seeks to ensure smooth connection and communication between your product and other applications that your customers are using. 

Using embedded iPaaS significantly frees developers of the additional burden of building integrations and other functionalities in house and can be very coding intensive at times. 

Embedded iPaaS comes with:

  • Support to manage authentication for the end user
  • Pre built stable connectors for common SaaS apps with logic components for no code integration building which can manage high volumes of data
  • Customer connectors with which you can build integrations specific to your business or product
  • Ability to management alignment and syncing between different moving parts
  • Infrastructure to run your integrations
  • A pleasant and user friendly UX for your customers to experience integrations 

Embedded vs. traditional iPaaS

As mentioned above, as a developer, you will come across integrations of two types. First, there will be integrations that you will use internally to create the right solution and functionalities for your product. Traditional iPaaS is the platform that helps you integrate the apps that you use internally to facilitate workflow automation, ensure data integration, etc. By logic, even your end customers can deploy traditional iPaaS to connect different applications. 

However, it requires the customers to build certain integrations and subscribe to an iPaaS everytime they buy a new software solution. 

To address this issue, software buyers are shifting the work of building and providing the right integration platform to SaaS business providers, giving rise to embedded iPaaS. Embedded iPaaS, thus, allows developers to build and provide native integrations for their customers, helping customers steer away from the burden of managing traditional iPaaS. Embedded iPaaS empowers SaaS developers to build integrations as a part of their product and offer them to customers as a pre-added functionality. 

Therefore, on a closer look, traditional iPaaS is best for integrations to be used internally and not ideal for end customers. Whereas, embedded iPaaS allows SaaS providers to offer native integrations pre-built into their product to the end customer as a part of their application.  

When and why to use embedded iPaaS 

Whether you are in the startup or the scale up phase of your SaaS business, there are certain indicators that will make it clear to you that you should be using embedded iPaaS. 

Some of the indicators that you need embedded iPaaS as a SaaS startup include:

  • Your customers are demanding several integrations
  • Your market competitors offer significantly more integrations
  • You want to offer native integration experience to your users.
  • Your development cycle is getting delayed 
  • You/ your developers are unable to focus purely on product functionalities
  • Integrations are adding significant cost to your development cycle
  • You have apprehensions about building, managing and security of integrations

Even if you have crossed these basic hurdles and are in the scale up phase, you may need embedded iPaaS if:

  • You are losing out on customers because of lack of integrations
  • You are unable to deliver on new functions because of time taken up by integrations
  • Integration management and support is eating into the developer’s time
  • You are unable to manage customer experience for integrations

If you have a check mark on one or more of these points, it’s time to deploy embedded iPaaS for your SaaS application. 

Top 6 benefits of embedded iPaaS 

As a developer, you should know by now when it is the right time to deploy embedded iPaaS for your business. Put simply, it is a much faster way to build integrations for your customers without adding unnecessary pressure on your development team. Integrations can help you gain a competitive advantage and ensure that your customers don’t go looking out for better alternatives. Here are the top 6 benefits of embedded iPaaS that can help your SaaS business prosper. 

1. Reduced engineering effort

As a developer, your time and engineering effort will be best utilized in enhancing the core product features and functionalities. However, if you have to build integrations from scratch, a considerable amount of your time will be wasted. Fortunately, pre-built connectors and low-code integration designs can significantly reduce the effort and time required. 

Embedded iPaaS can help you with abstracting API and end user authentication and ensure that you are able to focus on top product priorities. As a simple use case, if you are unable to refresh your security tokens regularly, authentication of integrations will be broken for your customers, leading to a hitch in their business processes. Furthermore, it can help you create productized integrations which can be customized for different users, saving you the time to build different integrations for each user. Overall, embedded iPaaS reduces the engineering time and effort for developers spent on building integrations and workflow automation. 

2. Ability to scale/ reduced infra load

As you add more integrations to your product roadmap, the customers using them will increase and so will the volume of requests coming your way. Especially, if you are in the initial stages of your product development lifecycle, building a scalable integration infrastructure that can manage such voluminous requests will be difficult.

With embedded iPaaS, you can offload this load to the platform’s infrastructure. The right embedded iPaaS will easily be able to handle millions of requests at once, enabling you to scale your integrations while not adding the infrastructure load to your application. 

3. Accelerate time to market for integrations

With cut throat competition, the time you take to reach the market is critical when it comes to success. The more time you spend in building integrations in house, the more delay you will cause in taking your SaaS application to the market. 

With embedded iPaaS, you have the building blocks which just need to be moved around to provide the right integrations as per the customer’s expectations, in a very less time. Even when you have to introduce a new integration, you can simply activate it in the platform’s environment, without the need to spend weeks building it and then supporting ongoing maintenance. This will allow you to take your product to the market faster, leading to greater customer acquisition. 

4. Enhanced experience with native integrations

As a developer, you would understand that a pleasant UX for integrations is a must. From a technical standpoint, it is important to have native integrations. This suggests that your integrations must be accessible from within your product and shouldn’t require the customer to exit your product to check out the integration. However, building native integrations can be difficult and time consuming, considering other priorities in your development lifecycle. 

Fortunately, with embedded iPaaS, you are able to create native integrations for your product and offer them as additional functionalities than third party solutions. Furthermore, since the customer stays within your product, chances of finding alternatives become narrow. 

5. Customer integration configuration

When it comes to integrations, a developer’s role doesn’t end by defining the integration logic and building the integration. It is equally important to help the customer deploy and configure the integration and get them ready to use. It involves steps of trigger third party authorization portal as well as customer request to customize the integration. 

An embedded iPaaS can help you provide a configurable experience for your customers and allow them to customize the way they want to use the integration or how they wish the integration to interact with your product. Ensuring end-user configuration in house can be a development nightmare in the early startup/ scaleup stages, and embedded iPaaS can help address the same. 

6. Seamless maintenance and other support

Finally, to provide great experience, you need to constantly maintain and upgrade your integrations. This comes with additional costs and developer hours. Like any other product feature, integrations need constant iterations and developer interventions to debug any challenges. 

Maintenance includes updating API references, updating integrations when you or the third party release a new version, debugging, etc. However, using embedded iPaaS comes with pre-built connectors that take care of maintenance of API references. It will even take care of updating events, triggering workflows. Thus, as a part of the engineering team, the bandwidth needed to reflect on integration updates will be significantly reduced. 

Be it iterating on third party integrations or accommodating updates to your product to sync with integrations, embedded iPaaS becomes responsible for a great portion of integration maintenance. Furthermore, when you face bugs in an integration, it is often more difficult to solve or debug the problem as you may not be well versed with the technicalities and codebase. However, embedded iPaaS often have a history of integration and can make it very easy for you to identify error root cause with log streaming capabilities. 

TL DR: iPaaS for SaaS today

In conclusion, it is evident the embedded iPaaS can help you accelerate and scale your integration journey and place you ahead in the development roadmap. As a quick recap, here’s why you should go for embedded iPaaS:

  • Build native integrations
  • Reduce maintenance effort
  • Accelerate time to market
  • Free up developer time
  • Leverage pre-built integrations
  • Reduce time to scale infrastructure
  • Reduce integration authentication and configuration workload

Don’t let integrations slow down your power packed SaaS product, increase your functionalities with native integrations, powered by embedded iPaaS. 

Insights
-
Nov 19, 2023

Whitepaper: The Unified API Approach to Building Product Integrations

We just published our latest whitepaper "The Unified API Approach to Building Product Integrations". This is a one stop guide for every product owner, CTO, product leader or a C-suite executive building a SaaS product.

If you are working on a SaaS tool, you are invariably developing a load of product/customer-facing integrations. After all, that's what the data says.

Not to worry. This guide will help you better plan your integration strategy and also show you how unified APIs can help you launch integrations 10x faster.

In this guide, we deep dive into the following topics:

  • What is a unified API and when to use one
  • The components of unified API
  • The ROI of using a unified API
  • Factors to consider before choosing a unified API provider
  • Comparative analysis of different approaches to building integrations
  • Build vs Buy: What should be your integration strategy?
  • Integration challenges for startups and how to address them

Download your guide here.

Insights
-
Nov 18, 2023

Unified API: All you need to know

Today, SaaS integrations have become a necessity considering the current market landscape ensuring faster time to market, focus on product innovation and customer retention. A standard SaaS tool today has 350+ integrations, where as an early startup has minimum 15 product integrations in place.  

However, building and managing customer facing integrations in-house can be a daunting task, considering they are complicated, expensive and their volume and scope is ever increasing. With rising customer demands for a connected SaaS ecosystem, product owners are always on the lookout for ways to significantly increase their integration shipping time. Therefore, the integration market has seen the steady rise of API aggregators or unified APIs. 

This article will help you understand the diverse aspects of unified API, benefits and how you can choose the right one. 

Here’s what we will discuss here:

  • What is a unified API
  • Rise of unified API
  • Key components of unified API
  • Benefits of unified API
  • ROI of unified APIs
  • How unified APIs ensure a more secure connection
  • When to choose a unified API vs build integrations in-house
  • Workflow automation tools vs unified APIs
  • How to choose the right unified API provider

Let's get started.

What is a unified API?

A unified API is an aggregator or a single API which allows you to connect with APIs of different software by offering a single, standardized interface for different services, applications, or systems. Furthering SaaS integrations, it adds an additional abstraction layer to ensure that all data models and schemas are normalized into one data model of the unified API. 

Rise of unified API

As the volume of integrations have seen an exponential increase, the use of APIs has become more pronounced. With more APIs, complexity and costs of integrations are also increasing. Therefore, the reliance on unified API has seen an increase, guided by the following factors:

Increased API use

  • 90% of the entire developer population across the world uses APIs
  • 69% developers work with third party APIs
  • 98% of large enterprises consider APIs an essential part of their digital transformation strategy
  • 53% enterprises are consuming 3rd party APIs for developing products and services

To know more about API integration, its growth, benefits, key trends and challenges and increased use, check out our complete guide on What is API integration

High cost of in-house integrations

  • Integrations can take anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months to build, keeping an average of 4 weeks
  • Building integrations require expertise and bandwidth of engineering teams, including QA engineers, product managers and software developers, whose salary can range from USD 80K to USD 125K
  • Therefore, the average cost per integration comes to USD 10K, and companies generally use 100+ integrations, at least 15-20 at a lower spectrum, leading to USD 150K- 200K of integration costs

Building and managing integrations is complex

  • APIs within the same software category can have different schemas and data models, requiring engineering teams to gain knowledge of different rules and architecture
  • Full version APIs might not be freely available for all applications, some might come at an additional cost or premium upgrade
  • Maintaining integrations can be difficult, especially when an API fails, and customer success teams lack the expertise to address these challenges 

Together these factors have been instrumental in the rise of unified API as a popular approach to facilitate seamless integrations for businesses.  

Key components of unified API

Let’s quickly walk through some of the top traits or components which form the building blocks for a good unified API. Essentially, if your unified API has the following, you are in good hands:

Data retrieval and aggregation

As the user requests for data, the Unified API efficiently retrieves relevant information from the concerned APIs. It also aggregates data from multiple APIs, consolidating all required information into a single API call. 

For instance, in a scenario where a user seeks an employee's contact and bank account details, the Unified API fetches and aggregates the necessary data from multiple APIs, ensuring a seamless user experience.

Normalization

Each application or software that your users want integration with will have distinct data models and nuances. Even for the same field like customer ID, the syntax can vary from cust_ID ro cus.ID and innumerable other options. 

A unified API will normalize and transform this data into a standard format i.e. a common data model and align it with your data fields to ensure that  no data gets lost because it is not mapped correctly. . 

Developers save engineering efforts for mapping, identifying errors in data exchange and understanding different APIs to facilitate normalization and transfer.  

Data sync

Once the data is normalized, the Unified API prepares it for transmission back to the user. This can be executed either via a webhook or by promptly responding to the API request, ensuring swift and efficient data delivery.

Some unified API requires you to maintain a polling infrastructure for periodically pulling data from the source application. While other unified APIs like Knit, follow a push architecture where in case an event occurs, it automatically sends you fresh data to the webhook registered by you.

Benefits of unified API

Now that you understand what constitutes a good unified API, it is important to understand the benefits that unified API will bring along. 

Faster time to market and scalability

Unified API allows engineering teams to go to the market faster with enhanced core product functionalities as time and bandwidth spent on building in-house integrations is eliminated. It enables accelerated addition or deletion of APIs from your product, creating the right market fit. At the same time, you can easily scale the number and volume of integrations for your product to meet customer demands, without worrying about time and cost associated with integrations. 

Reduced costs

As mentioned, building integrations with different APIs for different applications can be highly cost intensive. However, with a unified API, businesses can significantly save on multiple engineering hours billed towards building and maintaining integrations. There is a clear decrease in the hard and soft costs associated with integrations with a potential to save thousands of dollars per integration.  

Reduced maintenance responsibilities

Maintaining several APIs for integrations can be as difficult or at times more difficult than building integrations, as the former is an ongoing activity. A unified API takes out the friction from maintaining integrations and takes care when an API fails, or the application undergoes an upgrade, etc. Also, maintenance responsibilities involve context switching for engineering teams, which leads to a significant wastage of time and efforts. A unified API bears full responsibility for troubleshooting, handling errors and all other maintenance related activities. 

Managing integrations can be time and cost intensive, leading to unnecessary delays, budget challenges and diversion of engineering resources. Our article on Why You Should Use Unified API for Integration Management discusses how a unified API can cut down your integration maintenance time by 85%

Ease of documentation and KT

A unified API ensures that you don’t need to bury yourself in 1000s of pages of documentation for each and every integration or application API. Rather, it allows you to simply gain knowledge about the architecture and rules of the endpoint and authentication for the unified API. Invariably, the documentation is easy to understand and the knowledge transfer is also seamless because it is limited to one architecture. 

Standardized pagination

Pagination, filtering and sorting is an important element when it comes to integration for businesses. All these three elements help applications breakdown data in a way that is easier to consume and use for exchange. A unified API ensures that there is a standardization and uniformity between different formats of pagination, sorting and filtering among applications and it is extremely consistent. This prevents over-fetching or under-fetching of data, leading to more efficient data exchange. 

If you want to learn more about pagination best practices, read our complete guide on API pagination

New revenue opportunities

Finally, a unified API helps you create new revenue or monetization opportunities for businesses by allowing them to offer premium services of connecting all HRIS or CRM platforms on an integrated platform. A unified API has the potential to help customers save time and cost, something they would be willing to pay a little extra for. 

ROI of a unified API

While we have mentioned some of the top benefits of using unified APIs, it is very important to also understand how unified APIs directly impact your bottom line in terms of the return on investment. To enable SaaS companies to decode the business value of unified APIs, we have created an ROI calculator for unified API. Learn how much building integrations in-house is costing you and compare it with the actual business/monetary impact of unified APIs.

Some of the key tangible metrics that translate to ROI of unified APIs include:

I) Saved engineering hours and cost

II) Reduced time to market

III) Improved scalability rate

IV) Higher customer retention rate

V) New monetization opportunities

VI) Big deal closure

VII) Access to missed opportunities

VIII) Better security

IX) CTO sentiment

X) Improved customer digital experiences

To better understand the impact of these metrics and more on your bottom line and how it effectively translates to dollars earned, go to our article on What is the Real ROI of Unified API: Numbers You Need to Know.

Can unified API lead to better security?

A key concern for anyone using APIs or integrations is the security posture. As there is an exchange of data between different applications and systems, it is important that there is no unauthorized access or misuse of data which can lead to financial and reputational damage. Some of the key security threats for API include:

  • Unauthorized access
  • Broken authentication tokens
  • Injection attacks
  • Data exposure
  • Rate limiting and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks 
  • Third party dependencies
  • Human error

Learn more about the most common API security threats and risks you are vulnerable to and the potential consequences if you don’t take action. 

A unified API can help achieve better security outcomes for B2B and B2C companies by facilitating:

1) Authentication and authorization

Unified API adopts robust authentication and authorization models which are pivotal in safeguarding data, preventing unauthorized access, and maintaining the integrity and privacy of the information exchanged between applications. Strong authentication mechanisms, such as API keys or OAuth tokens, are critical to securely confirm identity, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. At the same time role-based access control and granular authorization are integral following the principle of least privilege, giving users the least access which is required to perform their roles successfully. 

Check out this article to learn more about the authentication and authorization models for better unified API security. 

2) Continuous monitoring and logging

A unified API is expected to continuously monitor and log all changes, authentication requests and other activities and receive real time alerts by using advanced firewalls. Some of the best practices for monitoring and logging include using logging libraries or frameworks to record API interactions, including request details, response data, timestamps, and client information, leverage API gateways, to capture data like request/response payloads, error codes, and client IPs, configuring alerts and notifications based on predefined security thresholds. 

Our quick guide API Security 101: Best Practices, How-to Guides, Checklist, FAQs can help you master API Security and learn how unified APIs can further accentuate your security posture. Explore common techniques, best practices to code snippets and a downloadable security checklist.

3) Data classification

A good unified API classifies data to restrict and filter access. Data is often categorized between what is highly restricted, confidential and public to ensure tiered level of access and authentication for better security. 

4) Data encryption

Since data protection is a key element for security with a unified API, there are multiple levels of encryption in place. It involves encryption at rest, encryption in transit and application level encryption as well for restricted data. 

5) Infrastructure protection

Finally, a unified API ensures security by facilitating infrastructure protection. Security practices like network segregation, DDoS protection using load balancers, intrusion detection, together helps ensure high levels of security from a unified API. 

6) API rate limiting & throttling

As mentioned, APIs are prone to DDoS attacks due to high intensity of traffic with an attack intention. Rate limiting and throttling help maintain the availability and performance of API services, protect them against abusive usage, and ensure a fair distribution of resources among clients. 

Go to our article on 10 Best Practices for API Rate Limiting and Throttling to understand how they can advance API security and how a unified API can implement preventive mechanisms in place to handle rate limits for all the supported apps to make their effective use. 

When to choose a unified API?

As a business, you can explore several ways in which you can facilitate integrations rather than building them in-house. However, there are a few instances when you should be using a unified API particularly.

Case I: When you want to integrate applications within the same category

A unified API is one of the best integration solutions if you wish to connect APIs or applications within the same category. For instance, there can be several CRM applications like Salesforce, Zoho, etc. that you might want to integrate, the same goes for HRIS, accounting and other categories. Therefore, a unified API can be a great solution if you have similar category applications to integrate. 

Start syncing data with all apps within a category using a single Knit Unified API. Check out all the integrations available.

Case II: When you have different data models

Secondly, a major use case for unified API comes when you have applications which follow different datasets, models and architecture and you want to standardize and normalize data for exchange. A unified API will add an abstraction layer which will help you normalize data from different applications with diverse syntax into a uniform and standardized format. 

Case III: When you want to ensure data security

Next, when it comes to using a unified API, data security becomes a key benefit. Integrations and data exchange are vulnerable to unauthorized access and ensuring high levels of security is important. With factors like least privilege, encryption, infrastructure security, etc. a unified API is a good pathway to integration when security is a key parameter for you for decision making. 

You can easily check the API security posture of any unified API provider using this in-depth checklist on How to Evaluate API Security of a Third Party API Provider.

Case IV: When you have limited domain expertise

There might be times when your team doesn’t have the domain expertise for a particular application you might be using and may not be well versed with the terminologies there. For instance, if you are using an HRIS application and your team lacks expertise in the HR and payroll space, chances are you won’t be able to understand different data nomenclatures being used. Here, using a unified API makes sense because it ensures accurate data mapping across applications. 

