What is SaaS integration?
SaaS integration is the process of integrating your software as a service (SaaS) application with other applications and systems in an organization so that they can request and share data freely. Organizations have complex business needs, and finding one application to meet all requirements is challenging. Businesses typically deploy multiple SaaS applications for different functions and then integrate them to create complex automated workflows. For example, you might connect a SaaS CRM platform with an internal machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) system for automatic integration of new customer data into ML workflows.
What are the benefits of SaaS integration?
SaaS is a cloud-based software model that delivers applications to end users through an internet browser. SaaS vendors host services and applications for customers to access on demand. With a SaaS offering, you don’t have to think about how the service is maintained or how the underlying infrastructure is managed. You need to think only about how you use the software.
SaaS integration connects third-party SaaS applications with your existing systems so that they can share data freely and automatically for business process automation. The following are some of the benefits of SaaS application integration.
SaaS integration solutions make your day-to-day tasks more efficient without developing functionality from scratch. SaaS apps are available for every use case and industry, from human resources and inventory management to customer support and data analytics. With SaaS integration, your business can access specialized functions and features that are developed by trusted third parties. The different software applications can also communicate and share data with your internal systems in real time, eliminating manual data entry and the need for multiple entries across platforms. They reduce the likelihood of errors and save time so that you can focus on more strategic tasks.
Improved data quality
SaaS integration eliminates data silos by synchronizing data across multiple systems. It provides a single source of truth, which enhances the accuracy, consistency, and reliability of data. The improved data quality also supports better decision-making because you can trust that you’re basing your decisions on accurate and up-to-date information.
Effective enterprise resource planning
With SaaS integration, you can get more from your business applications by connecting enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems with other cloud-based modules. You can create a unified system that manages all aspects of your business's operations, providing comprehensive visibility into business processes and performance. You can integrate SaaS solutions—without the need for extensive technical development—to improve resource management, financial planning, and customer service.
SaaS integration offers the flexibility to scale up or down according to business needs without significant up-front investment. You can add new functionalities or services as needed and integrate them with existing systems. SaaS also supports remote work environments and mobile access because as cloud-based services can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, on any device.
You can generate comprehensive reports that provide insights into different operational aspects in an integrated manner. Streamlined reporting helps in monitoring performance, identifying trends, and making informed strategic decisions. It also reduces the time and effort that is required to prepare reports because data is readily available and accessible.
How does SaaS integration work?
A SaaS integration works by using an API and requires little to no programming. APIs enable SaaS applications to exchange information by using predetermined rules and protocols. APIs authenticate applications to establish trust before authorizing any data transfer. Data is exchanged in several standard formats, including XML and JSON. Some SaaS applications update in real time, and others use batch processing, sending data to each other at regular intervals.
Typically, SaaS applications use prebuilt triggers that activate when users complete a specific action. For example, if a user signs up to your platform, a trigger can communicate their data to your customer relationship management (CRM) platform. Most SaaS applications come with triggers and APIs that are ready for you to use. However, specific use cases require you to complete extra programming or configuration to align the app with your business operations.
The following diagram shows an example of how a SaaS application works, including the data and logic layers, APIs, and client interfaces.
What are the approaches to SaaS integration?
There are several approaches to SaaS app integration, and each approach offers different advantages and capabilities.
A native SaaS integration is where you build a custom integration between your system and the SaaS application. Most of the time, this is a time-consuming and costly method of integrating SaaS platforms. However, it offers a higher degree of flexibility and customization. If your business needs a specific function that simple SaaS integration doesn’t offer, native integration is critical.
Integration platform as a service
With integration platform as a service (iPaaS), you can create connections between SaaS platforms and your organization with prebuilt pathways. SaaS companies offer integration capabilities, giving you a no-code method of creating a reliable connection.
One of the leading benefits of iPaaS is that it saves time because you don’t have to build integrations from scratch. However, it abstracts underlying data flows, which could prevent effective troubleshooting. You still need technical expertise to solve any potential issues with iPaaS integration. One alternative is embedded iPaaS, where SaaS providers include iPaaS in their products.
Robotic process automation
Robotic process automation (RPA) is a way of using bots to collect information from user interfaces. Instead of humans needing to collect data manually, these bots can collect and sync information between your SaaS applications and internal business systems. You can also use intelligent automation—RPA powered by AI—to make self-improving software automation.
Although an automated strategy can save time, bot workflows break if the UI of an application changes. This means that RPA requires hands-on maintenance and support. Other approaches are preferred for SaaS integrations where possible.
What are the challenges in SaaS integration?
The following are some common integration challenges when you’re using SaaS platforms in your business.
SaaS vendors might have different levels of integration support, varying API capabilities, and limitations on data access or the number of API calls that you can make. Vendor lock-in is another concern, where businesses become dependent on a particular vendor’s tools and services, which makes it difficult to switch to a different vendor in the future. Vendors might also have different release cycles and update schedules, which can affect the stability and continuity of integrated systems.
Developing different types of custom API integrations can be complicated and time-consuming. Custom API integration requires specialized knowledge of both the applications being integrated and the integration technology being used. You might have to go through several iterations of development and testing before data flows as required. Despite your best efforts, you might encounter software bugs and create manual workarounds, which minimizes returns on investment.
The speed and reliability of data transfer between the SaaS API and your system are crucial, and any latency affects user experience. Performance challenges arise when you’re trying to synchronize large datasets in real time or when there are network issues. Monitoring system health and resolving integration issues requires robust monitoring tools and processes.
Over time, maintaining and updating custom integrations can lead to technical debt. As SaaS products evolve, integrations might need to be revisited and revised, which can be costly and time-consuming. It's a challenge to design integrations that are both scalable and flexible enough to accommodate future growth—including new features or additional users—without requiring significant rework or investment.
How can AWS support your SaaS integration efforts?
With Amazon AppFlow, you can automate bidirectional data flows between SaaS applications and Amazon Web Services (AWS) services in just a few steps. Run the data flows at the frequency that you choose, whether on a schedule, in response to a business event, or on demand. With Amazon AppFlow, you can:
- Simplify data preparation with transformations, partitioning, and aggregation
- Transfer data at scale without the need to provision system resources
- Automate cataloging your data to discover and share it across AWS analytics and ML services
Get started with SaaS integration on AWS by creating an account today.
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