If you work at a SaaS company, you know how essential integrations are to your customers.
But you probably also know how difficult and time-consuming they can be to build and support, especially if your engineers build each one from scratch.
Integrations can negatively impact your company in many ways: lost or delayed sales because of missing integrations, slowed time to market, derailed product roadmaps, poor user experience, and increased support load.
As a result, more and more SaaS teams are turning to embedded integration platforms to help them deliver native integrations faster and create a better integration experience for their customers.
But what exactly are embedded integration platforms? Why are they needed? Will they really help you grow your SaaS? And how do you choose the right one for your team?
Let's dive in and find out.
What is an embedded iPaaS?
Embedded iPaaS, also known as embedded integration platforms as a service (iPaaS), are tools that help SaaS companies build and manage native integrations connecting their existing products to the other products their customers use.
These powerful platforms include tools such as a low-code integration designer, pre-built connectors to common applications, an embeddable integration user experience (UX) for customers, integration support tools, and the infrastructure to deploy and run the integrations.
Compared to traditional methods, these solutions can help SaaS teams build better integrations faster by reducing effort, abstracting complexity, providing ready-made management tools and infrastructure, and enabling non-developers to take on much of the integration workload.
In addition, they can provide a better customer experience than traditional methods. End users can explore and self-activate integrations, use self-serve support tools, and enjoy greater reliability and stability.
What’s the difference between traditional iPaaS and embedded iPaaS?
Traditional iPaaS helps businesses integrate the apps they use internally, while embedded iPaaS helps SaaS companies build integrations connecting their product to their customers' other products.
Traditional iPaaS is a well-established category with a range of solutions available for creating everything from simple workflow automation to highly complex integrations. Some traditional iPaaS systems are best suited for non-technical business users, and others focus on developers.
With traditional iPaaS, the integration burden is on software buyers. However, most modern B2B SaaS buyers don't want to subscribe to a new application, subscribe to an iPaaS, and then build their own integrations. It’s costly, requires skills or IT resources they might not have, and delays time to value (TTV) for their new application.
In addition, many traditional iPaaS systems aren’t flexible enough to handle complex workflows or integrate with less common applications.
Instead, users increasingly expect their business software to come complete with out-of-the-box, native integrations that are easy to set up and configure – without needing to purchase additional products or services, contact the vendor’s support team, or involve their own IT department.
In short, the integration burden is shifting from buyers to SaaS providers. And while traditional iPaaS solutions are well-suited for building internal integrations, they lack the functionality that SaaS teams need to develop native integrations for their customers.
Embedded iPaaS has emerged as a solution specifically designed to enable SaaS teams to build productized integrations and expose them to customers as a native part of their application.
Why is embedded iPaaS needed?
Software integrations have become a necessity, not just a "nice-to-have”. Mid-market businesses use an average of 137 apps. These apps must talk to each other to give users the data access, insights, and workflow automation they need to do business today.
Integrations must be part of the equation if a B2B SaaS company wants to provide a competitive product and keep its customers happy. And for many SaaS companies, easy-to-use native integrations can be the strategic differentiator they need to get in front of the competition.
However, most SaaS companies don't achieve these benefits because traditional integration methods are slow, expensive, and inefficient.
Building integrations from scratch requires developers to work with various APIs, authentication methods, and data formats. This labor-intensive approach may work once or twice, but it doesn't scale to support many integrations or even a handful of integrations with complex business requirements.
Developing integrations using the traditional dev-heavy approach often causes or exacerbates business issues. Because integrations take so long to build and deploy, companies often have a backlog of integrations that slows the sales and onboarding processes. Deals are lost due to missing integrations.
In addition, the extensive engineering effort distracts dev teams from working on the core product, slowing time to market and new feature delivery. Much of this time is spent building integration functionality like logging irrelevant to their business domain and struggling with concerns like security and scalability.
And the traditional approach to integrations leans almost entirely on devs, not only for the initial development but also for ongoing maintenance and support.
The traditional approach to integrations also doesn't provide a good customer experience. Integrations are often delivered as services, so they don't feel like a polished or native part of the app. They may even be invisible in the app, with no UX at all, leaving end-users unable to determine which integrations are available, self-activate them, or do basic troubleshooting.
There needs to be a better way to deliver integrations. And there is.
What features does embedded iPaaS offer?
An embedded integration platform is a comprehensive, end-to-end solution with everything your SaaS company needs to build integrations, deliver them to customers as part of your product, run them, and manage them.
Here’s what's typically included:
- Integration builder: A low-code graphical designer that reduces the time and effort required to build integrations.
- Pre-built connectors: The “building blocks” you use to create integrations, including connectors for common SaaS apps and logic components like branching and looping. They reduce the need for code so that non-developers can build integrations.
- Custom connectors: Support for building custom connectors allows you to integrate with vertical-specific apps and tailor the platform to fit your industry.
- Embeddable integration marketplace: A UX for exploring and activating integrations you can embed in your app. It provides a user-friendly integration experience for your users without the work of building it yourself.
- Infrastructure: A cloud environment that runs your integrations. It abstracts security, scalability, and compliance concerns and improves integration performance and reliability.