Get Knit Unified API Key

Case V: When you don’t want to spend engineering time in understanding several APIs

Finally, a unified API is the right choice if you don’t want to spend your engineering bandwidth in understanding and learning about different API, their endpoints and architecture. Different APIs are built on REST, SOAP, GraphQL, each of which requires a high level of expertise and understanding, pushing companies to invest in developer hiring with relevant skills and experience. However, when it comes to a unified API, the engineering teams only need to learn about one endpoint and develop knowledge of a single architecture. Usually, unified APIs are built on REST. Thus, you should go for a unified API if you don’t want to invest engineering time in API education. 

If you find yourself conflicted between whether building or buying is the best approach to SaaS integrations and how to choose the right one for you, check out our article on Build vs Buy: The Best Approach to SaaS Integrations to make an informed decision. 

Unified API vs Workflow Automation

While building integrations in-house vs leveraging unified API are two approaches you can follow, there are other paths you can tread under the ‘buying’ integrations landscape. One of the leading approaches is workflow automation. Let’s quickly compare these two approaches under the buying integrations banner.

Workflow automation tools 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. Choose workflow automation for:

  • 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

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. Use a unified API for:

  • Standardized customer-facing integrations
  • High levels of data normalization and standardization
  • Scalable integrations that can be replicated across customers
  • A native integration experience which can be scaled efficiently

For a more detailed comparison between these two approaches to make an informed choice about which way to go, check out our article on Unified API vs Workflow Automation: Which One Should You Choose?

How to choose the right unified API?

If you have decided that a unified API is the way to go for you to facilitate better integrations for your business, there are a few factors you must keep in mind while selecting the right unified API among the different options available.

1. Coverage of API endpoints and applications

Start by evaluating how many API endpoints does the unified API cover. As you know that APIs can be built of REST, SOAP, GraphQL, it is important that your unified API covers them all and ensures that you have to learn the rules of a single architecture. At the same time, it is vital that it covers all or at least most of the applications or software that fall under the category you are looking for in a unified API. For instance, there can be thousands of applications within the HRIS category, you must evaluate if the unified API ensures that all HRIS applications or the ones that you use/ might need in the future are covered. 

Taking this example forward, here is a quick comparison between Finch and Knit on which unified HR API is most suited for user data, security and management. 

2. Data storage and security

Second, we mentioned that a good unified API provides you with a strong security posture.Therefore, it is important to check for the encryption and authentication models it uses. Furthermore, security parameters on least privilege, etc. must also be accounted for. A related factor to security is data storage. On the one hand, you must ensure that the unified API is compliant with data protection and other confidentiality laws, since they might have access to your and your customer’s data. On the other hand, it is equally important to ensure that the unified API doesn’t create a copy of customer data which can lead to security risks and additional storage costs. 

3. Pricing structure

Next, you need to check the pricing structure or pricing model being offered by the unified API. Pricing structures can be based on per customer along with platform charges, flat rates for a fixed number of employees and API call based charges. Increasingly, API call based charges are considered to be the most popular among developers as they turn out to be the most cost effective. Other pricing models which are not usage based can be very expensive and not sustainable for many companies. 

4. Data sync model

A unified API can have data sync in different ways, either it is polling first or webhooks first. Gradually, developers are preferring a webhooks first approach where customers don’t have to maintain a polling infrastructure as data updates are dispatched to customers' servers as and when they happen. Depending on your needs, you must evaluate the unified API based on the data sync model that you prefer. 

If you are confused between which unified API provider to choose, here’s a quick comparison of Knit and Merge, two leading names in the ecosystem focusing on data syncs, integration management, security and other aspects to help you choose the platform which is right for you. 

5. Monetization opportunities 

Finally, you should look for unified APIs which can provide you with monetization opportunities in addition to reduced costs and other benefits mentioned above. Gauge and evaluate whether or not the unified API can help you provide additional functionalities or efficiencies to your customers for which you can charge a premium. While it might be applicable for every application category you use, it is always good to have a monetization lens on when you are evaluating which unified API to choose. 

6. Scalability

Make sure your unified API can grow as you add more integrations and data load. Check if it can handle your current and future integrations. Also, ensure it can manage large amounts of data quickly. Use batch processing to handle the incoming data from different sources efficiently.

While these are a few parameters, explore our detailed article on What Should You Look For in A Unified API Platform? while evaluating an API management tool for your business.

7. Integration maintenance

It is important the unified API not only helps you build integrations but also enables you to maintain them with detailed Logs, Issues, Integrated Accounts and Syncs page and supports you to keep track of every API calls, data syncs and requests. 

Learn how Knit can help you maintain the health of your integrations without a headache.

Wrapping up: TL:DR

To conclude, it is evident that unified APIs have the potential to completely reinvent the integration market with their underlying potential to reduce costs while making the entire integration lifecycle seamless for businesses. Here are a few key takeaways that you should keep in mind:

  • A unified API adds an abstraction layer to connect different API for software in the same category
  • The high costs of building and maintaining integrations along with the engineering team drain are the major factors leading to the rise of the unified API
  • It is important to ensure that your unified API normalizes and standardizes data for exchange
  • Security in the form of authentication, encryption, least privilege, data classification, etc. are important parameters that make unified API a preferred choice
  • A unified API is the best option when you wish to integrates similar software category applications and don’t wish to spend engineering bandwidth on learning different architectures
  • Using a unified API can help developers take their products to market faster and scale seamlessly, addressing increasing customer integration needs
  • Factors like data storage, pricing, data sync models, coverage, etc. must be considered while choosing the right unified API for your business

Overall, a unified API can help businesses integrate high volumes of applications in a resource-lite manner, ultimately saving thousands of dollars and engineering bandwidth which can be invested in building and improving core product functionalities for better market penetration and business growth.

If you are looking to build multiple HRIS, ATS, CRM or Accounting integrations faster, talk to our experts to learn how we can help your use case

Insights
-
Nov 18, 2023

ATS API Integrations: All You Need to Know

If you are looking to integrate multiple HRIS and ATS apps with a single API key, check out Knit API. If you are looking to learn more about key ATS API concepts, data models and use cases, keep reading.

One of the first steps towards fueling a high powered organization is by onboarding the right talent. However, with the changing skill sets and dynamics of recruitment, hiring is becoming increasingly complex. 

As a result, most companies today are relying on different applications to streamline and automate the entire hiring process.There are several applications that come together to build the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and for application management, right from sending out a requisition to the final offer acceptance and onboarding. 

78% recruiters using ATS report having increased the efficiency of their hiring process. To make the process even more effective and efficient, companies want these applications to talk and automatically exchange data to keep pace with each other. Thus, ATS integration is becoming increasingly sought after, giving impetus to the rise of ATS API. 

In this article, we will cover the different facets of ATS integration, focusing on key concepts, use cases, data models, etc. to understand how ATS APIs will change the dynamics of recruitment. 

Key Applicant Tracking (ATS) concepts 

The first step to facilitate ATS integration is to understand the different ATS concepts that can help you familiarize yourself with the right terminology. 

1. Job requisition

Even before an organization starts receiving and processing applications, a key concept to understand is job requisition. Essentially, a job requisition is a template or a form which contains all the details about the job for which applicants are being sought. This includes details on the requirements as well as the process of closing the positions, like assessments, interviews, etc. It may also include details of the hiring manager and other relevant information. Different apps can have different ways of assigning job requisitions.  

2. Sourcing and mapping

Sourcing and mapping starts once the job requirements become clear. The HR or the recruitment manager generally navigates through different platforms and candidate pools to identify the right candidates and map them to different openings within the organization. Sourcing is when the hiring manager proactively reaches out to qualified candidates for a specific job opening. 

3. Candidates, attachments and applications

These three are integral concepts for any ATS API. While the terminology might change slightly for different applications, you will find all of these in some essence. 

  • Candidates refers to the individuals who apply for different roles and this category contains all details about them including name, location, skills, qualifications, etc. While most of the information is public, some information about disability, caste, religion, may be sensitive and stored privately.  
  • Next key ATS integration concept is that of attachments. Each candidate brings forth a set of documents that are relevant for the job they are applying to. These generally include the resume, cover letters, previous work samples, portfolios, etc. Together, these documents are referred to as attachments. 
  • Finally, a candidate may apply to one or more roles. Thus, they can have different applications. The application generally has information regarding when the application was started, current status, active or archive, etc. 

4. Interviews, activities and offers

Another set of concepts come into play when the communication with a candidate begins. 

  • The first of them is the ATS API concept of interviews. This object generally has information about the interview like the location, date and time, whether or not it happened, etc. 
  • Activities as a data object for ATS API refers to different communications that happen with a candidate. It includes details on emails, comments, and other aspects focusing on the subject, activity body, etc. 
  • Finally, after all communication and interviews, offers are rolled out to candidates. The offer object stores data such as the date the offer has been extended, till when it is valid, when the offer is to be accepted, job start date, etc. 

Top ATS APIs in the market

By now you understand that there are several layers to the ATS integration with different types of applications. Here are the top ATS APIs which you should consider connecting with to make hiring smooth and streamlined for your organization. 

top ATS APIs you must integrate with

1. Job posting APIs

The first set of ATS integration you should look out for is the one which can help you with job posting. This involves ensuring that your company profile and job openings are visible to potential candidates to generate interest and leads. 

Top job posting ATS API: Indeed, Monster, Naukri, The Muse

2. Candidate/ Lead sourcing APIs

Once the job has been posted, the next step is to build a pipeline of potential candidates. ATS applications for candidate and lead sourcing help extract important candidate data for profile matching, referrals, etc. 

Top candidate sourcing ATS API: Zoho, Freshteam, LinkedIn  

3. Resume parsing APIs

The next step after candidate sourcing is resuming sorting. Here resume parsing applications make sense for your ATS integration. These help with automated collection, storage and filtering of resumes. Resume parsing ATS APIs can help extract relevant information from resumes like skills, expected salary, previous experience, etc. to help align candidate profiles with job requirements. 

Top resume parsing ATS API: Zoho Recruit, HireAbility, CVViz

4. Interview management APIs

Resume screening needs to be followed by interviews to identify a role-fit for the candidates. However, interview management can be extremely complicated. ATS APIs for interviews help address all challenges, including assessments to gauge technical skills, scheduling, managing interview related travel information, etc. 

Top interview management ATS API: Calendly, HireVue, HackerRank, Qualified.io, Talview

5. Candidate communication APIs

Communicating effectively with the candidates is extremely important during the whole hiring process. ATS APIs for candidate communication can help automate email, text and other messages and keep track of all interactions in a streamlined manner. 

Top candidate communication ATS API: Grayscale, Paradox

6. Offer extension and acceptance APIs

Finally, once you decide to onboard a particular candidate, you need relevant ATS integration for extending the offer where the candidate can accept the same and share any document(s) that you might need for onboarding. Offer acceptance applications facilitate electronic signatures, and other formalities in a seamless manner. 

Top offer extension and acceptance ATS API: DocuSign, AdobeSign, DropBox Sign 

To check out Knit’s entire ATS and HRIS API catalog click here

7. Background verification APIs

When you are extending an offer, it is very important to ensure background verification or check for your potential employees. While you may have performed initial reference checks when you received the application, while hiring someone, you need to get a more comprehensive understanding of their profile. Doing this manually can be extremely time and resource extensive. 

Here, ATS integrations for background verification can help you run a check based on your required parameters on the candidate profile and flag any concerns if they appear. This way, you can be rest assured that the employees who come on board don’t have any form of ethical or legal or any other baggage. 

Top background verification ATS API: Certn, Hireology, HireRight, GoodHire

8. Analytics and reporting APIs

Now that your hiring is complete, you should analyze the entire process to gauge where you stand in terms of open positions, the DEI status for your organization, overall headcount, etc. ATS integration for analytics and reporting can help you get dashboard with all such information

Top analytics and reporting ATS API: LucidChart, ChartHop

ATS Integration Data Use cases 

One of the biggest benefits of ATS integration is that organizations are easily able to integrate a lot of data about the candidate and terms of hiring with significant new use cases. 

On one hand, organizations can internally use this data for better decision making and ensure effective human resources distribution. On the other hand, this data can become the foundation for other companies to facilitate seamless business continuity across industries. 

In this section, we will discuss the top ATS API use cases that SaaS companies are applying today.

I) Seamless onboarding

The first major use case for data from ATS APIs revolves around onboarding and building of HRIS data. With ATS integrations, important data about the candidate like demographic information, qualifications, documents, attachments, identity proofs etc. which are collected during the course of applicant tracking can be automatically transported to the HRMS or HRIS. Furthermore, the salary details and other terms of employment as shared during offer extension can also be communicated to the payroll APIs. 

This brings along twin benefits. 

  • First, the candidate doesn’t have to share the same information multiple times, making onboarding smooth for them. 
  • Second, your HR managers also don’t have to invest manual bandwidth and efforts in replicating the data for their records. 

II) Compensation management 

As mentioned, ATS API integrations can ensure that all details about the candidate compensation are shared with the payroll application to facilitate correct salary calculation and on-time disbursement. This is specifically useful if you are on a mass hiring mode and don’t want to delay your payroll. 

Furthermore, compensation data from your ATS, not only for the selected candidates but also the salary expectations and other details can help you ensure fair and equitable compensation management. This data can help you understand what the market expectations are and how you are able to address the same. Similarly, data from ATS API can help gauge discrepancies or differences that might crop up across gender, experiences, level of seniority. Invariably, this data can help you facilitate fair pay based on market standards to attract the best talent. 

At the same time, third party companies which are experts in compensation management and consulting can integrate this data with their findings to help you with the best practices.  

III) Diversity and inclusion

An essential part that you need to focus on during hiring and afterwards is the diversity and inclusion aspect of your workforce. The ATS API data can help you understand the diversity of the candidate pool vis-a-vis the final hiring and closing of positions. Based on this data, your internal DEI team or external experts can help you understand if there is a leakage of diversity along the way. 

Invariably this will encourage you to understand if some part of your hiring process is biased or if you are using ATS applications which are not inclusive enough. You can identify the positions or roles where your diversity ratio is specifically low to understand the concerns. Simultaneously, you can make conscious efforts to bridge this lack of diversity. 

IV) Automated job posting

ATS API data will be incredibly helpful in automating the job posting process. For instance, data from interviews and other applications can indicate the pipeline of candidates and their status. In case the pipeline for a particular role is getting extremely weak with a lot of rejections during interviews or offer acceptances, your ATS application for job boards can be triggered for job posting followed by candidate sourcing and resume parsing. 

Here, the idea is to reduce manual time that goes into identifying which roles are still open and doubling down efforts on sourcing candidates for the same. This will only be possible when you can get real time data with continuous sync from your ATS APIs about the status of different candidates and applications.  

Key ATS API data models 

Most ATS apps have specific data models which they use to streamline workflow and dataflow. As a unified API for ATS integration, Knit focuses on the following data models for ATS API:

Application info

Contains all applicant details like job ID, status, owner, credited to (who receives credit for the application), applied at, updated at, etc. It also contains information about the candidate, location, links and documents attached, among others. 

Application stage

The stage at which the applicant is currently at, ranging from applied to selected or rejected with a stage ID and stage name. 

Application interview

Keeps all the information regarding a candidate's interview, when it is scheduled for, start time, end time, status, list of interviewers, location, etc. 

Application rejection

Contains data and information about any rejected application or candidate, including job ID, reason for rejection, rejected at which stage, etc. 

Application offers

All the offers extended to an application. It contains the details about the offer as well as the status to define whether the offer has been extended, signed, declined. It also keeps data on when the offer was extended, when it was closed, etc.

Application resume

Application resume or attachments refers to all the documents (such as resume, cover letter etc) which are associated with a particular candidate or application. They are present in the form of downloadable links and when it was created. 

Along with these application data models, Knit also offers several key job data models. For more details, check our documentation 

Get started with unified ATS API

Now that you understand different aspects of ATS integrations, it’s time to get started with it. If you look closely, you will realize that there are several categories of applications within the ATS segment. Each application comes with its own API, data syntax, end points, data models, etc. Due to this immense fragmentation in the ATS market, a unified API for ATS integration is the need of the hour. 

A unified ATS API like Knit will help you normalize data from all your ATS applications and facilitate real time data sync to facilitate continuous and secure data exchange. 

However, when you plan to get started with a unified API for ATS integration, get yourself acquainted with the following questions.

What API format is being used?

The first thing you need to check is which API format does the unified API for ATS integration provide. By adding an additional abstraction layer, the unified API ensures that your engineering team has to only deal with only one API format. However, you need to check among the different API formats like REST, SOAP, RPC, GraphQL, etc. which one is the foundation for your unified API. 

Generally, REST based unified API is most sought after as it is lightweight, independent, scalable and flexible.  

How does it ensure authentication?

You need to ensure that your unified API for ATS integration supports unified authentication. Here, you don’t have to force custom logic to factor in different forms of authentication based on different applications. Rather, there is a single form of authentication that you can rely on, whereas integrating everything on the backend to prevent the back and forth is taken care of by the unified API provider. 

What is the set API rate limit?

Rate limit specifically refers to how many API calls can you make in a given period of time for information request or exchange. If you have a lower rate limit and more API calls, it can lead to distorted unified API behavior. 

This request or rate limiting needs to be made in conjecture with your customer needs to ensure smooth functioning. 

Are test accounts available?

You might add more ATS APIs to your unified API as your scope or need increases. However, chances are you might want to try them out before you actually implement them for your customers. Therefore, you should check whether or not your unified API offers test accounts. Their presence is imperative especially from an active development perspective and to ensure smooth functioning before you go live with new features or applications. 

Does it offer unified pagination?

Pagination essentially refers to how the data from different application APIs get sorted for exchange. A unified API for ATS integration should provide you with unified pagination, which supports all forms of pagination. A unified API can help abstract all forms of pagination including offset pagination, page pagination, cursor pagination, link pagination, etc. Post abstraction, it provides a unified pagination that provides a more consistent and better experience.  

What is the architecture followed?

In a unified API, you can use either webhook or polling first architecture for data sync. 

  • In a webhook architecture, the data gets synced automatically, with a push-based sync and no polling infrastructure is needed by the customer. Here, data updates are synced as and when they happen. 
  • However, for polling first architecture, data updates rely upon poll databases, requiring a separate infrastructure. You need to make an API call at frequent intervals to ensure data is synced periodically.

Thus, you need to decide which architecture you need. From an ease of use perspective, webhooks architecture makes sense for continuous sync without the need to maintain any additional infrastructure. 

Does it ensure ATS integration management?

Finally, you need to ensure that your unified API supports ATS integration management once the APIs have been implemented. Gauge whether or not it bears full responsibility for troubleshooting, handling errors and all other maintenance related activities. 

Knit unified API for ATS integration

As a unified API, Knit seeks to make it seamless for SaaS businesses to implement native integrations to scale their growth. With Knit API, you can shift the heavy lifting of integration building and maintenance as it takes care of:

  • Continuous data sync with a 100% webhook architecture (Knit is the only unified API in the market today that does not store any of your end-user data at our end, ensuring better security. Learn more)
  • Push based data-sync model, eliminating the need for any polling infrastructure
  • Customizable scopes for giving your end-users granular control 
  • DIY dashboard to make it easier for your CX to solve customer issues
  • Seamless integration maintenance and management, error handling, etc. 

Overall, with Knit as your unified API for ATS integration, you can save thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in engineering resources, enabling you to provide a consistent developer experience and leverage ATS data from different applications to supercharge your ATS and hiring process. Get you Knit API keys today

Wrapping up: TL:DR

As we draw this article to a close, it is important to note that a unified API for ATS integration can help you seamlessly deal with the ATS market fragmentation and ensure smooth data exchange. Keep in mind factors like common authentication, pagination, test account, rate limits, etc. when making a choice. 

