18th February 2020
The following article is a beginner’s guide to iPaaS. I work with Cyclr, but not for Cyclr, so writing this guide has been a good way to deepen my understanding of what iPaaS is, how it works, and where you might need it.
If you’re looking to integrate disparate software solutions in your business, then you might have heard of iPaaS. But understanding what it does and how it can help your business can take a bit of digging. We’ve put together a guide to what is it, why might you need it and when you should use it.
Apps are Everywhere
Let’s start with apps. Everyone has them: from consumers on their phones to businesses who rely on third party apps and programs for their everyday operations, internally and externally with customers.
The proliferation of apps has both positive and negatives. They make things more convenient, enable better ways of doing things and bring savings in time and costs But there are drawbacks too, because people like to use apps like fast food restaurants – mixing and matching a little from many, rather than just using one.
Too Much Choice Leads to Data Silos
This means that a business might be using multiple software services to look after just one aspect of its operations, like accounting for example. But lots of apps can mean a lot of chaos. Not only are businesses relying on all sorts of different software from different providers, they are also storing their own data in different locations, from the cloud to their own data centres.
Companies find themselves unable to integrate their third party apps, their own cloud-based data and their own on-site data, and the outcome is slow processes, confusion, data loss and unhappy customers.
The best way to get around this is to combine several pieces of software by bringing platforms and apps together into the same system, making life easier for both customers and businesses alike. This is where iPaaS (integration Platform as a Service) comes in.
Solving the Problem with iPaaS
iPaaS solutions enable a company to bring all the applications and apps it uses into one centralised system. Think of it like bridge-building: iPaaS solutions gives users the ready-made tools and elements to create and manage integrations, constructing bridges (or connections) between systems.
The bridges are made via an API – the ‘connection point’ provided by a software vendor that enables an application to connect with other applications. Connecting two APIs together so that they can communicate is the essential building block of an integration.
Using an app’s API to integrate, iPaaS standardises the flow of information between apps and manages the data. With an iPaaS you can host, develop and integrate cloud data and applications. And in an increasingly cloud-based environment, iPaaS can simplify the integration of data, applications, security, and business compliance.
Why use iPaaS?
Before iPaaS, the only way to create a link between systems was through having a bridge coded directly between them. These would largely be written from the ground up by a developer and be ‘custom’ for each individual company: a developer-intensive process.
In addition, each bridge would have to be individually maintained. When a change was made to one of the APIs being used, developer support would be required to make any appropriate adjustments to the integration itself.
iPaaS solutions create standardised and easy-to-use wrappers around APIs, translating them into a common language. Effectively, creating an ecosystem of API connectors. This allows integrations to be created and data to be requested, manipulated and transferred without having to write custom code every time.
Visual Integration Tools
The best iPaaS solutions include easy graphic tools to help you visualise and work with an overall business intelligence picture. An iPaaS solution also allows for the updating of API definitions in bulk, saving support time and meaning that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a developer-only task. The iPaaS solution creates the link between systems and so it is also the perfect place to run automations and logic, providing more than just simple updates from one platform to another.
Centralised Yet Separate Data Systems
iPaaS brings a number of business benefits including: being able to integrate existing software instead of having to expand or develop your own; enabling a company to scale by bringing together data from all kinds of different environments; offering greater convenience thanks to the fact that everything is located in one place; and improved security and the ability to spot threats more easily and implement holistic security measures thanks to a centralised system.
Some example integrations include ecommerce websites and point of sales; ERP and financial accounting systems; and CRM and marketing cloud platforms.
Want to find out how Cyclr will enhance your integration strategy?
iPaaS vs. Embedded iPaaS
Whereas an iPaaS solution is designed for an end-user to use directly to resolve their own problems, an embedded iPaaS solution allows SaaS vendors to create, manage and deploy integrations to their clients directly from within their own platform. This enables the SaaS vendor to resolve integrations on behalf of their users seamlessly from within their own SaaS product.
Integration Enablement Through Embedded iPaaS
Embedded iPaaS solutions combine the power of a full iPaaS system with the flexibility of a white labelled solution, allowing SaaS vendors to rapidly expand their integration offerings without adding to their developer backlog. They can resolve key integration problems including API versioning and updating, individual integration maintenance, and Handling and maintaining multiple API and authentication types.
Embedded iPaaS providers will furnish companies with a toolkit that enables them to focus primarily on the customer solution, while the heavy lifting from a coding and infrastructure perspective is done by the embedded SaaS provider. The appropriate and intelligent use of embedded SaaS solutions can accelerate time to market and deliver rapid feature enhancement.
If there’s no API in place, an embedded iPaaS solution enables the direct connection with databases, or other third-party data sources, in order to manage user data.
What Benefits Embedded iPaaS Solutions Offer You
Using an embedded iPaaS solution offers a number of benefits:
- They offer native integrations to customers without them having to leave their application environment: a much better customer experience
- By avoiding a customer having to leave your SaaS application to achieve an integration, you retain control of your customer relationship
- Time to market for new integrations is vastly reduced thanks to pre-built components, an environment designed for creativity and the ability to build whatever you choose (within reason)
- A well-designed embedded iPaaS toolkit should be appropriate and accessible to both developers (technical) and commercial staff (non-technical)
- Using an embedded iPaaS platform can reduce on resources – both time and cost – required to deliver integrations
- It provides a single platform for in-app self-service and custom integrations
Who uses iPaaS?
iPaaS benefits three main groups:
- SaaS applications: Embedded iPaaS solutions provide an interface to create integrations and automation workflows that can be deployed within their application. The interface allows for a wider range of team members to create integrations, allowing developers to focus on the product.
- System integrators – Teams of people who specialise in creating links and automations between system for their clients’ companies. As businesses move to using a wider range of SaaS applications to run their operations on, an iPaaS solution allows them create integrations with new systems without having the learn their architecture inside out.
- Enterprise companies – Companies of this size will likely run their businesses on a vast array of systems. iPaaS services allow enterprises to control the data flow into their main systems, so they can monitor the business from a top-down level. This allows their employees to use the systems they find most effective to do their jobs.
The rise of SaaS platforms, the proliferation of APIs and the inevitable desire for consolidation has meant that the need for integrations has rapidly developed into a general expectation. An embedded iPaaS platform allows you to focus on the solution to your customers’ needs, rather than having to build, manage and maintain the component building blocks of the solution.