- Management console: User-friendly tooling such as configuration, logging, monitoring, and alerting. These tools enable customer-facing teams to deploy and support integrations, which reduces development workload.
Who uses embedded integration platforms?
An embedded integration platform can be helpful for any software company, regardless of size, stage, industry, or vertical. The teams that benefit the most are those that need to provide their customers with numerous and/or complex integrations.
Let’s examine the two most common scenarios where teams implement embedded iPaaS.
SaaS startups that need a scalable integration strategy
For startups just starting with integrations, embedded iPaaS provides a fast way to deliver integrations immediately and a scalable solution for the future. Here are some indicators your startup should consider implementing:
- You receive frequent requests for integrations from customers and prospects.
- Your product lags behind competitors providing integrations, and you need to catch up.
- Your current integration strategy is slowing your development pace and time to market.
- Your devs spend significant time on integrations – development, infrastructure, tooling, and support.
- Your team lacks integration expertise.
- You’re uncertain about the security and scalability of your current strategy.
Established SaaS teams who need a better way to deliver integrations
For established SaaS teams with a sizable portfolio of integrations, embedded iPaaS offers a solution to challenges that become prominent at scale.
Common challenges at this stage include:
- You have built many integrations, but you still have a growing backlog.
- You lose deals due to missing integrations.
- Slow integration delivery causes friction in your sales and onboarding efforts.
- Integrations take up significant dev capacity and slow down core product work.
- Integration tech debt, reliability, and scalability concerns are not being addressed.
- Your team spends a lot of time on integration maintenance and support.
- Your current customer integration experience is poor. There is no marketplace or ability to explore and self-activate integrations, leading to low adoption.
What are the benefits of embedded iPaaS?
Embedded iPaaS is a faster way to build integrations. It allows you to transform them from an organization-wide hassle into a significant competitive advantage. Companies that implement embedded iPaaS solutions realize substantial wins across the business. Here are five ways they help grow your SaaS.
1. Free up developer time for core product work
Speed is critical in SaaS. Unfortunately, building integrations from scratch uses a non-trivial percentage of your dev capacity, slowing your time to market and innovation pace. Embedded iPaaS substantially reduces the effort required for integrations and frees up your devs for work that enhances your core value proposition.
Building integrations using a low-code integration designer and pre-built app connectors is much faster than coding from scratch. These tools abstract complexity such as auth and APIs and significantly reduce the amount of code you need to write.
Like many teams, you can even shift the work of building integrations to non-developers, involving your devs only when you need something custom.
Embedded iPaaS solutions are also designed to help you build productized integrations that can be configured differently from customer to customer. This helps avoid creating one-off integrations and the tech debt and support issues that come with them.
In addition, you don't need to spend engineering time building and maintaining infrastructure to run integrations, an integration marketplace to expose them to customers, or tooling to deploy and support them. This all comes out of the box.
Furthermore, built-in management tools enable your customer-facing teams to handle most of your integration deployment and support workload – tasks that have traditionally fallen to developers.
2. Win more deals and close them faster
If your app doesn't integrate with a prospect's existing systems, they’ll usually find another vendor that does. It’s common to lose deals due to missing integrations, or at the very least, add friction in the sales process and drag out your time to close.
An embedded iPaaS lets you quickly build an extensive catalog of the integrations your prospects need so you can say “yes” to more of their integration requests. When new integrations are required, you can deliver them in days or hours (even in time for an upcoming demo) rather than months.
And, when you embed an integration marketplace in your product, you can more easily showcase your available integrations and demonstrate your capacity to support prospects’ current and future tech ecosystems.
3. Provide a great integration experience
Not only can you provide more of the integrations your customers want and deliver on new integration requests faster, but you can also offer a much-improved integration user experience.
Traditionally, many integrations are delivered as a service and feel like an afterthought rather than a first-class part of the product experience. In fact, in many B2B SaaS apps, integrations are invisible to users, with little to no customer-facing UX. That means customers don't know which integrations are available, let alone what’s currently enabled and configured for their own system.
An embedded iPaaS provides a polished, white-labeled, themeable integration UX that you can quickly embed in your app. Users can explore integrations and activate the ones they want. They also get a simple configuration experience for entering their credentials for third-party apps and selecting configuration options.
Most platforms are optimized to help you build highly configurable integrations. This is a best practice, given that a top selection criterion for software buyers is a product’s ability to adapt to its processes.
Additionally, many embedded integration platforms’ customer-facing UX includes self-serve support tools such as logging, monitoring, and alerting. This lets you put users in the driver's seat for integration configuration, questions, and first-level troubleshooting.
4. Improve your customer service KPIs
Integrations tend to cause excessive support volume and are notoriously challenging to troubleshoot. As a result, they negatively impact customer service key performance indicators (KPIs) such as ticket volume and average resolution time. Implementing an embedded iPaaS will help you address root integration problems that generate support volume, revamp your integration support methods, and improve your KPIs.
Embedded integration platforms run your integrations in an environment expertly designed to handle security and scalability, including bursting. Compared to typical home-grown integration environments, this enhances integration reliability, drastically reducing integration failures and corresponding support tickets.