Insights
-
Oct 30, 2023

Unified API: ROI Calculator

As integrations gain more popularity and importance for SaaS businesses, most companies focus on the macro benefits offered, in terms of addressing customer needs, user retention, etc. 

We have discussed all of that in our detailed article on ROI of Unified API

However, having integrations translates to a tangible impact on a company’s bottom line which must be captured. 

In this article, we will discuss the top metrics that companies can track to measure the ROI of product integrations and attribute revenue value to them. We will also share the formulas, so that you can test it for your business.

The monetary impact of implementing unified API can be measured in terms 3 direct values as well as a host of costs saved per integration. We will discuss all of them below.

Note: Typically, it takes a SaaS developer 4 weeks to 3 months  to build and launch just one API integration — from planning, design and development to implementation, testing and documentation. The number can be as high as 9 months. For the sake of simplicity, we will take the most conservative number i.e. the minimum it would take you to launch one customer facing integration – 4 weeks.

1. Additional Value Unlocked with Each New Integration

When a new integration is added, it opens doors to new customers who are loyalists with the product being integrated. This leads to new revenue which can be added.

To calculate the revenue add:

  1. Number of customers with the partner X (% of these customers who could potentially become your customers/100) = Total new opportunities
  2. Total new opportunities X (Your average close rate/ 100) = Estimated new customers
  3. Estimated new customers X average annual revenue per customer = Additional revenue generated via integrations

Taking a few assumptions such as:

  • Your average close rate = 5% 
  • Average revenue per customer = $5000

Additional revenue with each integration can be:

  1. 10,000 X (1/100) = 100 new opportunities
  2. 100 X (5/100) = 5 new customers
  3. 5 X USD 5,000 = USD 25,000
Each new integration has the potential to unlock ~USD 25K or more to your revenue base each year. 

2. Accelerated Sales Cycle and Revenue Realization Time

Next, you need to calculate how integrations impact your sales cycle and revenue realization timelines.

Compare how long it takes for your sales team to close deals when integrations are involved versus when there is no integration requirement or you don’t have the requisite integrations. 

Suppose if you are able to close the deals with integrations 3 weeks faster, then the ROI translates to: 

No of weeks saved X annual customer revenue/ 52

= 3 X (5000/ 52)

= 3 X 96

= ~USD 280/ customer

If you build integration in-house, the delay in deal completion due to the longer integration launch time can cost you ~USD 300 per customer. Plus, the

Retention and Renewals

Integrations directly have an impact on customer retention and renewals. If you offer mission critical integrations, chances are your recurring revenue from existing customers will increase. To calculate the ROI and revenue addition from this angle, you need to: Capture the renewal rate of customers using integrations. 

Let’s say renewal rate is 20% higher than those who don’t use integrations, then the ROI becomes:

Number of customers renewing without integrations: 100 

Number of customers renewing with integrations: 120 

Annual revenue per customer: USD 5000

Then,

Additional revenue due to integrations: Average revenue per customer X Additional customers due to integrations

= USD 5000 X 20

=~USD 100,000

Total Cost Saved with Unified APIs

Once you have a clear picture of the revenue derived through integrations, let’s look at how unified API makes this revenue realization faster, greater and better:

Assumptions:

Salary of a developer: USD 125K

Average time spent in building one integration: 6 weeks*

Average time spent on maintaining integrations every week: 10 hours 

*This is a very conservative estimate. In reality, it usually takes more than 6 weeks to launch one integration

From a simple cost perspective, the ROI of using a unified API vs a DIY approach translates to 20X cost savings in direct monetary terms.

Other RoI Metrics

Some of the other areas to gauge the increase in ROI with unified API include:

Assumptions:

Annual revenue per customer: USD 5,000

Minimum average time spent in building one integration: 6 weeks

Average annual revenue of a big deal: USD 70,000

Average time spent on maintaining integrations: 10 hours/ week

It is evident that both from a cost and income lens, a unified API brings along significant ROI which reflects tangible impact on the business revenue. 

Note: We have taken a very conservative measure while choosing average time to build integrations, average developer salary and number of people associated with building integrations. 

In reality, one integration can take up to a quarter to build one integration, the average annual compensation package of a developer can be up to $250,000 and along with one or more developer(s), a single integration also requires the bandwidth of product managers, design team or project managers. This means the cost incurred for building integrations in-house is actually higher.  

You can put the formulas above in an Excel sheet and check how much every integration is costing you each week. Download this ROI Calculator for your future reference.

Ready to build?

Are you looking to accelerate your product roadmap, let Knit take care of your integrations so that your developers can focus on core product features. Let us save your time and cost.

Get your API keys or book a quick call with one of our experts for a more customized plan

Insights
-
Oct 25, 2023

What is the Real ROI of Unified API: Numbers You Need to Know

Note: You can check our ROI calculator to have a realistic measure of how much building integrations in-house is costing you as well as gauge the actual business/monetary impact of unified APIs. You can also download the calculator for future reference, here

Building a SaaS business without integrations is out of question in today’s day and age. However, the point that needs your focus today is how you are planning to implement integrations for your business. Certainly, one way to go is to build and manage all your integrations in-house. Alternatively, you could outsource the entire heavy lifting and simply adopt a unified API which allows you to integrate with all SaaS applications from a specific vertical with a single API key. 

Of course, each one has its pros and cons (we have discussed this in detail in our article Build vs Buy) , but when it comes to calculating the ROI or the return on investment, a unified API takes the lead. 

In this article, we will discuss how adopting a unified API can exponentially benefit your bottom line compared to the investment you make along with research backed data and statistics.

I) Saved engineering hours and cost

Let’s start with the first and most prominent area of cost and return on investment for integrations, engineering or IT labor hours. 

Generally, building an integration requires normalization of APIs and data models from each SaaS application that you seek to use. Invariably, each integration requires the expertise of a developer, a product manager and a quality assurance engineer, in varying capacities. Each integration can take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months to complete. 

So, if you build an integration in house, it can cost you around 10-15k USD. Now, consider if you are using 5 integrations for a specific category of software e.g. building HRIS integrations. It can cost you as much as 50-75k USD. At the same time, you will also spend many engineering hours not only building the integrations but also managing them indefinitely. And, this is only for one integration vertical. If you decide to expand your integration catalog to other categories such as ATS, CRM, accounting, etc, the number is much higher.

On the contrary, if you go for a unified API, your engineering team has to focus its energy and resources only on one API, which comes at a fraction of the cost and engineering hours.

II) Reduced time to market

Time to market, first mover advantage and market penetration are three areas that directly impact competitive advantage for any SaaS company. 57% of companies state that gaining a competitive advantage is one of the top 3 priorities in their industry. 

The ROI of a unified API can be easily expanded to gaining this competitive advantage as well. A direct by-product of saving engineering hours with a unified API is that you can get started with integrations from day one and don’t have to wait for weeks or months for the integrations to be built. Moreover, you can deploy your valuable engineering resources on improving your core product instead of spending it on integration development and maintenance.

At a time when 53% of CEO’s are concerned about competition from disruptive businesses; reduced time to market with a unified API, gives businesses the first mover advantage and addresses their concerns of being replaced by competition. 

III) Improved scalability rate

The next return on investment parameter that you need to consider for making a case for unified APIs is how fast you are able to scale. 

It is not about adding only one integration to improve customer satisfaction. Rather, you need to scale your integrations one after the other, faster than your competitors. 

Now, if you build integrations in-house, chances are you will take at least a few weeks for each integration, making scalability a challenge. 

Contrarily, with a unified API, you are able to scale faster as it enables you to seamlessly add more integrations with a single API. You don’t need to spend time and resources on normalizing data from each application that needs to be integrated. 

When you scale quickly, you are able to meet the increasing and dynamic customer demand, resulting in more closed deals in less time. 

Also Read: State of SaaS Integration Report 2023

IV) Higher customer retention rate

Customer retention is a key growth metric for any SaaS business. 

Research shows that a 5% increase in customer retention results in 25 – 29% increase in revenue. Furthermore, retaining existing customers has been shown to increase profitability by 25% to as much as 95%. Together, these data points clearly depict how customer retention impacts your bottom line. 

From an API and integration lens, chances are that your existing customers will gradually demand for new integrations during the course of your association. In case you deny them the integrations due to lack of engineering resources, or divert your IT hours towards building them in-house (which can take weeks!) — chances are that your customers will move to your competitor. 

However, providing those integrations is the only way to retain your customers. Invariably, if you want to facilitate customer retention without too much capital investment, unified APIs are the way to go. They enable you to quickly add integrations to your product, without heavy upfront costs and the customers who you are able to retain have the potential to add significant revenue to your bottom line. 

V) New monetization opportunities

Interestingly, you can use integrations not only to support your product but can also monetize them depending on how you are able to integrate them with your solution. Based on the integration, you can define specific use cases for businesses which can help them understand how their integrations can make an impact for them beyond just data exchange. For instance, you might be able to create revenue opportunities by enabling your customers to leverage API data to redefine their business models. 

However, this monetization is only possible when you can scale fast and are able to add integrations as well as customize them for your customers. If you are building integrations in-house, this speed and customization may not be possible. However, a great ROI for unified APIs is ensuring that the cost of procuring the unified API is significantly surpassed with the new revenue it brings to the table. 

VI) Big deal closure

Enterprise customers who generally offer big deals believe in the power of integration and wish to stay away from data silos. These companies want your product to come with specific integrations that can help them integrate all data from different applications. At the same time, these companies don’t want to wait too long to get their hands on your product. 

If they have to wait for weeks to start using your product because you are delayed in building integrations in-house, chances are they will sign up with your competitor. 

Therefore, a high ROI way of closing big deals is to go with a unified API over in-house integrations, providing a seamless sales experience. 

VII) Access to missed opportunities

Research shows that 46% of sales inquiries are missed opportunities. While there may be different reasons for missed opportunities for different industries, a big reason for many SaaS platforms is the inability to provide integrations prospects are asking for. 

Chances are high that your sales team is struggling hard because your platform lacks integrations or because the time to market is too slow. This will lead to missed sales opportunities with your potential customers going to your competitors. 

However, with a unified API, you can add integrations based on customer needs, without having to navigate the waiting period that comes along with in-house integration building. Therefore, the speed of execution that comes with a unified API ensures that you are able to capture and convert all sales opportunities that come your way. 

This is a direct return on investment, with a potential to increase your conversion rate by almost 50%. 

VIII) Better security

Since integrations are all about data exchange and management, security is often a key area of concern. This suggests that your security posture from an integration standpoint can make or break your business. 

Research shows that 91% of organizations had an API security incident in 2020. 

From a security lens, encryption, classification, monitoring and logging play a major role in integration. 

However, taking care of it all in-house during building and maintenance can be tricky and cost intensive. Every time there is a security concern, your in-house team will be required to take care of all troubleshooting as well as responding to your end customers. 

Fortunately, these security concerns are taken care of by the unified API provider and the onus doesn’t lie with your engineering team. Security occurrences are also accompanied with downtime costs, which can be resolved faster by third party providers. 

Thus, if you look at the return on investment from a security standpoint, a unified API will help you significantly reduce the costs from security incidents. Even if these incidents happen, all efforts to remedy the same are taken care of by the unified API provider, making security management seamless for you. 

IX) CTO sentiment

When measuring your return on investment or costs associated with integrations, you need to also take into account the soft costs. Here, catering to the CTO sentiment is extremely important. 

  • On one hand, building integrations in-house puts the pressure on your CTO to hire more resources with specific skills, which is complicated, and an added IT expense. Research shows that 67% of the digital leaders are struggling with a skills shortage. 
  • On the other hand, even when there are enough resources, CTOs struggle with allocating bandwidth to anything other than their core product feature or enhancement. Invariably, diverting attention to building integrations in-house has repercussions on the core product, delaying release. 

Together, these factors lead to CTO frustration and resentment. 

However, with a unified API, the CTO can focus all their engineering resources on the core project at hand, ensuring quality delivery in a timely manner. 

This CTO motivation along with enhanced product delivery is another way how a unified API surpasses in-house integration building from an ROI perspective. 

X) Improved customer digital experiences

Customer experiences are a core tenet guiding return on investment for businesses.

86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. This suggests that if you are able to create a great customer experience with integrations, you can secure more revenue. There are several reasons why a unified API can help you in creating exemplary customer experiences. 

First, unified APIs give a native experience to customers and are built by experts. When building integrations in-house, chances are that you may or may not be able to achieve the right mark. Second, many unified APIs come in the form of a white label solution to which you can add your own branding seamlessly

If your customers have a great experience, chances are high that they are willing to pay a premium for this experience, leading to a clear ROI for your business with a unified API.

How to compare the ROI for unified API vs in-house integrations 

If you are deciding between the build vs buy approach for customer-facing integrations, consider the following ROI metrics for both the scenarios:

1. Total cost of integrations

For a unified API, consider the cost of procurement and one time installment. Whereas for in-house integrations, calculate the capital investment and engineering cost. Here, you will get a clear picture of where the cost is higher from a short term and a long term view. 

2. Current market landscape

Second, for your ROI, you need to understand how quickly you wish to move. If there are no competitors for you, you can take time to build integrations in-house. However, if there are others already capturing the market, you need to move fast. Therefore, consider your time to market. 

3. Number of integrations

Next, from an ROI perspective, check how many integrations you need to have. If there are only a couple of them, you can consider building them in-house. But as the number of integrations increase, building in-house will become more expensive with declining return. 

4. Resource bandwidth

Finally, you need to understand how diverting resources to integrations will impact your product lifecycle. If this leads to product release delays, impacting your core revenue, building integrations in-house can be very costly, surpassing the ROI. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, it is quite evident that you can achieve a higher ROI if you go the unified API route, especially if you want to scale fast. At the end, you should simply weigh the costs associated with each in terms of set up, maintenance, security and the new revenue they bring along with customer retention, experience, monetization, scalability, etc. 

Knit unified API helps you to integrate multiple HRIS, ATS and communication apps with a single API key for each category, reducing repetitive work. Knit also provides on-going integration management and support for your CX teams. Explore the suitability of our Knit API for your use case by signing up for free. Get API keys

Insights
-
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

Insights
-
Sep 21, 2023

Developer's Guide to Accounting API Integration

Any company that undertakes financial data keeping and transactions relies on accounting software to prevent inaccuracies, facilitate automation and overall streamline all aspects of the financial ecosystem. Research shows that 58% of businesses used accounting software to meet the needs of their clients. 

In this article, we will uncover how SaaS providers can easily integrate with different accounting APIs along with key accounting concepts that developers must know to work with accounting data fields. 

What are accounting APIs?

Different accounting functions like payroll, reimbursements, payments, expense/ invoice management, etc. have different software for businesses to use. Each of these accounting software comes with an API, what is collectively called accounting APIs. 

Essentially, accounting APIs help companies integrate different accounting software with their systems of function to ensure smooth transfer of data from one application to the other.

Accounting APIs facilitate a great degree of automation when it comes to financial operations and help companies with informed decision making.      

Types if accounting APIs

Based on different financial functions, there are different accounting APIs that companies use. Each accounting API seeks to address specific needs and functionalities. 

1. General ledger APIs

As the name suggests, general ledger APIs provide all encompassing financial functionalities to companies. They help companies consolidate all financial data about income, expenses, liabilities, assets, etc. in one place. 

Overall, with general ledger APIs, companies can get a macro view of their financial health and make decisions accordingly. General ledger APIs tend to provide users with very granular information.  

Top general ledger APIs: QuickBooks API, Xero API, Sage Intacct API

2. Invoice and billing APIs

Invoicing and billing APIs take care of the payments side of the accounting APIs. For any company, there are a plethora of invoices that are received and need to be processed. There are almost an equal or maybe more volume of bills which are sent. 

Invoicing and billing APIs can help companies create, send and track invoices by automating a lot of functions in the way. They enable users to leverage API calls to carry out different functions associated with invoicing and billing. 

Top invoicing and billing APIs: FreshBooks API, QuickBooks Online Invoicing API, Xero Invoicing API, ZohoBooks API

3. Payroll APIs

This type of accounting APIs enable companies to seamlessly manage employee payrolls and ensure that their employees are paid on time, correctly. They integrate with payroll systems and automate a series of tasks associated with salary disbursement. 

Integration with payroll APIs can enable users to seamlessly get employee information from different company used software, create payroll for the month, manage deductions, based on contract and even create payslips. 

Top payroll APIs: ZohoPeople API, RazorpayX API, UKG Pro API, BambooHR API 

4. Expense management APIs

Each business has a set of expenses that are carried out on a regular basis. As the company scales, the expenses and the management for the same balloons up. Expense management APIs seek to automate the process of recording, tracking, categorizing expenses. 

Furthermore, they integrate all expense related data with other accounting APIs to facilitate smooth transactions. Such tools are especially important from a reimbursement tracking perspective as well. 

Top expense management APIs: Zoho Expense API, SAP Concur API, Quickbooks Online API

5. Reporting and analytics APIs

These APIs integrate with different accounting software to create customized and logic driven reports of financial accounts and provide insights based on the data captured. 

Their main objective is to help gauge the company's financial performance and map it against the goals set initially. 

Top reporting and analytics APIs: QuickBooks Online Reports API, Xero Reports API

6. Payment gateway APIs

Another set of accounting APIs are payment gateway APIs. These APIs help companies integrate different APIs in their applications, website or accounting systems for payment related functionalities. 

Payment gateway APIs are extremely important to manage online transactions and allow companies to accept payment from customers/ others via different payment methods including credit/ debit cards, netbanking, UPI, etc. 

Top payment gateway APIs: PayPal API, PayU API, Stripe API

7. Tax calculation APIs

Since businesses are bound by their local tax regimes, tax calculation APIs make the entire process more streamlined. They integrate with the company’s accounting software and help with calculating tax rates, provide calculation logic and automate various tax-related processes. 

Top tax calculation APIs: Avalara API, TaxJar API, Stripe API

Accounting API key concepts

When using accounting APIs, it is important for developers to understand some of the key concepts or data schemas that you will be using. Knowledge of these concepts will help you make the right API calls and ensure seamless access and exchange of data. 

Learn more about accounting data models here

Account

Essentially, each accounting system has different accounts associated with it. These can be expense accounts, payments accounts, bank accounts, etc. Important data or information related to each account includes a unique identifier, name of the account, type or categorization, balance, transaction model, etc. See docs

Journal Entry

Whenever you record any information in the accounting system, it is referred to as an entry. Each entry is generally associated with an account. An entry includes the entry ID, date, detailed description and line items to support the same. See docs 

Invoice

An invoice is a document which records details about a service provided or received by a company. It includes information about the invoice ID, invoice number (in case a sequential number is provided), customer details, line items in the invoice, total payable amount, taxes, discounts, issue date, due date, quantity, etc. See docs

Payment

Related to invoice is the payment which focuses on the monetary transaction following an invoice generation. This data schema contains information like payment ID, payment date, payment method, payment amount, related invoice ID, etc. See docs

Contact

This refers to an individual or organization that is associated with the accounting system, usually a customer or a vendor. The data carried here contains contact ID, address and contact details, billing address, payment terms and conditions, etc. See docs

Report

A financial report as a key data concept consolidates all data about the financial performance of the company. Key data schemas within the same include report ID, report date, account balances, time period, data metrics, etc. 

Transaction

A transaction is a key concept which records any transfer of money in the form of debit or credit. It contains data schemas like transaction ID, transaction date, value of transaction, type (debit or credit), description, etc. For most organizations, transaction details are included in the Entry / Journal Entry data schema.

