What is embedded iPaaS?
How a software company, specifically a SaaS (software-as-a-service) company, is built has changed a lot over the past few years. Building an in-house solution for every technical challenge that arises is no longer the norm. Given the rise of cloud solutions, companies are more thoughtful in deciding which features are worth building internally versus which features they should outsource to other software platforms.
One of the categories in which the build versus buy debate looms is the embedded iPaaS (integration platform-as-a-service) category. Embedded iPaaS tools allow B2B SaaS companies to offer integrations to their customers without having to build and maintain the integrations themselves. The benefit of these platforms is clear – they drastically reduce the cost associated with supporting integrations. In fact, they aim to make supporting hundreds of integrations easy for a single engineer, instead of requiring a team of engineers just to maintain a handful.
The world of embedded iPaaS is growing rapidly to meet the ever increasing breadth of products that a typical company uses to operate. As data gets more spread out, customers expect all their systems to work seamlessly: every accounting system needs to be able to connect to every billing system, and every email marketing system needs to connect to every CRM (customer relationship management) system.
If it isn’t obvious yet, integrations are one of the most important features a SaaS product can offer. In fact, integrations with the right software platforms can make or break the sales pipeline.
Every B2B SaaS company has a backlog of requests from both current and potential customers to support new integrations (or expand their current integrations). The problem is that building and maintaining integrations isn’t an easy task. Building a single integration can take up to 3 months, which is not only a significant amount of time, but takes engineering resources away from building the core product. On top of that, every integration has to be maintained and updated to meet the customer’s needs, requiring even more resources towards integration efforts instead of product.
This is why embedded iPaaS exists: to help alleviate the resources it takes to build these integrations. With pre-built connectors and a product dedicated to maintaining their integrations, SaaS companies can keep their focus on building a great product – without worrying about integrations holding them back.
Wait a minute... what is iPaaS?
Let’s zoom out before we get to the embedded version of iPaaS (integration platform as a service). iPaaS in itself is a huge category of the data integration world. Common use cases for a “traditional” iPaaS could be consolidating your internal company data into a data warehouse (think Fivetran or Airbyte), or automating a daily workflow (think Tray.io or Zapier).
A company would use a traditional iPaaS if they wanted to get all of their Salesforce and Quickbooks data and put it in a data warehouse (like Snowflake or BigQuery) so that the analytics team can draw some reports (using a tool like Secoda or PopSQL).
There are also reverse-ETL products that help companies sync data from their warehouse to other products (think Hightouch). For example, I could take the contacts I have in my warehouse and sync them back to my Salesforce account.
So then an embedded iPaaS is...
Embedded iPaaS helps companies offer integrations to their users. Let’s walk through a quick example to hammer the idea home.
Let’s say you are building an email marketing platform. You want to allow your users to import their lead lists from their CRM – whether it be Salesforce, HubSpot, Close.com, or any other CRM. To accomplish this, you’ll need to offer an integration inside your product to allow your customers to link their CRM data – this is known as a native integration.
An embedded iPaaS will handle everything from:
- allowing your users to authenticate with the CRM, to
- accessing the connected system, to
- syncing the data, and to
- handling errors that may occur during the process.
To lay it out more simply, embedded integration platforms make building integrations an out-of-the-box experience for product teams, while maintaining the native integration feeling for end-users.
Historically, most companies have built these integrations in-house from scratch. The problem is the process of building a new integration isn’t easy, and engineers will have to deal with a host of issues: rate limits, schema differences between systems, missing data, closed APIs, custom objects & fields, and more. Because of this complexity, it’s no surprise that building a single new integration can take anywhere between 1 and 3 months of engineering to get to a stable version.
While building the integrations is a difficult task and a big time sink, the more daunting issue becomes maintaining the integrations. Any company that supports more than a handful of customers and integrations quickly realizes that they need to have an engineer (if not a team of engineers) dedicated to managing integrations. This problem only grows larger and larger as your company scales, both in customers and amount of integrations.