Additionally, they address the problem that most SaaS support teams don't have easy access to, such as integration config tools, logs, or other resources. Developers are deeply involved in integration support, making it time-consuming with lots of back and forth internally (and with customers). Even basic integration support issues sometimes sit unaddressed for days, waiting for dev capacity to address them.
Embedded integration platforms provide a management console that allows support and onboarding teams to resolve issues immediately by configuring customer integrations, investigating logs, and troubleshooting auth issues, among other things. Your resolution time and first-contact resolution rate should improve dramatically as a result.
They also lower ticket volume by enabling customer self-service. Rather than contacting your support team, users can self-activate integrations, update credentials or config options, and check logs when there's an issue.
5. Increase product stickiness and reduce churn
Minimizing customer churn is a huge concern for SaaS companies that typically see annual churn rates of 32 to 50%.
The good news is that SaaS teams using an embedded iPaaS for integrations increase their customers' average number of integrations. This is because integrations require much less effort, enabling you to build more of them. Also, because available integrations are easily discoverable via your marketplace, instead of requiring an email or phone call to your support team.
This increase in integration adoption transforms your app from an easily replaceable solution to a deeply integrated part of each customer's overall tech stack. Not only does your app provide its core functions, but it also powers customers’ workflows and becomes central to business processes across their tech stack.
Simply put, increased integration adoption makes your app difficult for customers to replace.
How to choose the best embedded iPaaS for your company
Given the enormous potential of embedded integration platforms to help you scale your integration delivery and grow your SaaS, selecting a platform that fits your current and future needs is essential. Here are a few suggestions for finding a solution that's right for you.
Include key stakeholders
Integrations usually involve several teams within a SaaS company. Including stakeholders from each team will help you choose a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
Include the product leader responsible for your integration strategy, the leader of your integration team (if you have one), and developers who've worked on previous integrations – in short, representatives who understand the ins and outs of building, deploying, and supporting integrations for your product.
Create a list of potential solutions
Once the correct people are involved, create a list of solutions to evaluate.
G2's list of top embedded integration platforms is an excellent resource. You’ll find real user reviews detailing what users like and dislike about each product. It’s also beneficial to read reviewers’ notes on what business problems they’re solving and what benefits they’re experiencing. This helps you identify solutions that have successfully helped teams with integration needs similar to yours.
Perform hands-on evaluations to narrow the list
Embedded integration platforms vary significantly. Some work best for simple integrations; some are more flexible for handling complex use cases. Some are designed primarily for developers to use; others enable non-developers to build integrations.
Fortunately, most platforms offer a free account or trial that you can use to do a hands-on evaluation and ensure that the solutions you're considering match your big-picture requirements:
- Do you plan to have developers or non-developers build integrations? Is the platform user-friendly for that group?
- Which of your teams will be deploying and supporting integrations? Will they have the management tools they need?
- Do you anticipate that most of your integrations will be simple or complex?
- Do you mainly have standard integrations for which app connectors already exist, or are your integrations specific to your industry and require strong support for custom connectors?
- What embedded functionality do you want to provide your customers besides activating integrations? Do they need configuration and self-serve support tools?
Make sure you get an in-depth demo of the solutions you’re considering to gain a solid understanding of their available functionality. Use the demos to ask questions that arose during your hands-on evaluation. Along with the demo, learn about the vendor's experience and commitment to its embedded iPaaS.
- Is embedded iPaaS a key focus for the vendor? What portion of the company is dedicated to working on it versus other products?
- Does the vendor's roadmap support your future needs in addition to your current ones?
- Does the vendor have the expertise to assist with your specific use case?
- Has their product supported teams with the quantity and complexity of integrations similar to yours?
Conduct a realistic proof of concept
Don't stop at the demo. Once you narrow your list to one or two options, do a proof of concept (POC) and build a couple of typical integrations. Many teams build the next integrations in their backlog.
Ensure that the solutions handle the types of complexity you typically encounter. Consider connecting to niche systems, managing customer-specific configuration and credentials, retrying/replaying integration runs when something goes wrong, versioning your integrations as they change over time, and so on.
Once you've built an integration or two for the POC, test the process for deploying and supporting the integration. Make sure you understand what the platform does, what your teams will be doing, and the vendor's responsibilities.
Finally, as part of your POC, determine how well the platform fits into your existing tools and processes, especially dev and DevOps systems. Can you incorporate it smoothly with your current source control system, CI/CD pipeline, and logging systems?
You’ll likely interact extensively with the vendor’s members during the POC process. This is a great chance to evaluate the vendor’s experience, understand their future product direction, and determine whether they will be a beneficial partner in your long-term integration strategy.
Grow your integration capability and SaaS
Integrations slow down many SaaS companies, but yours doesn't have to be one of them.
Implementing an embedded iPaaS provides a solid, scalable strategy for delivering the native integrations your customers and prospects want. It can also transform integration delivery from a constant struggle and drain on resources to a strategic advantage that helps you attract and retain long-term customers.
Considering scaling your integration capabilities – and your SaaS – by implementing an embedded integration platform? Learn more about how to select an embedded iPaaS for your SaaS.