While these key concepts and data schemas are more generic in nature, each type of accounting API discussed above will have its own sets of data concepts associated with it, like (illustrative and non exhaustive):

Payroll API key concepts

  • Employee with information like employee ID, name, contact details, employment status, pay rate, tax withholding information, and other relevant employee details
  • Payroll run focused on payroll run ID, start date, end date, payroll adjustments or special considerations
  • Paycheck with paycheck ID, employee details, payment amount, payment date, tax deductions, net pay, etc.
  • Time and attendance with date, employee ID, hours worked, leave type, and any associated calculations or rules, etc. 

See our developer documentation for more details on payroll APIs

Expense management API key concepts

  • Expense report with report ID, submitter details, submission date, status, and associated expenses.
  • Expense category with data schemas on category ID, name, etc. 
  • Expense item with item ID, expense date, amount, currency, vendor details, expense description, supporting documentation
  • Receipt with fields like receipt ID, file attachments, etc. 

Use Cases of Accounting APIs

Data inputs and functionalities from accounting APIs can help businesses automate many financial tasks and facilitate greater efficiency across the spectrum. 

1. Cash flow management

With data from accounting APIs, companies can easily keep real time track of expenses and potential incomes to manage their cash flows better. Real time visibility into projected expenses and cash shortages can help prevent overspending and facilitate better cash management. 

This way businesses can ensure sufficient working capital in the bank and maintain liquidity, while managing investments and other liabilities and assets. 

For instance, healthcare companies can use accounting APIs to automate tracking of healthcare supplies and medicines and create projected expenses to fulfill inventory. 

2. Budgeting and forecasting

Data from accounting APIs can help companies predict spending and expense patterns to create accurate and realistic budgets and financial forecasting for subsequent years. Historical data can enable companies to better optimize expenses and allocate greater budgets to revenue generating areas. 

3. Regulatory compliances

Any company that operates under any law is likely to undergo financial audits from time to time. Accounting APIs ensures that companies have structured and accurate data on their financial health in real time. 

This helps track all financial transactions and be prepared for any audit/ generate audit trails seamlessly. Invariably, accounting APIs, thus, help businesses adhere to regulatory compliances and facilitate transparency and accountability. 

For instance, non profit organizations can use accounting APIs to manage their grants and donations and adhere to the local compliances, promote transparency and prevent any regulatory challenges. 

4. Integration with third party applications 

Accounting APIs can help businesses integrate their accounting software with other applications they use including CRM, ERP, etc. This can automate and facilitate multiple processes without the need for manual data entry. 

For instance, companies can integrate accounting APIs with their HRMS platform for easy information transfer on payslips and payroll updates. Similarly, manufacturing companies can integrate their accounting APIs with ERP and procurement systems for automated invoice processing, payments, etc. 

5. Timely invoicing and payments

Accounting APIs can help companies send automated invoices to customers on a timely basis and integration with payment gateway APIs can enable seamless and faster transactions. Especially, when it comes to subscription based services, accounting APIs can facilitate accurate calculation of recurring billing. 

Most subscription based companies can leverage accounting APIs to predict future revenues and integrate with other applications to handle subscription upgrades and downgrades, which can be automatically captured in subsequent billings. 

6. Vendor and supplier management

A major part of accurate accounting is managing vendors and suppliers. With accounting APIs, companies can easily integrate their procurement systems to automate recording of vendor invoices, track expenses, facilitate timely payments, etc. 

Furthermore, they can be integrated into the enterprise workflow for approval mechanisms, communication and payment scheduling. 

Challenges with Accounting API integration

Undoubtedly, there are several ways in which accounting API integration can help power high levels of efficiency and automation for companies. However, there are a few challenges and risks that can make accounting API integration overwhelming for developers.

Data security and privacy

Accounting applications carry sensitive financial information and are prone to hacking/ unauthorized access during transfer by threats like man in the middle attacks. A key challenge with accounting API integration is to ensure encryption and authentication. 

At the same time, even within the organization, not everyone needs access to all financial information, thus, adding a layer of authorization is important, which can be challenging.

Note: If you are looking for a secure way to scale your accounting integrations, check our Security page to see how Knit is emerging as the most secure unified API platform available in the market today

Data mapping

With different accounting APIs in the market for different functionalities, chances are that fields across the applications are diverse. In such a situation, mapping data for transfer becomes difficult. Inaccurate data mapping can lead to loss of critical financial information during transfer, leading to monetary losses.

API updates and maintenance

Accounting APIs undergo several changes as new features are added and older ones become irrelevant. There can be changes in endpoints, API versions, etc. which require constant monitoring and updating to keep the API working properly. 

At the same time, there can be deprecated features which are not removed, which adds to security challenges. Thus, accounting API maintenance can be a challenge for companies that don’t have large in-house engineering teams or don’t want to spend a lot on API management. 

Legacy system challenges

Most accounting information currently is stored in legacy systems for companies. The new-age accounting APIs differ in data formats, schemas, etc. This can lead to compatibility issues. 

Most legacy systems don’t have APIs and may require additional coding to be integrated with the new accounting APIs. 

Error handling and data consistency

As mentioned, errors in financial data transfer, which is the main objective of using accounting APIs, can lead to heavy financial losses for companies. Thus, constant monitoring, logging and real time error resolution is a challenge that comes with accounting API management and scalability. 

At the same time, as the volume of accounting requests increases, implementing practices like rate limiting and throttle can be challenging if accounting APIs are managed in-house.  

Limited technical knowledge

If you are building and managing your accounting API integration in-house, you will need comprehensive knowledge of different financial concepts, tax knowledge, local compliances, etc. Limited technical knowledge is, thus, another challenge that comes along with accounting APIs. 

At the same time, accounting API integration and transfer of financial data requires adherence of GDPR, GAAS and other regulatory laws, any breach of which can lead to legal repercussions. 

Unified Accounting API: Way Forward

While there might be roadblocks on the way, it is safe to say that accounting APIs have significant use cases across industries. Thus, their implementation and use cannot be negated.

Unified Accounting APIs help businesses connect with multiple accounting software in one go using just one API. Thus, reducing integration shipping time by as much as 80%. 

However, there are some questions you must consider while choosing the right unified accounting API provider for your company. 

Q1. What are the considerations for data privacy and security?

As mentioned, when it comes to accounting APIs, data privacy and security is of utmost importance. Having a safe way to integrate and sync data with accounting software can lead to gaining customer confidence and higher retention rates. 

Since most of the numbers are confidential, it is important that your unified API provider doesn’t access or store a copy of the data. 

In this case, choosing a unified API which has security embedded in the platform infrastructure can be beneficial. An events driven architecture ensures that the unified API doesn’t store a copy of your data, facilitating data privacy and security. 

Such unified API platforms work only with webhooks and the initial and delta data syncs are delivered via events, preventing the possibility of data storage. Learn more

Q2. Is data sync automatic?

A critical part of using APIs is data sync. When choosing a unified accounting API, you need to gauge whether data sync is automatic or needs an additional push. 

If you look closely, there are two types of unified APIs to choose from based on their architecture. Pull based APIs which need an additional polling infrastructure to make constant requests for data sync. 

On the other hand, there are Push based APIs which are events driven with webhooks. Put simply, you need to configure events that will trigger data sync and there will be data flow whenever the event occurs, without any additional push. 

A webhooks driven architecture without any polling infrastructure is definitely easier to maintain and leverage, and facilitate data sync in almost real time. 

Q3. What are the customization functionalities?

When you use a unified API, you want the look and interface feel to be as close as possible to your application. Irrespective of whether it is for internal or external use, interface familiarity leads to a better user experience, be it your end customers or internal employees. 

Thus, you need to check the auth component that is powering the unified API you choose and explore the degree of flexibility and customization it offers in terms of design and styling. 

Javascript SDK as the auth component generally offers greater flexibility and can ensure that your customers feel no friction of a different interface of design while using the unified API within your application. 

Q4. Does it support rate limiting?

Financial data transfer and accounting APIs are vulnerable to brute force attacks like DDoS. To prevent falling prey to such threats, it is important for the unified API to support robust rate limiting. 

Essentially, rate limiting restricts the number of API calls that can be made in a given time duration. Quotas and throttling are two key ways of achieving rate limiting. To prevent attacks, you must choose a unified API which facilitates rate limiting. 

Q5. Does it take care of integration management?

Finally, managing and maintaining integrations can be a challenge and your unified API provider must offer support to take care of the same. Here functionalities like deep RCA and resolution are important to not only identify which accounts were synced, but to also rerun syncs if needed.

The idea is that your unified API should be able to identify and address integration issues on its own. 

This will empower your CX team to troubleshoot errors by themselves and allow your engineering teams to focus more on enhancing product features and functionalities, rather than spending time on maintaining integrations.

Get started with accounting APIs

Knit Unified Accounting API is built to ensure maximum level of data protection while transferring sensitive financial data. Knit also provides a no-polling, webhooks-driven architecture to facilitate data transfer in real time. 

Talk to one of our experts to see how Knit fits into your specific use case. You can also reach out to us with a specific accounting API request. We are always looking to expand our API catalog

Or if you are ready to try it yourself, you can get your Knit Accounting API key today. Getting started is completely free
Insights
-
Sep 21, 2023

Build vs Buy: The Best Approach to SaaS Integrations

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

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

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

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

Which integration stage are you at?

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

Stage I: Getting started

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

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

At this stage, your integration requirements are:

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

Stage II: Scale up

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

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

For scale up, your integration requirements are:

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

Stage III: Sustain and grow

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

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

This stage has its own unique integration requirements, including:

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

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

Two modes of integration: Build vs Buy

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

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

The integration development process

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

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

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

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

2. Access to comprehensive documentation

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

3. API alignment with product use case

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

4. Legal/ compliance requirements for data access

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

Should you build integrations in-house? 

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

#Q1. How many integrations do you have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Q4. Have you calculated the costs associated?

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

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

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

#Q5. Do you have enough resources?

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

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

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

#Q6. Have you considered security and authentication?

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

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

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

#Q7: What about data normalization and mapping?

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

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

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

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

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

Build vs Buy: Which way to go?

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

build vs buy: best approach for SaaS integration

Unified API to outsource integrations

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

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

Faster time to market and scale

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

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

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

Greater coverage

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

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

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

Low costs and operational efficiency

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

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

Opportunity to monetize

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

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

Single API knowledge required

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

Wrapping up: TL:DR

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insights
-
Sep 21, 2023

Marketplace Integration: The Best Way to Develop It

If you have a solution that you are selling to customers, the marketplace is definitely something you would have come across. Essentially, a marketplace is a digital store where you can showcase and sell your solution to a diverse set of audience. However, unlike physical products that are commonly sold on e-commerce marketplace, selling requires marketplace integration. 

In simple words, marketplace integration is all about connecting your software with any marketplace like Amazon, eBay, etc. to not only showcase your product and sell it, but also to leverage other services like marketing automation, shipping and inventory management, etc. 

Rise of marketplaces

In recent years, with the rise of digital selling and engagement, marketplaces have seen a sharp increase in their adoption both by customers as well as businesses providing different services and solutions. Here are some points which indicate that marketplace rise is likely to continue in the years to come:

  • B2C marketplaces are estimated to reach $3.5 trillion in sales by 2024
  • Global B2B ecommerce market size expands at a rate of 18.7%
  • The Indian ecommerce market is one of the top 5 fastest growing countries in the world, sitting at 25.5% growth in sales in 2022
With immense potential in marketplaces, businesses are driving marketplace integration to build smooth connections with multiple marketplaces via their APIs to gain access to customer related information and use other services, to boost business growth with a personalized and effective customer and seller experience. 

Benefits of marketplace integration

Integrating with marketplaces not only allows you to sell your product on their platform, but also comes with several benefits that you cannot ignore, such as:

1. Data insights

A marketplace is not only a place to sell, but is a powerhouse of unparalleled data and information about your customers. With marketplace integration, you can easily get access to your customer data about orders, as well as other information about invoices, inventory, order management, and anything else that might be important for your business. At the same time, you can compliment this information with information from other services like marketing that you might be running for your marketplace listing, etc. Together, these data insights can help you monitor customer journeys and other details to make better business decisions. 

2. Better demand mapping

In uncertain market conditions, like the ones we are facing which are likely to continue, marketplace integration and data insights can help you forecast demand for your solution. This will help you optimize your business resources and prevent unnecessary expenses. Marketplace integration can help you understand customer demands and trends to create customer-centric sales and market plans, along with product enhancements. 

3. Real time updates

A marketplace provides real time updates on inventory and other factors. With marketplace integration, you can stay on top of your stocks, inventory in real time to adapt to the changes in sentiment. 

4. Deeper market penetration

If you are only operating through conventional channels, chances are you will be servicing very limited customers. However, with marketplace integration, you can significantly increase the pool of your target audience. You can enter into new markets and even new geographies. Marketplace integrations help you reach more people, build greater brand awareness and overall increase your market share. 

5. Marketing automation and other services

Marketplace integration is not only about connecting and facilitating data exchange with an e-commerce platform, it also ensures that you integrate other software that you use as a part of your marketplace selling. 

For instance, you can integrate it with your accounting software or your CRM or marketing automation software to take care of other parts of your business as well. Data from customer orders can directly be captured into your preferred CRM. Similarly, different customer triggers can lead to different marketing actions of sending personalized campaigns. Overall, marketplace integration ensures that you are able to connect all or most of the moving parts for marketplace selling to ensure everything works in tandem.  

6.  Zero context switching

One of the biggest advantages which takes cue from the above benefit is zero context switching. With marketplace integration, you can get access to all the information you need and actions you need to take within a single centralized dashboard. This ensures that you don’t have to toggle between different software to run your business. You can access all information together, saving hours of toggling and making sense of information.

How does marketplace integration work?

Now that you have a fair idea of the benefits that marketplace integration brings along, it is important to understand how marketplace integration works or the process that goes into achieving those benefits. 

Step I: Understand marketplace API and documentation requirement

Like any other software or platform out there, each marketplace has a unique API with comprehensive documentation that you need to gauge and understand. 

Therefore, the first step in the process of marketplace integration is to understand the APIs for different marketplaces, differences in their endpoints, schemas, syntax and data models. 

It is equally important to gather the documentation that goes along with it. An understanding of the API and documentation will help you decipher your major requirements or what you need to actually build the integration. 

Step II: Get your team in place

Once you have an idea of what it will take to build the integration, you need to make a choice of how you wish to achieve marketplace integration. 

You can choose one out of two options – either build marketplace integration or buy it. Here’s a detailed guide on how to decide whether you should Build or Buy integrations

Essentially, in the first option, you need to assemble an engineering team which will work on normalizing each API from different marketplaces to integrate with your platform and other ancillary software you might be using. In the second option, you can buy the integration or outsource the process in different ways like a unified API and shift the heavy lifting to an external source. 

Step IV: Undertake maintenance and support

Finally, once the marketplace integration is working smoothly with seamless data connectivity, you still need to take care of the maintenance and support. This is the ongoing integration management to ensure that your API doesn’t fail, troubleshooting happens on time, there is no unauthorized access, etc. 

If you outsource marketplace integration, the onus of maintenance falls on the third party provider, saving you millions of dollars and unnecessary tension. 

Challenges to marketplace integration

While there are several benefits of marketplace integration, the entire process comes with challenges that need to be addressed. Here is a list of challenges that you are likely to face if you are planning marketplace integration. 

1. Diverse APIs across marketplaces

The first major challenge is that each marketplace has a different API with a unique architecture and rules. This suggests that basic data about order name or invoice number will have different models and nuances for each. Invariably, addressing such unique architecture for each marketplace where the APIs are not uniform can be extremely challenging. 

2. Limited technical expertise

Taking cue from the point above, chances are high that each marketplace integration API will require specialist knowledge and expertise. Such technical expertise will be difficult to get in house among resources that you would hire, unless the tech domain is similar to what the marketplace integrations use. 

This gives you two routes to follow, either you compromise on the quality of the marketplace integration, or hire specialists for building and maintaining the integrations. (More on Build vs Buy approach, here)

3. Drain on engineering resources

Whichever way you choose to go, additional hiring or reallocation of existing engineering resources, marketplace integration will deviate energy from your core product strategy. 

  • On one hand, if you hire additional tech talent, you will end up stretching your team budget on resources that don’t directly contribute to your bottom line in a tangible manner. 
  • On the other hand, if you repurpose existing resources, you will delay your GTM speed. Since each marketplace integration can take up to a few months to be executed, chances are you will delay your product/ core business by several months and drain thousands, if not millions, of dollars on building integrations with all marketplaces. 

4. Heavy maintenance and support

Finally, marketplace integration is maintenance and support heavy. As marketplaces change and upgrade their platform, terms, etc. there is a subsequent change in their APIs. If you are managing marketplace integration in-house, you need to take care of all these changes to ensure connectivity. What is more challenging is that these API changes are sporadic and not uniform across marketplaces. This means that chances are you will be in a constant flux of addressing API upgrades and troubleshooting for different marketplaces your product is connected with. 

Difference between marketplace integration and integration marketplace?

A common term that might confuse you when you are working on marketplace integration is integration marketplace. While these might seem as synonymous and wordplay on the first look, a deeper dive makes it clear how they are different. 

While marketplace integration is connecting your software with marketplaces, integration marketplace is embedded within your product or solution which highlights the integrations your platform supports. 

For instance, your product might support integrations across CRM, communication applications, accounting platforms etc. Your integration marketplace will feature all these available integrations that your products support. 

Here, your end users can easily access these integrations and connect all the other applications they are using with minimal intervention from your side or even additional tech knowledge from a developer. Primarily, an integration marketplace seeks to help you provide integration self-service for your customers. It is a marketplace that showcases the integrations you have and direct your customers to connect their data and make full use of your application without context switching. 

How to achieve marketplace integration with a unified API?

As mentioned above, there are several challenges that you might come across while building marketplace integrations in-house. However, many fast growing companies and their CTOs are adopting a unified API to achieve marketplace integration in a seamless and results driven manner. Let’s look at some of the ways a unified API can help you with marketplace integration:

Single API for all marketplaces

A unified API adds an additional abstraction layer which allows you to connect with all marketplaces with a single API. you can seamlessly leverage real time data synchronization and normalization with a unification layer, without needing to work on a different API for each marketplace or each category of apps within a single marketplace.  

Smooth learning curve

Stemming from the benefit above, the learning curve for your engineering team becomes very smooth. Your developers no longer have to learn about architecture and schemas for different APIs for each marketplace. At the same time, they don’t have to normalize data based on different formats for each API. Simply put, the learning and knowledge transfer that is required for marketplace integration with a unified API is considerably lower than what you would expect in case you build it in-house. 

No need to engage with API providers

Next, a unified API takes care of all interactions and updates with the API provider, essentially the marketplace in this case. Whenever there is an upgrade or change in the native API, you don’t have to worry about troubleshooting or engaging with the API provider. That is taken care of by the unified API player. 

Your developers only need to focus on integrating with the unified API once, post which the burden and heavy lifting is off your shoulders. 

Reduced cost of integration and maintenance

Finally, a natural result of the above three advantages is the reduced cost of integration and maintenance. As mentioned, each marketplace integration can take up to months to build, accounting for the developer and product manager cost involved. Multiply this with the number of marketplace integrations you will need to build. 

Furthermore, additional engineering bandwidth and associated costs will also be saved that might go towards maintenance and upkeep of the integration to keep pace with marketplace API changes. Not to mention the accelerated go-to-pace and saved costs from preventing delays. Overall, using a unified API will be a cost effective solution for marketplace integration to connect your application with marketplace and other ancillary software. 