So what exactly does an embedded iPaaS do?
The goal of an embedded integration platform is to reduce the work it takes to build and maintain native integrations.
While there are tons of features that an embedded iPaaS provides, these are the must haves:
- Handling authentication for the end-user
- Stable connectors that can handle low and high volumes of data
- API management to avoid hitting rate limits
- Ability to handle syncing custom objects and fields
- Flexibility to use a standard schema or customize the output to your liking
- Infrastructure to handle when things go wrong (logging, rollback functionality, etc.)
By having an embedded iPaaS in place that handles these pieces of building integrations, product teams can save time and focus on their core product, without worrying about maintaining their integrations.
Could my company use an embedded integration platform?
The answer is probably yes. If your company builds B2B software that needs to work with data from other systems, then an embedded integration platform could vastly benefit your team and company.
Not only does it reduce the burden on the product team, but actually empowers the team to build integrations at lightning speed. This in turn will help the Sales team sell the product, as the conversation is no longer, “sorry, we don’t support that integration,” but rather “we have support for that integration, and 100 other products.” Even if you don’t have the integration when a prospect is checking out your software, an embedded iPaaS could allow your team to deliver a requested integration in a matter of days, if not hours, to ensure the new customer can be onboarded.
Okay, but which embedded iPaaS is for me?
There are a few questions you need to answer about your company before you can choose what iPaaS makes sense for your company.
Do they support the integrations I need?
The first thing to check out is what integrations the embedded iPaaS already supports. If they support everything you want, then that is fantastic! If not, you need to find out what the process is like to add new integrations (how long it takes, will it be bi-directional, etc.).
How complex of an integration do I need?
Before you can evaluate an embedded iPaaS, you need to understand what data you want to pull and/or push from any given system. There are some drag-and-drop no-code embedded iPaaS products which can simplify the process of building an integration, but are often too restrictive to build a deep integration with support for complex or custom logic.
On the flip side, some embedded iPaaS products are more flexible and developer-centric – they offer the same benefit of pre-built connectors and unified schemas, but allow custom code + access to the raw data when it’s needed.
What is my end-user’s experience like?
Another thing to look out for is the end-user experience. Is the connection method completely white-labeled? Do you have control over how it appears in your product?
Do they have good support?
Powerful integrations are complicated. Sometimes that means that your product may need a fairly custom set-up within an embedded iPaaS. It is important that you are able to reach out to the team and get help in real-time, so make sure the level of support is up to par with what you are expecting.
What are the security risks of using an embedded iPaaS?
When evaluating an embedded integration platform, you have to think about whether the iPaaS lines up with your security standards. You can often see whether a company is compliant with popular compliance standards (such as SOC 2) by checking their blog or security page.
This also goes with storing data - make sure to ask about how the company handles data storage of the credentials and the actual data being synced!
Can it handle my scale?
Last, but not least, make sure you have a decent idea of whether or not the platform can handle your scale, whether that is the amount of connections you have or the amount of data you are syncing.
Putting the pieces together
So there you have it! Hopefully that gives you an idea of what an embedded integration platform (or embedded iPaaS) is, and how it can help spur growth for your company.
At hotglue we didn’t just stumble into building an embedded iPaaS, we ran into the problem of dealing with native integrations ourselves. Everything mentioned above is something we dealt with, which is why we felt a better embedded iPaaS was needed. Our mission from day one has been to create the easiest way to build feature-rich native integrations in a scaleable way.
Engineering teams around the world use hotglue everyday to support thousands of customers via native integrations. All of these amazing companies felt the pains of building integrations in-house, and saw that hotglue could make supporting hundreds of integrations a breeze. We have product teams who have brought 30 new integrations to their platform in 60 days (yes, that is 2 days per new integration).
If you think your product could benefit from rapidly adding integrations in a scaleable way, come chat with us at hotglue!