Looking to simplify your marketplace integration processes? Get started with the Knit Unified API

Wrapping Up: TL:DR

From a macro view, marketplace integration is a no brainer for today’s day and age. It is essential for businesses that want to stay relevant and address changing customer preferences and demands, while making the entire customer journey exemplary. Overall, you need to keep a few points in mind:

  • Marketplace integration can help you manage all data insights from a single dashboard
  • It can help you penetrate into new markets and gain a competitive edge quickly
  • Remember, marketplace integration is not the same as integration marketplace
  • However, marketplace integrations can be full of technical challenges with different API for each marketplace and other obstacles
  • With a unified API, you can bridge these challenges where developers only have to learn about one API which will integrate and manage all others

Therefore, it is a boon for businesses that the rise of marketplaces and marketplace integrations has been accompanied by the rise of unified APIs which make the experience seamless and results driven, leading to significant business impact. 

Insights
-
Sep 21, 2023

Why You Should Use Unified API for Integration Management

Integrations play an important role for any SaaS business. However, building and maintaining all integrations in-house can be a development and technical nightmare for developers as it takes the focus away from core product functionalities. In this article, we will focus on how iPaaS, a cloud-based platform for integrations, can help B2B companies seamlessly manage integrations without any additional technical expertise or resources by addressing integration management challenges.

Integration management

Before moving onto some of the challenges that developers face with integration management and how iPaaS can help, let’s look at what exactly is integration management. Integration management essentially begins once you have built or deployed the integrations and they are now ready to be used. It includes:

Authorization and Authentication

Integration management starts with authorization which ensures that only applications which have the right permissions are able to access data from other connected applications in the integration ecosystem. It generally involves providing an API key or other access key for the requesting system. 

Authentication is an important aspect of every integration which helps the different applications being used in authenticating the identity of the user. It ensures that only credible users or those who are authorized to access or exchange data from a particular application get access to the integration. When a company is using several integrations together, each one needs to be authenticated separately. It is essential to ensure the integrity and the security of the systems being integrated and prevent unauthorized access. 

Configuration

Integrations need to be configured for the end user either on the cloud or on premise. It involves defining parameters for data exchange, interfaces, protocols, etc. Under configuration, developers generally set the limits for data exchange and access, establish connectivity via APIs, web services and even configure security and authentication. Configuration ensures that the integration has been set up properly and is able to function smoothly and effectively. Furthermore, configuration helps keep pace with incremental changes in the applications being integrated. 

Another part of configuration is the kind of data an integration reads, shared by another application. For instance, a HRIS will typically have data on employee name, payroll, timesheet, attendance, leave requests, etc. However, an employee communication integration will not need access to all this data. Thus, configuration involves ensuring that data limits are set appropriately to ensure that only necessary data is shared. Each of such data limits constitute a separate configuration. 

Maintenance

Finally, integration maintenance ensures that integration between two or more applications in place is working smoothly. This involves keeping a check of regular updates, monitoring performance and troubleshooting to fix bugs, and maintaining support documentation with key changes. Maintenance is instrumental in facilitating the overall success of the integration ensuring its sustainability and scalability for integration performance. Integration maintenance includes ongoing activities and processes for integration effectiveness. 

Challenges to in-house integration management

As you would have noticed by now, integration management in-house requires a lot of technical expertise and bandwidth. This will either require redirection of existing resources or hiring of new ones, both of which require additional budgets and costs. In fact, each of the components of integration management bring along unique challenges for in-house developers. Let’s look at some of the top challenges that you might face if you are trying to management your integrations in-house:

High costs and bandwidth

The first challenge under integration management is the high cost and bandwidth issue that most growing SaaS companies face. Since each application which forms a part of the integration ecosystem for a business is different, each one requires a unique approach towards management. This comes with incremental cost for management of each integration along with the bandwidth that goes into it. 

For instance, the approach or the API used for integration A might be different from what integration B uses. In such a scenario, a developer will have to separately invest time, effort, bandwidth and monetary resources into fixing any bugs that might arise, or even to monitor smooth functioning. Therefore, since each application is different, integration management in-house becomes significantly cost and bandwidth intensive. Costs are also acquired in training additional resources for maintenance as well as costs for monitoring, testing, and troubleshooting. 

Shift of focus from core processes

Managing every integration is like managing a whole product in itself. Consequently, managing multiple integrations for SaaS companies requires a lot of technical staff. However, since integration management is not a revenue generating vertical, hiring developers specifically for this doesn’t make sense. Invariably, this leads to an added KPI for developers, shifting their focus from core processes.

Many developers end up spending more time in authentication, configuration and maintenance of integrations over working on and improving the core processes or functionalities of their product. This leads to a declining product experience where developers are only able to spend a part of their time on adding product improvements and fixing issues. Thus, in-house integration management tends to shift the focus of developers from core product KPIs. 

While these are the overall challenges, let’s now look at very specific development challenges that come along for each component of the integration management lifecycle. 

Authentication and authorization challenge

Let’s start with the authorization and authentication challenge. When it comes to integrations, authorization and authentication can be a complex process due to a variety of reasons. Integration authorization can be challenging with the complexities of  APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and OAuth (Open Authorization). Authorizing one application to access data of another can bear security threats if access is not properly controlled.

There are several ways of authentication, including password, biometric, two-factor authentication, certificate authentication, among others. Each integration can employ a different way which not only makes the process complex but also adds compatibility challenges for authentication methods and protocols.

Furthermore, any lapse in successful authentication can lead to a security compromise. If an integration is not authenticated correctly, there might be chances of unauthorized access, posing a major security threat. Authentication if not done properly can result in security breaches or even data leaks across integrations. 

Another parameter under authentication stems from control of data. When you are managing authentication in-house, you need to set different requirements for access for different data across multiple or even the same integration. You might need to build and manage a functionality which gives different integrations the flexibility to customize the data available to different users. 

Finally, the authorization and authentication measures need to be continually updated, especially when applications change their authentication protocols, which can be time and cost intensive. Furthermore, integration authentication is an important part of user onboarding for the integration and your product. If it is too time consuming or difficult, it can lead to a poor user experience. Therefore, in-house integration authentication poses a security, complexity and experience threat. 

Configuration challenge

Configuration helps ensure that the integrations are set up properly for the end user and are deployed effectively. However, the configuration process is always full of challenges when maintained in-house. Under configuration, leveraging webhooks is extremely important. But, webhooks tend to expire to facilitate elimination of the ones which are not being actively used. This expiration needs to be tackled with re-registration of webhooks from time to time. This suggests that webhooks need to be managed and reviewed to ensure that they are relevant and working. 

On the flip side, if webhooks are not used, managing and syncing incremental changes can be technically very difficult. Every application comes up with incremental changes and updates very frequently. A major part of integration configuration is to ensure these incremental changes are synced in real time to provide the customer with the best possible experience. However, this syncing when approached in-house manually, can be extremely time consuming, and might even get missed. 

Furthermore, within each integration, there can be different levels of configuration depending on the read/write scope based on what data needs to be shared with the integration. Building these configurations combined with regularly managing and updating them can be an engineering challenge, as it can involve multiple configurations for a single integration. 

Finally, when you try to manage configuration in-house, you are responsible for pulling out and exchanging large scale data between systems. At times, systems are unable to maintain the volume of data that comes their way which often results in configuration delays or challenges, making in-house configuration a threat to integration success. 

Maintenance challenge

Finally, the authentication and configuration challenge is followed by the integration challenge of maintenance. Even after you successfully configure the integrations, you have to take care of maintenance when handling integration management in-house. For instance, for any integration, the endpoints might change. Whether you get intimation from the application a week in advance or receive changes overnight, about changes in endpoints or parameters, the onus falls on you and your team of developers to ensure a smooth experience. 

Furthermore, APIs also keep changing over time. As APIs change, the way your systems or applications will communicate and exchange data also changes. As a developer, it is your responsibility to keep pace with changing or unstable APIs to prevent error messages, broken functionalities and unexpected behaviors for your customers. Invariably, when the old endpoints retire, a new version of the API comes to light, which needs to be deployed for your customers without any disruption in their workflow. 

Maintenance of unstable APIs, changing endpoints, etc. is one of the key maintenance issues that takes up significant bandwidth for engineering teams that seek to manage integrations in-house. 

At the same time, as applications keep getting updated, integration maintenance calls for testing to ensure smooth functioning. This also requires constant monitoring to quickly identify problems. Many developers believe that lack of bandwidth to monitor integration leads to a lack of visibility into integration challenges on the go, resulting in delayed redressal. 

Additionally, each integration can have its own way of sending out error messages which can be vague or abstract. They may be in a language that you don’t understand. As a developer, it will be extremely difficult for you to address a challenge or a bug that you are unable to comprehend. If you are maintaining integrations in-house, you stand at the risk of dealing with errors which you can get through. 

Furthermore, maintenance also involves ensuring seamless customer experience. While it may look simple, it can truly be challenging in case an integration fails. Factors like how and when to inform the customer can be tricky. You need to not only fix the breakdown, but also communicate the challenge to the customer and address their queries, which can further add burden on your engineering team to explain the technicalities. 

It is also important to note that while many challenges in maintenance like expiration of APIs, or changing permissions are easy to address, they require you to quickly diagnose the root cause of the challenge. This will need you to look into your integration infrastructure which might eat into your development time or take your focus away from building product functionalities. 

How Unified API helps

A unified API stands as a single solution to help businesses address the challenges that come along with integration management. Here are a few ways a unified API does so:

Reduced costs and bandwidth

To begin with, a unified APi significantly reduces the costs associated with integration on several levels. On the one hand, it facilitates operational efficiency and takes care of all error handling and troubleshooting which ensures that your engineering team doesn’t have to constantly monitor integration, which can lead to a huge bandwidth drain. On the other hand, hard costs of hiring additional developers and even loss of revenue due to delayed maintenance redressal are reduced, if not completely eliminated. 

Sharp focus 

Similarly, a unified API takes care of end-to-end maintenance not only of errors, but also to ensure that any new updates to the APIs are taken care of before anyone notices, and source API schema changes are fixed instantly. These integration management areas when absorbed by the unified API allow developers to focus solely on building and improve core product functionalities. 

Greater security and streamlined authentication

A unified API comes with robust practices that can help improve the integration posture for any business. Practices like least privilege, continuous monitoring and logging, data classification and encryption, infrastructure protection via advanced firewalls, DDoS protection using load balancers, intrusion detection, etc. ensure that authentication which is a major part of integration management is streamlined. At the same time, other security threats are also addressed with these measures. 

Easy API management

Integration management becomes a challenge due to the large number of APIs that developers have to manage as the volume of integrations increase. With a unified API, developers have to only learn about the architecture and rules of one API which is easier to understand and configure. 

Wrapping up: TL:DR

It is quite evident that while integrations play an important role in SaaS companies, managing them in-house requires significant engineering expertise and costs and might lead to product delays or poor customer experience is not handled effectively. Some of the top challenges include:

  • Diversion of focus of engineering team
  • Multiple ways of authentication for different applications
  • Security risks and threats from unauthorized access due to authentication failure
  • Configuration challenges in ensuring real time syncing of incremental changes
  • Keeping pace with management and expiration of webhooks
  • Monitoring of API changes, endpoint permissions, etc. 

While these are some of the top challenges with in-house integration management, partnering with an iPaaS can help address these challenges in many ways with:

  • Integration lifecycle support
  • Centralized view of all integrations
  • High level of security and compliance to prevent unauthorized access
  • Maintenance of webhooks 
  • Effective resource utilization

Thus, it is advisable for B2B SaaS companies to invest in iPaaS to take care of all integration management while your engineering team can focus on product development, functionality improvement and product enhancements.

Insights
-
Aug 16, 2023

What is API integration? (The Complete Guide)

As businesses adopt more sophisticated software for their operations, they are bound to be surrounded by APIs. Essentially, APIs or Application Programming Interfaces refer to a set of protocols, definitions and models based to facilitate communication between software components. Today, over 90% of the developers use API. There are different types of APIs that are under use today, including REST, GraphQL, SOAP, etc. While there are several factors driving the increased use of APIs for software companies, a study shows that 49% companies leverage APIs to facilitate platform and system integration. Thus, API integration has become increasingly sought after for organizations that use multiple applications and wish to integrate them for seamless use. Through this article, we will discuss different aspects of API integration, its growth, benefits, key trends and challenges, as well as the growth of unified API for seamless integration. 

What is API integration?

On a broad level, API integration refers to the connection between two applications, through their APIs, to facilitate data exchange in a frictionless manner. API integration helps the APIs of different applications to communicate with each other, automatically, without human intervention, by adding a layer of abstraction between the two. It allows two applications or systems with APIs to interoperate in real-time and ensure data accuracy for exchange. 

Since the applications you use cannot achieve their full potential in silos, API integration ensures that they can establish a secure, reliable and scalable connection which prevents an unauthorized exchange of data, but enables them to talk to each other. 

Difference between API and integration

While API integration is used for data exchange between applications based on APIs, it is important to understand that individually, API and integration are not synonymous terms. API or application programming interface essentially allows applications to communicate with one another. This could be for data and information exchange or other purposes. 

Integration, on the other hand, is a code or a platform that allows applications or systems to exchange data. This can be a one-way or a two-way exchange, depending on the need and application expectations. 

Generally, in an API integration an external API acts as a connection point when it comes to API integration to ensure that any system or application can connect to the other and access data. However, both APIs and integration can exist exclusively as well, where APIs can have use cases beyond data exchange like connecting subsystems within an application and integrations can follow other ways than purely relying on APIs. 

Importance of APIs in integration

Before we delve deeper into the benefits of API integration, how it works, etc. let’s quickly look at how APIs play an important role in the integration ecosystem for businesses. APIs enable businesses to reorganize and establish such a relationship which allows them to interact as per business needs. This allows companies to achieve a high level of integration at lower development costs. They essentially act as a connecting thread, which is critical for integration. 

Growth of SaaS API integration ecosystem

The last few years have seen a significant growth in the use of APIs across SaaS and other applications that businesses use. Let’s take a quick look on the growth of the API ecosystem:

  • More than 90% of executives indicate APIs as mission-critical
  • Companies that used APIs reported 12.7% more growth in market capitalization compared to those that did not adopt APIs
  • 2 Million+ API repositories exist on GitHub
  • 56% of developers report APIs help them develop better products
  • 40% of large organizations have 250+ APIs and 71% plan to use even more APIs
  • 64% are developing their API program or strategy

This clearly indicates that the growth of APIs in the SaaS ecosystem can be expected to see an exponential increase, with increased adoption and an expectation to streamline integration between applications for businesses. 

The API first economy

For a long time, APIs were considered as an afterthought to product development to facilitate connection between applications. However, as the pace and volume at which applications need to connect with one another in today’s digital ecosystem, companies are moving towards an API first economy. Put simply, API first is a form of product development which puts the development and eventual usage of APIs as the central or the core focus area for engineering, while other objectives follow. In an API first economy, the goal is to develop APIs which are reusable, scalable and eventually extensible. 

Characteristics of a good API

In a discussion about APIs, it is very important to understand what are the characteristics of a good API, which can eventually facilitate API integration with ease. 

Consistency

First, a good API is one which is consistent. This is especially important when you are working with multiple APIs. Factors like security and data models must be consistent across APIs and they follow a standardized method of development along with a uniform experience for all users. 

Documentation

An API without strong documentation can only achieve limited success. Irrespective of whether the APIs are for internal use or for external API economy, documentation is extremely important. From an internal perspective, documentation ensures maintenance of continuity in case one developer takes over from the earlier one. From any external API, documentation can help third parties understand protocols, data logic, models etc. making it easy for them to integrate and leverage the impact. 

Security

A key characteristic of any API is the security it brings along. As the end point responsible for data transfer and exchange, API security is extremely critical for business resilience. Some of the security factors include HTTPS/SSL certificates, authentication and JSON web tokens, authorizations and scopes, etc. 

Discoverability

A good API is easily discoverable. This suggests that it is so intuitive that users can learn how to use it on their own. More often than not, users prefer to try and play around the APIs before they contact the customer care for the application or go through the manual. Here, simplicity in design and documentation with self-describing access points is a key feature for APIs. 

Abstraction

Essentially, APIs add a layer of abstraction which prevent the users from seeing what is going on at the backend. For instance, if a payment is underway, APIs ensure that verification and other parts of the cycle are not visible to the user. APIs internally interact with each other to make everything happen. A good API ensures that the objective is achieved without the need for a user to understand what happens in the code or execution. 

API integration process 

The API integration process involves a series of steps which ensure that businesses are able to integrate different applications and systems using their APIs. The steps including:

  • Understanding and researching on the type of APIs you will be using (REST, SOAP, etc.), the type of format in which you will be receiving the data which needs to be exchanged between different applications (XML, JSON) and check on the availability and comprehension of detailed documentation for different APIs to ensure how to format requests based on the data available. 
  • Next you need to figure out how the data will flow from one application to another. Here, the focus needs to be on identifying the right authentication and security protocol, like OAuth. At the same time, you need to gauge if authentication and authorization needs to be a one time task or needs to be undertaken every time there is a data exchange.
  • Following this, you need to understand how data mapping will take place. This involves figuring out how to normalize data from different applications into a standardized format or model which can easily be mapped against different applications. 
  • The API integration process comes to a melting point when you have the basic parameters in place and you enter the code development, deployment and testing phase. Focus on development and use case testing to ensure effective authentication and security, robust data mapping and stress tests when there is an unusual disruption/ flow of data to ensure that your API integration doesn’t break. 

If you follow this API integration process, you can create API integrations in-house to support application connectivity and data exchange. 

How API integration works

Let’s quickly see how an API integration works. It involves connecting two applications via their APIs which can then request and send data across. A quick example of how an API integration works is as follows. 

Suppose you have a CRM and a marketing automation platform If these two applications are connected by their APIs, i.e. via API integration, an update in the status of any lead in the CRM will be reflected in the marketing automation platform. This will allow your marketing team to automatically customize the messaging for the lead based on the updated status. Similarly, if after a campaign, the lead’s engagement status changes, the same will be reflected in the CRM. This will ensure that the status of a lead is uniform across all applications.  

API integration checklist 

If you are building an API integration, it is important to ensure that you don’t miss out on the key elements or parameters which can determine the success of any integration. The following quick checklist can help you stay on top of your API integration process:

  • Check data mapping for different formats of data you are dealing with
  • Get information on different API systems
  • Gather API documentation
  • Determine flow of data
  • Decide on security and authentication protocols
  • Determine hosting- on-premise or cloud
  • Obtain API key and select supported data formats
  • Gauge maintenance and support required
  • Undertake consistent monitoring and testing

API integration management

API integration is not simply about building and deployment, but involves constant maintenance and management. API integrations require comprehensive support at different levels. 

First, you need to constantly refresh the data to ensure real-time availability and data synchronization. Invariably, you will set a data synchronization frequency and number of API calls that can be made. However, exceeding those calls can lead to API integration failure which needs management support. 

Second, in terms of API integration management, you need to align on the data storage needs and how you seek to address them to store the volumes of data that are exchanged across applications. 

Third, API integration management needs to ensure that any updates or upgrades to individual APIs are reflected in their integrations without disrupting the flow of work. Maintenance involves finding and updating changes in API schemas before anyone notices. 

Finally, APIs can and do fail, which requires immediate error handling support and communication. Thus, API integration management is as important and engineering bandwidth as building and deployment and can impact the success of the overall integration experience and effectiveness. 

How much does an API integration cost?

The cost of an API integration essentially depends on the compensation for your engineering team that will be involved in building the API integration, the time they will take and whether or not the full access to the API for the application in question is available freely or comes at a price. 

In case the API is freely available, the estimated cost of an API integration can be considered as the following. Generally, three resources from the engineering team are involved in building an API integration. A Developer at a compensation of 125K USD, a Product Manager at 100K USD and a QA Engineer at a salary of 80K USD. Each one of these apportions a segment of their time towards building an API integration. 

Secondly, an API integration can take anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months to build, averaging out at about four weeks for any API integration. In such a scenario, an API integration cost stands at 10K USD on an average, which can go higher if the time taken is more or if you need to hire an engineering team just for building integrations with higher compensation. Similarly, this will increase if the APIs come at a premium cost. You can multiply the average cost of one integration with the number of integrations your company uses to get the overall API integration cost for your business. 

How to learn API integration?

If you are just getting started in your API integration journey, there are specific lessons that you must learn to ensure that you are able to achieve the quality of integration you seek. Follow these practices to start your API integration learning:

  • Understand you API integration requirements
  • Learn about different API, data formats, security protocols and authentication methods
  • Review API documentation
  • Get the API key and request API endpoint
  • Learn a programming language to code the API integration
  • Learn how to create data sets and data models and normalization
  • Get support from community of developers working on API integration

Benefits of API integration

While there are several ways businesses today are leading integrations between different applications they use, API integration has become one of the most popular ways, owing to the several benefits it brings for developers and business impact alike. Some of the top benefits of API integration include:

Reduced human effort

To begin with, API integrations significantly reduce the human effort and time your team might spend in connecting data between different applications. In the absence of API integration, your team members would have to manually update information across applications, leading to unnecessary efforts and wastage of time. Fortunately, with API integration, information between two applications, for instance, CRM and marketing software, can be directly updated, allowing your team members to focus on their functional competencies and expertise, instead of updating data and information. The interoperability brought along with API integration ensures that data is automatically exchanged, in real- time, leading to added efficiency. 

Increased accuracy

A related benefit from the first one is the concern with manual errors. If one team member is expected to update several applications, there are chances of human error. Especially as and when the data becomes voluminous and has to be shared between multiple applications, it can lead to inaccuracies and inadequacies. However, with API integration, data exchange becomes accurate and free from human error, ensuring that all data exchanged is in usable condition and compatible to all applications involved.

Build complementary capabilities

API integrations help businesses leverage capabilities from other applications, while allowing them to focus on their core expertise. Conventionally, businesses focused on building everything in their application from scratch. However, with API integrations, they can rely on the complementary functions of other applications, while focusing on only building strengths. It relieves considerable engineering bandwidth and effort which can be used to develop core application features and functionalities. 

Leverage applications better

When data is exchanged between applications, the usability of different features and benefits from different applications increase. As they have additional data from other applications, their potential to drive business benefits increase significantly. For instance, if you are using a marketing automation platform to run campaigns for your product. Now, if you get user data on how they are interacting with the product, how engaged they are and what their other expectations are, you can create a customized upselling pitch for them. 

Thus, with API integration, data exchange not only makes business more smooth and efficient, but also helps you explore new business cases for the different applications that you have adopted, and at times, even identify new ways of creating revenue.  

Greater security

APIs have a strong security posture which protects them from threats, flaws and vulnerabilities. API integrations add a security layer with access controls which ensures that only specific employees have access to specific or sensitive data from other applications. API integration security is built upon measures of HTTP and supports Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption or built-in protocols, Web Services Security. API integration can also help prevent security fraud that might occur during data exchange between two applications or if one application malfunctions. 

With the help of token, encryption signatures, throttling and API gateways, API integration can help businesses securely exchange information and data between applications. 

API integration and customer exp

In addition to the above mentioned benefits of API integrations, it is interesting to note that API integration has a positive impact on customer experience as well. There are multiple ways in which API integration can help businesses serve customers better, leading to greater stickiness, retention and positive branding. Here are a few ways in which API integration impacts customer experience:

Customized customer experience

By integrating data about customers from different sources, companies can customize the experience they provide. For instance, conversations with the sales team can be captured and shared for marketing campaigns which can exclusively focus on customer pain points rather than simply sharing all product USPs. At the same time, marketing campaigns can be directed towards customer purchase patterns to ensure customers see what they are interested in.

Reduced inter departmental hand-offs

API integration ensures that customer data once collected can be shared between different departments of a company and the customer doesn’t have to interact with the business multiple times. This also ensures that there is no error in multiple data exchanges with the customers, leading to an accurate and streamlined manner of interaction. Thus, with API integration, customer interactions become more efficient and with reduced errors. 

More customer penetration

API integrations can help businesses penetrate into new markets and address customer demands better. Since they ensure that businesses don’t have to build new functionalities from scratch, they can enhance customer experience by focusing on their core capabilities and providing additional functionalities with API integration. Thus, API integration helps businesses meet the growing demands of customers to prevent churn or dissatisfaction with lack of functionalities. 

Reduced context switching

API integration ensures that customers can access or exchange information between different applications easily without switching between applications. This significantly reduces the friction for customers and the time spent in toggling between different applications. Thus, a smooth customer experience that most expect ensues. 

API integration examples

Now that you understand why API integrations are important, it is vital to see some of the top use cases for examples of API integration. Here, we have covered some areas in which API integrations are most commonly used:

E-commerce platform

E-commerce companies extensively use API integration to fuel their work and operations. On the one hand, there are applications or interfaces which  are responsible for inventory management. On the other hand are those which take care of order suppliers and order management. At the same time, a CRM API might be needed to manage records of customers and their important details. While all of these applications have APIs, API integration can help connect them to unify and streamline data access. 

Payment gateway

Another popular use case for API integration is payment gateways. Whenever a customer makes an online payment, API integration at the backend gets activated to check the bank/ credit/ debit card details for the use to prevent any fraudulent transactions. 

API integration challenges

While API integrations have several benefits that can significantly help businesses and engineering teams, there are a few challenges along the way, which organizations need to address in the very beginning. 

Not all API functionalities are freely available

To begin with, not all applications provide all functionalities in their application for free to all users. While some might have an additional charge for API access, others might only provide APIs to customers above a certain pricing tier. Thus, managing 1:1 partnerships with different applications to access their APIs can be difficult and unsustainable as the number of applications you use increases. 

APIs can fail

When you are using API integrations, each component of your business is dependent on multiple applications. It is normal for APIs to fail or stop working once in a while. Factors such as uptime/ downtime, errors, latency, etc. can all lead to API failure. While individually, API failure may not have a big impact. However, when you have multiple applications connected, it can break the flow of work and disrupt business continuity. Especially, if you are offering API integrations along with your product to the client, API failure can lead to business disruption for them, resulting in a poor customer experience. 

Some API integrations require deep tech

While most API integrations focus on facilitating data connectivity and exchange between applications, there might be a requirement from integrations to analyze the data from one application and filter it out for different fields/ understanding for the next application. However, simple or conventional API integration cannot achieve this, and this will require some external developer bandwidth to achieve the deep tech functionalities. 

APIs can lack compatibility

Each application or integration has its own data models, nuances and protocols, which are unique and mostly different from one another. Even within the same segment or category, like CRM, applications can have different syntax or schemas for the same data field. For instance, the lead name in one application can be Customer_id while for another it can be cust_id. This might require developers to learn data logic for each application, requiring unnecessary bandwidth. 

API integration development is costly

Developing API integrations in house can be quite expensive and resource intensive. First of all, finding the right developers to build API integrations for your use can be very difficult. Second, even if you are able to find someone, the process can take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months. That’s when the developer understands the logic of the application and API integration can take place. This high time consumption also comes at a cost for the time the developer spends on API integration. Since the salary of a developer can be anywhere between $80K to $125K, API integration development can cost 1000s of dollars for companies. 

API integration management and upgradation is time consuming

The story doesn’t end once an API integration is in place. APIs need to be maintained and continuously upgraded whenever an application updates itself. At the same time, as mentioned, APIs can fail. In such a situation, your non-technical teams will find it difficult to maintain the APIs, putting the reliance again on your developers, who might be required to fix any bugs. Thus, someone with technical knowledge of integration maintenance has to look over updates and other issues. 

Rise of Unified API

As the number of applications a business uses increases, as well as the APIs become more complex, with each one having its own set of peculiarities, there has been a rise of what we today call unified APIs. A unified API primarily normalizes data nuances and protocols from different APIs into one normalized data model from a similar category of applications, which organizations can use to integrate with applications that fall therein. It adds an additional abstraction layer on top of other APIs and data models. 

One of the best use cases for unified API is when you are offering different integrations to your customers from a single segment. For instance, if you are providing your customers with the option to choose the CRM of their choice and integrate with your system, a unified API will help ensure that different CRM platforms like Salesforce, Zoho, Airtable, can all be connected via a single API and your developers don’t have to spend hours in finding and configuring APIs for each CRM. Some of the top unified API examples include:

  • CRM API which helps you connect different CRM software like Zoho, Airtable, Salesforce
  • HRIS/ HRMS API which enables you to connect different HR software used for hiring, application tracking, employee attendance, payroll, etc.
  • Accounting API which focuses on integrating differentiating accounting and payment related software for seamless budgeting, payouts, etc. 
  • Calendar API which enables you to connect different calendars that you might be using like iCal, Outlook calendar to ensure that you don’t miss any meetings or important dates

Let’s quickly look at some of the key benefits that a unified API will bring along to manage API integrations for businesses:

  • Enables data normalization to ensure that data is translated into a standard format which can be easily ingested
  • Reduces API integration costs, developer time and overall resource consumption for deployment and maintenance
  • Covers a wide range of data protocols, formats, models and nuances with coverage across all types of API including REST, SOAP, GraphQL, etc.
  • Promotes a single access point for all data, mostly built in REST, which is one of the easier architectures
  • Facilitates consistency in pagination and filtering

Therefore, unified API is essentially a revolution in API integration, helping developers take out all the pain for integrating applications with API, where they only focus on reaping the benefits and developing core product functionalities. 

API integration questions

Before we move on to the last section, it is important to check whether or not you are now able to answer the key API integration questions that might come in your mind. Some of the frequently asked API integration questions include:

  1. What is API integration?
  2. Why is API integration important?
  3. What are the benefits of API integration?
  4. How does API integration work?
  5. What is the cost of an API integration?
  6. How to be prepared for API integration?
  7. What is API integration management?
  8. What are the challenges to API integration?
  9. What are some API integration examples?
  10. What is a unified API and how does it relate to API integration?
  11. How does API integration impact customer experience?
  12. How does API integration ensure security?

Wrapping up: TL:DR

As we draw this discussion to a close, it is important to note that the SaaS market and use of applications will see an exponential growth in the coming years. The SaaS market is expected to hit $716.52 billion by 2028. Furthermore, the overall spend per company on SaaS products is up by 50%. As companies will use more applications, the need for API integrations will continue to increase. Thus, it is important to keep in mind:

  • We are now in an API first economy where applications have a central focus on building consumable, reusable and secure APIs
  • API integration will play an important role in the coming years, as APIs become more pronounced, sophisticated and voluminous
  • API integrations reduce the manual effort for data exchange, enable companies to better use their applications and build complementary capabilities
  • However, creating and maintaining API integrations in-house can be very expensive, time consuming as APIs might fail, may not be compatible and might require deep tech expertise
  • Therefore, the world is seeing a rise in unified APIs, which add an additional abstraction layer on data models to help connect APIs of one segment together. It normalizes the data that gets exchanged between the applications and helps developers with reduced costs, consistent pagination, etc. 

Thus, companies must focus on exploring the potential of APIs, especially for the top segment of products they routinely use, to make connectivity and exchange of data smooth and seamless between applications, leading to better productivity, data driven decision making and business success.  

Insights
-
Aug 16, 2023

State of SaaS Integration: 2023 Outlook

If you look around the market today, you will find that on an average, a company uses 200+ applications, and each department within a company uses 40-60 tools. As the number of applications used as well as the volume of data generated by each increases, companies are seeking a simplified and streamlined mechanism to connect the various applications and facilitate smooth exchange of data between them. 

Thus, came the demand for product integrations to easily connect different applications and ensure seamless communication between them. Invariably, as the number of applications kept increasing, the onus of incorporating and supporting integrations fell on SaaS businesses, providing the applications to customers. Today, offering or supporting integrations is not just an added feature but can act as a competitive advantage for SaaS businesses. 

As the SaaS integration market continues to grow, businesses are exploring various ways in which they can offer integrations to their customers to support better service and retention. However, as the SaaS integration landscape is changing, with an evolution from traditional integration to the rise of APIs and iPaaS, there are several questions businesses and customers have about integrations. Thus, our latest paper of State of SaaS Integration will focus on decoding the SaaS landscape, how it has been changing over the past few years and the roadmap for the future with embedded iPaaS. 

What to look out for in the whitepaper

This paper on the State of SaaS Integration will help you understand the various facets of SaaS integrations and how it has been changing to adapt to the dynamic business needs in the market. It will focus on the following themes:

  • SaaS integration: meaning and importance
  • Overview of the traditional SaaS integration landscape
  • Evolution of SaaS integration
  • Rise of the Unified API
  • 5 year SaaS integration market forecast
  • Types and trends in SaaS integration
  • Future of integrations with Unified API

Overall, this whitepaper will give you a comprehensive view about what to expect from the SaaS integration ecosystem, the trends to look out for and ways to leverage the advancements with iPaaS and embedded iPaaS to make product integration seamless and sustainable at scale. 

Who is it for?

Covering the diverse aspects of the SaaS integration landscape, this paper will serve as a comprehensive read for founders, executives, CTOs and leaders of SaaS startups and growing businesses. It is ideal for SaaS leaders who wish to understand the integration landscape and identify the best solutions to offer product integration functionalities for their customers without investing additional engineering efforts or time and cost intensive resources. 

If you are a SaaS leader, this paper will help you make an informed choice about selecting the right integration methodology or model to adopt. Additionally, it will help you gain knowledge about the different SaaS integrations that your customers might request for and how you can prepare for them in advance to gain a competitive edge. 

Why should you read this whitepaper?

This whitepaper is an all-encompassing guide if you seek to understand the SaaS integration market and how product integrations are likely to evolve in the coming years. It will help you gauge the latest integration trends and learn how you can ride the wave for better customer experience and new revenue streams without stretching your engineering teams. 

It will enable you to understand how you can offer native product integrations to your customers with no/low-code functionalities as the integration market is moving from traditional to iPaaS integration models. Furthermore, you can capture how the increase in number of applications used by different companies creates a new market you can capture by offering streamlined integrations with your SaaS product. 

The paper will also illustrate how the SaaS integration market is changing and the top integrations and use cases that companies are increasingly adopting. Overall, the paper will help you understand how to augment growth for your SaaS business with embedded iPaaS. 

What is SaaS integration?

Let’s start with a basic understanding of the SaaS integration ecosystem before we delve into the specifics. SaaS is essentially a software delivery mechanism where companies are able to use or access a particular software online, instead of its installation on a particular piece of hardware. Consequently, there might be several software or applications that a company uses to undertake its activities. While some of these might be other cloud based applications, some can even be on-premise. However, SaaS integration focuses on how to seamlessly connect the various applications that a company uses. 

There might be multiple reasons why companies prefer SaaS integrations. Right from facilitating data exchange between applications, to integrating workflows, to automating processes, SaaS integrations help companies facilitate greater efficiency and productivity.  Research shows that companies estimate that 70% of apps they use are SaaS-based, which will increase to 85% by 2025. As the number of SaaS applications under use by companies is increasing, the need for integrations to help these applications is also on the rise. While initially integrations were managed in-house by businesses, slowly, third party integrations platforms became the norm that companies started adopting. However, now the onus has come on SaaS businesses to pre-configure the requisite integrations that a company might need to ensure seamless connection, communication and exchange between applications in their native form. 

This broadly captures the evolution of SaaS integration and why it plays an important role for SaaS businesses today. The following sections will delve into detail how businesses have traditionally managed integrations, the changes that have been observed in the recent years and how embedded iPaaS has seen a growth in adoption and demand to facilitate native integration for SaaS applications. 

Traditional SaaS integration landscape

In this section, we will focus on how companies have been traditionally integrating SaaS applications to facilitate greater communication and exchange. Over the years, as integrations increased in volume and scope, businesses have moved away from most of the traditional approaches to more robust and effective practices. While today integration between applications has become multi-way, earlier it was relatively simple with easy to understand use cases, including:

  • HRMS and payroll integration to ensure that employee days off and other details are taken into consideration while creating payslips, compensation, benefits, etc. 
  • CRM and email integration to automate customer communication based on specific account linked milestones at a regular frequency
  • CRM and web analytics integration for personalized communication and better lead generation

With these use cases in mind, let’s look at some of the ways in which companies traditionally achieved integrations, specifically around the preferences and methodology. 

1. API based integration

Almost all SaaS applications that hit the market come with APIs or Application Programming Interfaces that are open for third parties to connect with their products. While this helps the SaaS business significantly by ensuring that the burden of integrations is borne by the end customer or other third parties like MSPs, etc., however, the quality of integrations become vulnerable to quality compromise. 

At the same time, every time the SaaS vendor updates the API, customers need to update the same to keep pace with any changes. At the same time, not all APIs are compatible with different types of applications, which makes the integration process complicated. 

2. SOA based integration

The next way followed for traditional integration is SOA or service oriented architecture. Essentially, SOA makes software components reusable and interoperable via service interfaces, which follow an architectural plan that can quickly be incorporated into new systems or applications. However, the implementation of SOA based integration is highly time consuming and cost intensive with excessive training and maintenance costs and the need to hire SaaS application specific SOA specialists. 

3. Custom integration development

The next way to support integrations was for SaaS businesses to build custom native integrations for their customers from scratch. On the face of it, this seemed to be very effective where each integration could be offered natively within the SaaS application for customers to use. Such SaaS companies generally built point-to-point integration for each third party application that they sought to integrate.

Undoubtedly, this resulted in superior quality integrations, high levels of security and a pleasant customer experience where the product quality control remained with the SaaS vendor. However, as the scale of integration demand by customers increased, custom building of native integrations from scratch started becoming unsustainable. Most SaaS businesses felt that this required diversion of engineering efforts from core product development. 

While developing integrations was one part, maintaining and constantly improving it served as another cost and time intensive activity. Invariably, engineering teams were conflicted in prioritizing product versus integration improvements. This traditional form of integration is good when the scale is lower, but becomes too unwieldy as the number of integrations increases. With each integration being custom built takes 2 weeks to 3 months, the average cost stands at USD 10K, illustrating the cost intensive nature of custom integrations. 

4. Middleware

Another integration methodology used traditionally is leveraging middleware. Primarily, middleware is a software system that helps companies integrate or link two separate applications. It is also used by businesses as a unified interface for ease of development. It can help businesses connect and integrate applications using different protocols or technologies, managing data exchange, transformation, security, etc. 

However, like other traditional integration methodologies, middleware may also require additional engineering expertise and resources to ensure smooth functioning. Integration middleware has limited capabilities when it comes to cloud-to-cloud integration. At the same time, the flexibility for data source access is limited and it fails to deliver an efficient queuing capability. 

New integration technologies

The last few years have seen a rapid increase in the number of integrations an average business uses. Some of the top SaaS companies use 2000+ integrations, while on an average businesses use 350 integrations to support their customer requirements and facilitate better business results. With such an exponential increase in the scale of integrations being used, leveraging traditional integration methodologies became unsustainable and unfeasible for both SaaS vendors and their customers. 

On one hand, most of the traditional ways or preferences of integration were highly time consuming and cost intensive which made maintaining them at scale highly uneconomical, with a negative impact on the ROI that was initially envisioned. On the other hand, developing and maintaining integrations traditionally required exceptional talent and engineering expertise in house. Engineering teams focusing on increasing integrations led to a diversion of focus from core product functionalities to integration development and maintenance. 

Therefore, companies today are looking for integration methodologies and preferences which are low/ no code and require very little engineering expertise, which are resource-lite and easy to implement and which can provide a native application experience. 

Let’s look at some of the new integration technologies that are increasingly being adopted by SaaS companies:

1. Integration platforms

With major challenges of requirements of in-house resources to manage integrations traditionally, companies and SaaS vendors started moving towards integration platforms or tools to build and publish integrations. These platforms brought a disruption in the space by offering connectivity to numerous SaaS applications where SaaS businesses could simply publish their application and instantly get access to diverse integrations. 

2. iPaaS

The next integration technology that is seeing rapid adoption is iPaaS or integration platform as a service. iPaaS comes with pre-built connectors, rules and maps that help businesses seamlessly integrate the different applications they are using. iPaaS typically hosts the infrastructure data for integration along with the tools and to build and manage integrations, from within the cloud. It helps businesses easily integrate SaaS/ cloud based and on-premise applications along with a provision to create custom connectors in case the use cases extend beyond the market trends. 

It is able to manage high volumes of data coming in from a large number of integrations, handle complexities of integrations to facilitate data exchange, workflow automation and much more. iPaaS comes in the form of an out-of-box tool which can quickly be built into integration workflows with little or no technical expertise. Supporting real-time data exchange, iPaaS enables companies to almost instantly connect their applications, business processes, data, users, etc. to ensure better performance and output. Better connectivity, lower costs and seamless scalability to add more integrations as business grows, are some of top reasons why companies are leveraging iPaaS technology for integration. The iPaaS market is expected to grow exponentially and generate $9 billion in revenue by 2025, illustrating its adoption scale in the coming years. 

3. Embedded iPaaS

The recent time has seen the rise of a new form or evolution in iPaaS itself, with embedded iPaaS. While iPaaS conventionally is deployed by businesses using different SaaS solutions and integrations, embedded iPaaS is built directly into the software or SaaS solution. Here, the onus of ensuring seamless integrations lies with the SaaS vendor. Essentially, embedded iPaaS allows B2B SaaS companies to embed integrations into their product as a white-labeled solution. 

Like conventional iPaaS, embedded iPaaS also comes with pre-built connectors where companies can maintain their own UI/UX. Interestingly, since the integrations are pre built as a white-labeled offering, they provide a native experience and can be customized as per the requirement of the SaaS product. 

Evolution of SaaS integrations

From building integrations in-house to deploying embedded iPaaS, SaaS companies have come a long way in their integration journey. There are several factors behind this evolution, ranging from a shift in mindset to changing business and financial priorities. 

Overall, there has been a mindset shift away from using custom integrations built in-house on relying on platforms that may not give a native integration experience. Some of the top reasons governing this shift include:

  • 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 

Thus, SaaS companies wish to get a native integration experience without putting burden on the internal team’s engineering bandwidth, where the cost of development of each integration can run into 1000s of dollars. Furthermore, SaaS companies have realized that different platforms that need to be integrated can have different models and protocols for data, or the way in which they store and share data. Traditional APIs don’t take this into consideration. Therefore, even the presence of APIs is not of much help. 

Another mindset shift has been observed regarding the maintenance of integrations in-house. Managing integrations requires the ability to constantly monitor and track as well as instantly resolve integration issues. When integrations are limited, this is possible, however, with scale in volume, SaaS businesses are finding this task difficult and unwieldy. 

Rise of the Unified API

The evolution of SaaS integration has led to an increased importance towards API or application performance interface. As mentioned above, APIs act as a messenger to help organizations facilitate interaction between data, applications and systems, in other words, help SaaS integration. Increasingly, businesses are seeing APIs as a way of focusing more on product differentiation and less on building integration capabilities in-house. While APIs have been around for long, they themselves have undergone evolution to give rise to an API economy. This has led to what we now call API first products and greater importance towards unified API. Let’s first understand what exactly a unified API is. 

Decoding unified API

Essentially, each SaaS product comes with its unique API, an end point which enables users to integrate the application with other applications and systems. For a long time, businesses have been dealing with each API separately, however, the data models, nuances and protocols for each can be different, making it difficult for businesses to leverage the end points for integrating them with other applications. SaaS application APIs can come in the form of REST, Webhooks, GraphHQL, etc. Thus, APIs add a layer of abstraction that allows applications to communicate and integrate with one another. With immense potential, APIs have seen tremendous growth, where over 90% of developers use APIs. Furthermore, 69% work with third party APIs - highlighting that a significant percentage of developers work on integrating external products and services into their own.

While extremely useful, differences in APIs can make it extremely hard at times for developers to research them and streamline integrations. Research shows that developers spend 30% of their time coding APIs. Thus, developers have seen the rise of a new breed, called Unified or Universal APIs. Put simply, Unified API combines the APIs from different SaaS applications in the form of an additional abstraction layer to help integrate all applications with a single API which gives business access to all endpoints. This significantly reduces the engineering efforts as companies only have to facilitate integration once and not research and integrate with each API endpoint separately. Invariably, as more applications open up their end points, a unified API becomes even more important to aggregate integrations strategically. 

Let’s take a small example here. For instance, a business wants to integrate its CRM and HRMS, however, the data models for each are different. A unified API will aggregate and normalize the APIs into a common data model which the company can use to integrate all applications, without having to hard code integrations with each API end point. The company no longer has to understand different APIs and can streamline integrations with a one time effort. 

Benefits of unified API

There are several benefits that unified API bring along for SaaS companies that are rapidly increasing their integration volume, including:

  • Faster time to market as developers don’t have to research and build on API end point for every new application that is added. This can save up to 3-6 months of development and engineering time. 
  • Reduced cost as building each integration in-house can cost an average of USD 10K, a cost which is largely borne by a unified API provider. It also reduces the developer effort to research on different API and integrations. 
  • Reduced need for data storage as managing integrations in-house with different APIs requires storage management for placing data that is exchanged between systems. Unified APIs take that friction out as well. 
  • Normalization of data into a single data model which is easy to understand. Since different SaaS applications can have different authentication, schemas and protocols, unified API ensures that ultimately the company stakeholders have to remember a single data model or schema. 

By bringing integrations to a single end point, a unified API is truly revolutionizing the way applications integrate with one another, paving the way for seamless and streamlined communication and exchange of data between them. 

5 year SaaS integration market forecast

As evident, the SaaS integration market has undergone significant change in the last few years. However, as businesses continue to increase the number of applications they are using, the market can only be expected to expand further. From a bird’s eye view, the overall market size is expected to rapidly increase, attracting more investments than ever before. On the one hand, businesses can be expected to adopt more and more cloud based SaaS applications to augment performance and achieve growth. On the other hand, the need to integrate data between different applications will continue to grow. Thus, for the next half a decade, the SaaS integration market is likely to boom. 

SaaS integration market

Let’s start by looking at the figures defining market growth in the next few years. According to research by MarketsandMarkets, the SaaS integration market is projected to grow from $4.4 billion in 2020 to $11.4 billion by 2025. This reflects a CAGR of 21.1% during the forecast period, clearly indicating enormous scope and potential for SaaS integrations. 

This rapid growth in the SaaS integration market can be seen as a result of the exploding growth that the overall SaaS market is expected to see. For instance, the SaaS market is growing at 6.5x as fast as the world economy. Consequently, 70% of CIOs are attracted to cloud-based SaaS for scalability and agility, as stated in a report by Deloitte. 

Increasing investments towards SaaS integrations

This expanding SaaS integration market size is a clear reflection of the business sentiment towards greater adoption of integrations and the benefits that these integrations bring along. Let’s look at how the industry trend towards SaaS integrations is changing. 

80% of businesses have at least one SaaS application integrated with their on-premises systems, says a report by IDG. Furthermore, the same study noted that 67% of the organizations are using more SaaS applications than they were a year ago. This suggests that investments in SaaS applications and, consequently, in SaaS integrations will continue to increase. 

At the same time, a Gartner prediction states that organizations that use SaaS integration platforms will be able to integrate twice as many SaaS applications as those that use custom-coded integration by 2023. Therefore, not only is the need for integrations on the rise, there is a definitive shift away from custom integration to relying on third party solutions like Unified API , iPaaS or embedded iPaaS. 

API market growth

As focus on integration platforms increases, it is interesting to look at the growth expected for the API market. Keeping pace with SaaS integration, the API economy or the API market is also showing a positive trend in growth. Research shows that 90.5% of developers expect their API usage to remain about the same or increase. Furthermore, 27.7% more developers are creating partner-facing APIs, indicating that more integrations will govern SaaS business growth in the next few years. 

At the same time, API management can be expected to see a boost, reflecting how Unified API which takes care of end-to-end API management for SaaS integration will also see a growth. Research shows that over 50% of large companies have 100 APIs or more, and maintenance of this expanding API library is expected to get cumbersome. Consequently, according to MarketsandMarkets, the API management market is projected to be worth $5.1 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 32.9%. Furthermore, where 98% of large enterprises consider APIs an essential part of their digital transformation strategy, 64% are early, and are developing their API program or strategy. 99% of enterprise leaders agree it is important to adopt a centralized solution for APIs to build, manage, publish, and consume APIs. Invariably, adoption of unified API is a prudent way for such organizations to leverage the API route for integrations. 

Types of SaaS integrations and trends

As we move ahead in our discussion on SaaS integrations, it is important to understand the types of integrations that businesses have and which are often considered integral for growth. While there might be several products that a business might use, there are specific segments which are likely to have more than one product that a business uses to achieve its goals. Below, we have captured 4 types of SaaS integrations that are predominantly used by B2B and B2C companies. 

1. HRMS

The first major integration segment that requires attention is HRMS or human resource management system. There are several software that any HR team within a company uses to manage its people operations. Right from application tracking and onboarding to exit interviews and final paperwork, there are several steps in the HR lifecycle that companies you SaaS applications for. Some of the HRMS integrations that companies need include:

  • ATS software to manage job posting, candidate interview management, and other steps of the hiring process
  • Attendance software to keep a track of the attendance and days off for employees as well as to tracking working hours
  • Payroll management to create salary slips for employees and adjust increments, bonuses or deductions based on different parameters

These and other software form a part of the overall HRMS that businesses use. However, integration within them is extremely critical. For instance, payroll software will need to be integrated with attendance to ensure accurate creation of salary slips. Similarly, ATS must be integrated with others to ensure that data of newly on boarded employees is captured. 

However, each software can have its own syntax and schema, like emp_id versus employee ID, making data exchange difficult unless the APIs can be synched. Therefore, a universal or unified API can ensure that the stakeholder only has to understand one data model or schema, making communication between these extremely easy. 

2. CRM

CRM or customer relationship management software are used by businesses to keep a track of and service/ engage potential and existing customers to keep the business going. Irrespective of whether you are targeting a product on marketing or operations, CRM integration will be instrumental for a good customer experience. However, as there are multiple touchpoints of customer experience, there are several CRM that any business is likely to use in a complementary manner. The top CRM APIs that are available today for integrations include:

  • Sales CRM which streamline the entire sales journey for a customer right from pitching to conversion. E.g. Salesforce or Freshworks
  • Marketing CRM which takes care of all communication and marketing that takes place and manages campaigns that a company runs. E.g. Hubspot or Mailchimp
  • Customer success CRM which focuses on ensuring that customer queries, grievances and other requests are addressed seamlessly. E.g. Zendesk

CRM integration essentially involves ensuring that data and other information is able to move smoothly between the different types of CRM that a company uses along with other applications. 

For instance, customer information and trends from marketing CRM and insights from sales CRM can be integrated and used by platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn to personalize content or advertisements.   

However, since the terminology, nuances and data models for each of these CRM can vary significantly, especially because most fields in any CRM are customizable, the APIs might not be easily compatible with one another. A unified CRM API can help businesses integrate the different APIs they need seamlessly with an end point which internally provides access to all the end points. Fortunately, the company needs to remember only one data model and schema. 

3. eCommerce

When it comes to e-commerce, a business has three major end points it might need to integrate with. While e-commerce platforms and marketplaces are the primary ones, accounting and payment processors need to be integrated as well for smooth functioning. Thus, for e-commerce integration, the following need to be taken into account:

  • E-commerce data from platforms like Shopify, Amazon or any other marketplace that might be under use. This data generally comes in the form of orders, inventory, customer insights, etc. 
  • Accounting data which generally comes from accounting software like Quickbooks, focusing on invoices, balance sheets, budgets, etc.
  • Payments data from third party payment platforms which focus on how much payment has been made, transaction amounts, balances, etc. 

E-commerce integrations are integral for any company that uses data from e-commerce platforms. They can build integrations with the different end points for the critical data required and ensure smooth business transactions. 

For instance, FinTech companies can take data from e-commerce platforms to understand customer behavior and thus, tailor their solutions which align well with payment limits and appetite for their customers. 

4. Accounting

Within accounting, like other segments we have discussed, there are several facets at play. Different accounting software can have diverse objectives and goals that they help a business achieve. As a SaaS business provider, your customers are likely to use different accounting software for different purposes and it is important to ensure that you are able to provide integrations for all. Some of the top accounting integrations need can come in the form of:

  • Recording purchases and expenses using software like Quickbooks, which ensure automated inputs
  • Billing platforms to automate creation of bills and presentation of accurate invoices to customers by taking into account all important billing parameters
  • Managing internal finances to keep a track of the spending appetite of the company and ensure alignment with the budget

Accounting integration will help you ensure that you are able to address the accounting and finance software needs of your customer by integrating key accounting software that your customers and prospects use with your core offering. 

SaaS integrations: Use cases and best practices

So far, we have talked about the evolution of SaaS integrations and the types of integrations that businesses are using. Let’s now look at some of the real life examples and use cases of SaaS integrations, business sentiment on the future of SaaS integrations and preferences for businesses to find the right one. 

While almost every SaaS business uses different integrations, here are a few examples that have been using integrations for success:

1. Slack

With over 2400 SaaS integrations, Slack is one of the top examples of companies leveraging the power of integrations. It offers integrations in the space of communication, analytics, HR, marketing, office management, finance, productivity, etc. which it offers to its customers to use so they do not have to leave Slack to use any other application they may need. Customers can leverage zero context switching and ensure seamless data exchange.Slack has 10 million daily users and 43% of Fortune 100 businesses pay to use Slack, and a lot of credit for this growth goes to early integration inroads. 

2. Atlassian

Atlassian offers 2000+ integrations across CRM, productivity tools, project management and much more. It offers APIs to enable teams to connect with third party applications as well as customize workflow. Atlassian’s annual revenue for 2022 was $2.803B, a 34.16% increase from 2021, with integrations playing a major role. 

3. Shopify

With 5800+ integrations, Shopify is another example of how a business is growing with SaaS integrations. It offers varied integrations across marketing and SEO, mobile app support with custom website templates and analytics. 

Will integrations continue to grow?

Will integrations continue to grow is a pertinent question among businesses which are weighing the benefits and costs of investing in integration platforms, unified APIs, etc. Invariably, the answer is yes. The rationale is very simple. Research shows that SaaS businesses are bound to see exponential growth in the coming years. 

  • SaaS market size is expected to hit $716.52 billion by 2028
  • Businesses that use an average of 212 SaaS apps are 93% powered on SaaS software
  • The overall spend per company on SaaS products is up by 50%
  • 30.4% of respondents claimed to spend more on SaaS due to the pandemic

These data points clearly indicate that the SaaS market will continue to grow at an accelerated pace for the next half a decade at least. As the SaaS market and businesses grow, it is natural to expect that the number of applications that any business will use will also see a rapid upward curve. Industry sentiment illustrates that 

  • SaaS applications make up 70% of total company software use
  • By 2024, the cloud application market value will reach $168.6 billion
  • By 2025, 85% of business apps will be SaaS-based

Thus, as the adoption of SaaS applications will increase, businesses are likely to see growth in integrations to ensure centralized management of the diverse applications they use. With integrations, synchronization and exchange of data between the various applications can become unwieldy and difficult to manage. By 2026, 50% of organizations using multiple SaaS applications will centralize management, according to a study. Integrations will play a major role in scalability and agility for any business as stated above, according to a study by Deloitte. Therefore, a large portfolio of integrations with centralized management, for instance, with a unified API will be a key enabler in business growth in the years to come.  

Selecting the right integration partner

Now that it is well established that integrations are here to stay and businesses will require additional support to facilitate their deployment and maintenance, it is important to understand the best practices to select the right integration partner. While there are several aspects to be kept in mind some of the top ones include:

Capability

To facilitate seamless integration, you must ensure that the integration platform you choose comes with sufficient pre-built connectors and out-of-the-box functionalities. This will help you integrate common applications that you need. However, you will also need some custom connectors in the form of specific webhooks or APIs to facilitate customer connectivity. In addition, since the focus is on volume and scale, the option for bulk data processing and data mapping is very important. 

Security

When it comes to an integration platform, security is of paramount importance. As a platform which is helping you exchange critical and sensitive data from one application to another, it is important that the security posture of the platform is robust and resilient. Security measures like risk based security, data encryption at rest/ in transit, least privilege security, continuous logging and access controls, etc. must be present to ensure that your business is not vulnerable to any security threats or data breaches. 

Scalability

One of the major reasons for introducing an integration platform for your SaaS business is to be able to manage data exchange between a vast portfolio of applications that you might be using. Chances are that you will keep adding a few applications to the ecosystem every week and your integration platform must be able to manage the scale of integrations that come along. On the one hand, there will be a scale in the number of applications and the complexities associated with it. On the other hand, there will also be an increase in the data that flows through it, which comes with its own protocols, data models, nuances, which need to be normalized and shared across applications. Thus, the platform must ensure that it is able to maintain the speed of integration without hampering the quality or continuity for your business. 

Coverage

The end points for each application will be varied, and so will be the protocols. For instance, protocols could include HTTP, FTP, and SFTP, and there can be different data formats, such as XML, CSV, and JSON. At the same time, if you are leveraging API based integration, there can be diverse formats including REST, SOAP, GraphQL, etc. Thus, it is very important that your integration platform offers a wide coverage to incorporate the different types of protocols, data models and APIs that you are using or are likely to use. 

Pricing

Finally, pricing will be a major deciding factor when it comes selecting your integration partner. You need to make sure that the cost of the integration platform doesn’t exceed what you might be spending in creating and maintaining integrations in-house. Take into account the developers time and cost that you might spend in development and maintenance of integrations and subset it against the integration platform cost. This way you will be able to gauge the ROI of the platform. 

Unified API: Future of SaaS integrations

As we draw this discussion to a close, it is evident that SaaS integrations are here to stay and businesses need to identify the right way or approach with which they can ensure seamless integrations and data exchange between different applications. While there are multiple models or approaches that can be adopted including, iPaaS, embedded iPaaS, one approach that stands out today is Unified API. 

As the data connections across businesses increase, a unified API can help aggregate all of them for seamless connectivity. A unified API will help you add integrations without any effort or friction. While faster time to market, reduced costs, greater operational efficiencies are some of the top reasons for the growth of Unified API, there are some other benefits as well. For instance, a unified API brings along higher coverage with options to integrate applications with a diverse set of APIs including REST, SOAP, GraphQL, etc. At the same time, since it enables your customers to integrate faster with their other solutions, making their business easy, you can charge a premium for some services, giving you a new monetization model for increased revenue. 

Finally, a unified API ensures consistency for the overall integration ecosystem. It provides a single access point for all integrations and is mostly built on REST API, which is relatively an easier architecture. Second, the authentication is also unified. Third, it facilitates normalization and standardization of data from different datasets and models for simplified mapping. Finally, it ensures consistency for pagination and filtering. 

Thus, unified API will transform the SaaS integration landscape for the years to come and businesses who ride the wave now will find themselves ahead in the SaaS business race.  

Insights
-
Aug 7, 2023

Importance of SaaS Integration: Why Do You Need Them?

One of the biggest blockers to SaaS product development is scaling integrations. Yet, without relevant and popular integrations no SaaS business can struggle to close more deals. SaaS integrations can play a major role in accelerating data exchange and improving customer and employee experience leading to business growth. SaaS integrations facilitate scalability and even has the potential to add more revenue. 

What are SaaS integrations?

Let’s dive straight into what integrations are. As a developer, there are several software functionalities that you may want to offer. You can incorporate such functionalities within your application via ‘INTEGRATIONS’.  

Integrations connect different applications via their API or Application Programming Interface. This enables the applications to exchange data and communicate. Thus, integrations can help you provide a holistic technology solution for your customers. Here, everything works as a unified interface. For instance, if you have a SaaS solution for employee engagement, you can use an integration to help your customers directly capture key engagement data into a CRM they are using.

Importance of integrations for SaaS businesses

When it comes to developers, especially for SaaS businesses, integrations are important. There are several benefits of integrations for technical readiness and business impact, including:

1. Product enhancement with customer intel with integration use 

When you use different integrations, you receive important data about your customers. You may not be able to capture the same without the said integration. 

For instance, if you have a chatbot integration and you see your customers spending a great amount of time engaging with the same, you may want to add this software functionality to your core offering. This will help you enhance the value of your product for your customer. You will be able to achieve better experience and stickiness. 

2. Better customer experience: Leading to faster acquisition and retention

Customers today no longer wish to toggle from one platform to another. They don’t want to manually carry their data. Integrations have a tangible impact on customer experience. They allow customers to address all their requirements from a unified platform. Thus, all their important data has one melting point. 

Such a unified interface will help you keep your existing customers, and also help you get new ones. This will help you achieve higher market penetration at a lower cost.

3. Increased engagement/ greater use time with users

When you have many integrations, chances are higher that your customers will engage with your application more than if you have no integrations. Having integration with trigger notification reduces the need to switch apps and makes customers spend more time on your tool. 

This increased time spent by customers can be vital for you to gauge consumer behavior. With this, you can create new functionalities to improve the user interface and user experience for your customers. 

4. New source of revenue: Upgrade potential

Adding more integrations can help you create new business models and unlock new sources of revenue. 

While you can offer some integrations in your base pricing model, there can be others which you can offer in a tiered pricing strategy. Here, your customers will need to upgrade their package or subscription to the next tier. This will enable you to get more revenue for the integrations you are offering. 

Furthermore, if you have integrations that need in-app purchases or payments that you can route through your app, creating another revenue opportunity for you. If you are facilitating sales for any integrated application/ software, you are eligible for commissions. This is another business model worth exploring, besides generating revenue for your application. 

API integrations Vs No-code/ workflow tools for integrations

API integrations

API integrations are integrations which are built in-house to provide for data exchange with other third party softwares. 

Pros of API integrations

  • Own a part of the code for the integration
  • Make customizations as and when needed
  • Ensure all working parts of different applications work well for you

When to use API integrations?

Choose API integrations if you:

  • Want to keep a part of the code for your control 
  • Have a robust team of developers in-house 
  • Need customizations for a better customer experience. 

No-code/ workflow tools

No-code or workflow tools are less resource and effort intensive and cost effective. They are becoming sought after by citizen developers.

Pros and cons of no-code/workflow tools

  • Get a drag and drop solution for integrations
  • No need to work on the backend codebase
  • Add integrations at lower developmental costs

When to use no-code/workflow tools?

Choose no-code/workflow tools is you:

  • Have limited technical capabilities with many priorities in the product development roadmap
  • Don’t want to invest in maintenance and other efforts 
  • Wish to only focus on your product functionalities
  • Want to add integrations to your solution and go to market within days. 

Challenges to SaaS integrations

Integrations seem to be one of the most important prerequisites for businesses today. But, many SaaS companies struggle with the following challenges when it comes to integrations:

1. Effort of doing integrations in-house 

First, achieving SaaS integrations in-house can be expensive, time consuming and resource heavy. There are strategies like ETL (extract, transform, and load) for SaaS integrations. But, they need high levels of training and technical expertise. 

Second, in-house integrations also need optimized data transformation. This helps ensure data communication between applications is at the right place at the right time. Achieving this level of accuracy is time and cost intensive.

Finally, implementation of integrations in-house comes with its set of security challenges. Multi-layer security controls are also important, which may be difficult to ensure in-house. 

To understand the ROI and compare the cost of building and managing integrations in-house vs using an API aggregator like Knit, read our in-depth guide on Build vs Buy

2. Maintenance cost and effort of integrations

As a developer, you would agree that technology is changing at a fast pace. Thus, integration deployment is an ongoing process. With technology and business priorities changing, you may need new integrations frequently. At the same time, the maintenance costs of integrations can be quite high. This is to ensure they run smoothly and are bug free. 

Besides building new integrations, some existing ones might need to be re-implemented. You may also need to change some integrations with other products in the same segment.  

Wrapping up: TL DR

To sum it up, it is evident that integrations can help a SaaS business in many ways. Here are some of the top reasons why you should consider integrations from a technology lens:

  • Close more deals
  • Greater innovation with customer insights from third party applications
  • Reduction in errors which may result due to manual communication of data

Integrations can help you deliver the best products to your customers. This comes without extra burden on new code development on you or your IT team. You can use dedicated integration platforms (iPaaS) to facilitate the following —

  • Shorter development cycle leading to faster time to market 
  • Lower costs of achieving goals in product development roadmap
  • Easier codebase focusing only on product core functionalities
  • Increase in development productivity and efficiency
Insights
-
Aug 2, 2023

CRM API integration: All you need to know

A CRM system or ‘Customer Relationship Management’ system is integral for business growth across all verticals. Irrespective of the function, almost everyone in an organization has data to capture, store and process to prevent missed opportunities and ensure seamless interactions and operations. Whether it is sales, marketing, human resources or operations, all teams use CRM systems in their own way. Research shows that 91% of companies with more than 11 employees use CRM software. Invariably, a software solution, regardless of the industry, needs to ensure compatibility and integration with the most popular CRM systems to ascertain easy flow of data and important information for each function. 

What are CRM APIs

From a macro view, a CRM system essentially helps businesses to capture, maintain and nurture all information about the different relationships for a company with existing and potential customers. These can be across sales, marketing, customer support, etc. A CRM API invariably helps companies to integrate CRM with other software that the companies use. Put simply, CRM API facilitates easy flow of data to and from the CRM and other software solutions to promote better decision making. A CRM API enables companies to connect their CRM with other applications and view all information on a single dashboard, without leaving their system of record. 

Types of CRM APIs

Based on the purpose they fulfill and the function they serve, CRM APIs can be divided into a few types. As businesses become more and more niche with specific requirements for each business vertical, CRM APIs have emerged which specifically cater to a particular function or role, leading to segments or categories within the CRM market. 

Sales CRM API

Primarily used to keep a track of and manage potential customers during the sales process. Focuses on capturing all conversations, requirements and other important information for relationship building and eventual conversion to a customer. 

Top sales CRM: Salesforce, SAP, Freshsales, Monday Sales, Zoho

Marketing CRM API

Focuses on seamless marketing management across campaigns, communication to ensure that all emails, other communication is sent appropriately. Helps organizations find new leads faster and nurture prospects better. Facilitates capturing and analyzing customer data and design marketing campaigns accordingly, powered by automation as well.

Top marketing CRM: Mailchimp, Hubspot, Adobe Marketo, Nutshell

Customer Support CRM API

Ensures customer success by tracking and resolving all customer requests and complaints on time. Helps address queries fast and seamlessly by presenting all information at one place along with historical conversations. Adds efficiency to customer success and aids alignment. 

Top customer support CRM: Zendesk, Salesforce Service Cloud, Zoho, Dynamics 365 for Customer Service

eCommerce CRM API

Facilitates tracking and nurturing of customers following the online sales and transaction process. Helps manage customer information, purchase behavior and other analytics data. Collects all data about customer interaction on your website/ eCommerce platform. 

Top eCommerce CRM: Pipedrive, Shopify, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Capsule 

HR CRM API

Enables HR teams and recruiters to keep track of all data and information related to hiring. Helps capture conversations and relationships with candidates, identify and track open positions. 

Top HR CRM: DarwinBox, Workday HCM, Zoho

CRM API key concepts

To leverage CRM API to integrate data across software applications that you use or are providing, it is important to understand some of the key concepts or terminologies that are used. Each of these concepts has specific data schemas associated with them which we will discuss in the subsequent section. 

Contacts vs Leads

While many concepts will be different and unique across different CRM that you might come across, there are a few which are generally consistent. Contacts is one such concept. Essentially, Contacts refers to the unique users that you add to a CRM around which you wish to maintain the data or information. Each Contact may be associated with an Account or a company they most closely relate to.  

While Contacts is the most common concept, many CRM also have the concept of a Lead, which aren’t necessarily associated with any Account. They are generally raw data of people you add, which once qualified are converted to Contacts. 

Custom Objects and Fields

One of the key characteristics of CRM is its potential for customization. Depending on the nature of your business and function, you can add or create custom objects and fields on standard objects to collect the information in a way that makes sense for your business. 

CRM APIs data schemas

Within each of the concepts mentioned above, there are CRM API data schemas that ultimately guide the information flow and facilitate integration. While there will be a lot of data beyond this as well, here are some CRM API data schemas that can help you get started with CRM integration. 

As mentioned, the core of any CRM will be Contacts, which are primarily all users or entries you have in your CRM against which you will capture key information or data. Generally, a Contact has data in the form of name, email address, postal address, phone number, unique user ID, etc. In addition, there can be custom fields which can be used to capture additional information relevant to the business. A Contact might be linked to an Account or might be an Opportunity if it is a part of an ongoing sales conversation. 

A related concept for CRM API mentioned above is Leads. Leads are generally captured early on in the CRM sales process. They are eventually converted to Contacts when they are qualified with more information. A Lead is generally a sole entity and is not associated with any Account or Opportunity. The data schemas for Leads are similar to Contacts, including name, email address, postal address, phone number, unique user ID, etc. 

Next, we have Accounts. Accounts are primarily the companies or organizations that are a part of your CRM. Contacts are often associated with the Accounts. Normally, each Account can have multiple Contacts associated with it, considering the CRM owner might be interacting with or wants to store data of more than one person in a particular Account. The data schemas for Accounts are more macro in nature and include company name, industry, location, website, business address, number of employees, founded in, etc. 

Finally, there are Opportunities, especially in a sales CRM, which help the sales representatives to keep track of the sales funnel and facilitate a smooth conversion process. Any types of subscriptions or purchase processes are captured as Opportunities. Each Opportunity is associated with either an Account or a Contact to get access to the information about the respective stakeholder. The data schema for Opportunities focuses on the size of the deal, name of the sales representative or the person leading the deal, status of the deal, expected revenue, reference, close date, etc. 

In addition to these data schemas for different concepts, there is a data schema of notes which can be associated with all of these concepts of Accounts, Contacts, Leads, Opportunities. Essentially, notes contain updates and latest information on the status of each of the concepts and are important for capturing developments in the relationship. 

CRM API use cases

CRM API or CRM integration can help leverage the data and information captured to facilitate better business outcomes. In fact, many leading companies can use CRM API data to power their operations across:

Prospect nurturing

As the CRM API captures all critical information, it has access to details about important dates and events for each potential customer. CRM API integration with gifting and other lead nurturing platforms can help trigger incentives and other reinforcements for customers based on the information stored. For instance, CRM integration with a gifting platform can be trained to automatically send flowers or gift cards to each prospect in a particular segment for their birthday or any other event. Similarly, it can be used to acknowledge existing customers and clients by celebrating their anniversaries with the company, etc. 

Example: Xoxoday, Sendoso, Alyce, Reachdesk

Lead management

Most sales people have conversations with prospective customers across different platforms, including email, chat, social networking sites, etc. A CRM API can ensure that all conversations from these platforms are captured at one place, aligned with existing contacts or accounts or by creating new accounts and contacts as necessary. 

Example: LinkedIN, Outlook

Schedule management

CRM API integration with schedule management and calendar software or applications can help organizations seamlessly manage meetings and calendars for prospect meetings and customer interactions. CRM integration with such platforms can help people directly convert their opportunities into meetings. Furthermore, CRM API can record meetings, which can later be routed to different sales owners/ stakeholders for next action. 

Example: Calendly, Chili piper, Youcanbook.me, Doodle

Customer servicing

Your customer support teams are bound to get queries and complaints from your customers in the form of tickets and other mechanisms. If you integrate your CRM, these tickets and information can be captured against each Contact and even new Contacts can be added to specific Accounts. With CRM API all customer communication based on help desk and ticketing can be managed and streamlined for a better experience. 

Example: Freshdesk, Jira 

Communication

Since CRM is the sole aggregator of all communication, its integration with different communication channels is integral. This CRM API integration can help companies capture and store all communication and conversations in one place, which can then be used to populate and steer different conversations. At the same time, it can help keep a track of the conversation history across platforms for easier follow ups. 

Example: WhatsApp, Slack, Teams

eCommerce experiences

CRM integrations or CRM API can highly streamline eCommerce transactions and experience. Integration between CRM and eCommerce platforms can help you track purchases, orders, communication to the customers and capture all customer preferences. Their preferences can then be leveraged to create personalized campaigns, custom communication and other functionalities for a better user experience. 

Example: Shopify, BigCommerce

Legal and financial paperwork

Generally, conversations with potential customers can lead to successful sales, post which the paperwork and other formalities come into place. CRM API integration with financial and other onboarding tools can ensure that as soon as the status for any Opportunity is changed, the relevant documentation and paperwork process commences. Similarly, CRM can integrate with contract management and creation systems to facilitate the entire compliance part of a sales deal. For instance, any deal closure status change can trigger the sending of a standard contract to the customer via platforms like DocuSign to take care of the formalities and compliances. 

Example: DocuSign, signNow, HelloSign

Customer engagement

CRM API integration can help you automate a major part of your customer engagement and churn management process. You can regularly gauge the pulse of your customers by connecting your CRM with survey management and other platforms which can be triggered to send surveys to your contacts at regular intervals. Furthermore, with insights from customer health based on tickets/ complaints and queries, such integration can also help you generate propensity scores for each customer for repeat sales and upselling. 

Example: SurveyMonkey, Vitally

Marketing management

Finally, CRM API can help streamline and add efficiency to the marketing process. It can help capture new leads generated through different campaigns and even record preferences and other data to understand customer preferences. Based on this, it can understand the effectiveness of the campaigns and even assist in personalized communication for better conversion. 

Example: MailChimp, TypeForm, Facebook

CRM API integration: Top challenges

While there are several benefits of using CRM API integration based on the use cases mentioned above, creating CRM integration for your software solution can be daunting for a variety of reasons: 

First, there are a lot of CRM platforms that are under use currently by different companies. If you wish to provide CRM integration, you need to include at least the most popular ones in the market, which in itself can run into triple digits. Building integrations in-house for so many CRM systems will require a lot of engineering resources, time and investments. 

Second, CRM are very data intensive and record all information for any organization. Invariably, as the requirement varies across organizations, the nature and fields are customizable. Therefore, CRM integration requires a high level of data normalization across different fields which is a highly time consuming task. Even if the category is the same, the data model or schema can be different which makes integration all the more time consuming as data needs to be normalized for the same business logic to work across CRM systems being used. Data inconsistencies can lead to a poor experience.

Third, security and privacy is a common challenge or risk associated with CRM integration. Since the CRM is the source of very sensitive information, maintaining APIs in-house can lead to apprehensions about security and compliance. 

Get started with Unified CRM API

It is true that there are certain challenges or risks associated with CRM API integration. However, the benefits definitely outweigh the challenges. At the same time, you can simply get started with a unified CRM API to take care of all the challenges and risks, while you access the benefits. However, to make the right choice of which unified CRM API to choose, consider the following:

Auth component

The first consideration is that of the auth component which determines the design and styling of how well the unified CRM API will integrate with your application or software in terms of the look and feel. Consider choosing a unified API which offers higher flexibility in design and is more customizable. This will ensure greater similarity in experience for your customer between the integration and your application. 

For instance, Knit unified API used Javascript SDK as the auth component, facilitating greater scope for flexibility and customization in terms of design alignment with the core software. 

Integration management

Since maintenance and management is a critical part of why you might go for a unified CRM API, you should consider the integration maintenance being provided. Your unified API must be able to identify when records were synced, rerun syncs, etc. that can help identify and address integration issues in itself. With such comprehensive support, your teams might have to constantly reach out to the engineering teams of the unified CRM API provider which can often be time consuming. 

Here, Knit provides deep RCA and resolution, which essentially means that you don’t have to worry about integration maintenance and the platform will take care of everything. Your teams don’t have to go through logs to understand the problem and can focus on product enhancements and features. 

Architecture

A unified CRM API can have either a polling first or a webhooks architecture, depending on how data sync takes place. A polling first architecture relies on poll databases and requires API calls to facilitate data sync along with separate infrastructure. Whereas, a webhook infrastructure facilitates automatic data sync in real time. A webhook architecture comes with less maintenance issues. 

Knit offers a webhook events driven architecture which guarantees data delivery and scalability irrespective of the amount of data being synced between the source and destination apps, which a polling first architecture used by many other unified APIs may not support. 

Data storage

A common feature among unified CRM API is the storage of your data in the provider's network. This can lead to serious security challenges, especially because any CRM that you might integrate is likely to be a repository of a lot of data for your customers. Therefore, the unified CRM API you choose should not store a copy of your data for better security. No data storage comes along with several benefits for you from a compliance standpoint and will even make it easier for you to convince your customers while making a sale. 

Since Knit has built a completely events driven architecture from the ground up, the platform doesn’t store a copy of any data that flows through the unified API. It works only with webhooks and delivers both the initial and delta syncs to your app via events. Invariably, this facilitates a high level of confidence about data security, leading to accelerated deal closures. 

Other factors like end points, authentication, pagination, rate limits, test accounts must also be considered when making a decision on which unified CRM API to choose. Be cognizant of the API format that your unified API provider offers. While there are multiple options like REST, SOAP, GraphQL, REST format is considered to be the most user friendly. This will ensure that your developers and engineering team doesn’t have to always stay on top of it and it can be managed by others as well. 

In terms of rate limits, make sure you have a clear idea of how many API calls you will be needing in a given period of time. You might face troubleshooting issues if you need more API calls that the rate limits, leading to poor experience. Similarly, test accounts to try and test API implementation prior to going level can help you build confidence about the new functionalities you are offering to your customers. 

Wrapping up: TL:DR

To conclude, it is clear that CRM systems are being used by almost all organizations that you might pitch your software or application to. If you want a ready yes, providing CRM integration is the quickest way. However, with a plethora of CRM systems in the market today as well as the need for customization, integrating each CRM system individually can be a nightmare for your engineering team. Thus, go for a unified CRM API which provides you with a single API for integration with your software. Make sure you look at the auth component, maintenance, data security, and other parameters mentioned above to make an informed choice and facilitate seamless CRM integration with your software.