IN A SOFTWARE-DRIVEN BUSINESS WORLD SaaS IS REFRAMING THE WAY WE DO BUSINESS
Unlocking new opportunities to engage better with customers, while delivering the real-time data and immediate customer experience they demand requires integration technologies, but also imagination, creativity and collaboration.
These were qualities that abounded in the Roman Empire, recalling the words of the German poet Heinrich Heine – “If the Romans had been obliged to learn Latin, they would never have found time to conquer the world.”
As well as illustrating the challenge of learning that now ancient language, it also provides a useful metaphor for understanding the challenge of integrating disparate technologies and working methods in today’s business and technology ecosystem.
It’s a whole new world.
In the digital economy, supported from the cloud via SaaS delivery models, we have opportunities to attain scale, efficiency and connectivity in ways that were previously unimagined. Yet organisations struggle to reach their desired outcomes for want of an integration approach that unifies data, processes and applications across the network of companies, technologies and applications.
For example: you want to access a strategic supplier’s data on pricing, quotes, orders, deliveries, returns and more, but crucially to do it inside your choice of business application, without having to learn theirs, or access yet another supplier portal, and then to achieve all of this seamlessly, in real-time, without manual steps, process delays, data security issues or loss of competitive edge.
There is a better way. In short, you don’t have to learn Latin any more.
Integrate to accelerate
Effective integration between software applications was once the province of enterprises and the biggest technology vendors who had the most to gain, and the most resources to deal with the technical challenges involved.
Today, applications delivered by SaaS have become a significant engine of business growth for businesses big and small, and are affording opportunities for valuable integration like never before. The potential is huge. As the connective tissue linking applications ecosystems, in-app and on-platform integrations are a significant source of competitive advantage and reduced technical debt.
Getting it right.
Broadly, there are 3 options a SaaS or platform provider has to build integrations:
- Open APIs
You can develop open APIs, which anyone given access can use to create integrations. A good API unquestionably makes integration smoother, but only for limited users with the right skillsets. They are accessible only to that set of your customers who are also developers. It is why APIs give you a much lower user adoption. In a sense, you are still not much further on from having to learn Latin if you are still dependent on developers writing code!
- Citizen integrators
You could direct your users to 3rd party integration tools. These are not always great and another major drawback. You’re pushing users beyond your product. This forces them to have an experience outside your domain, not something you should aim for. Add to it that they often have to invest extra time, money and resource for the integration, and these tools are not an effective solution. You are still having to learn someone else’s language to conquer your world – only not quite such a complex one as the API model.
- Native integrations
The third and by far the most effective approach is to build native integrations with FuseGenie’s platform. This works because we are almost a natural extensions of your product. In effect, they speak the language you already use today.
You keep complete control of the user experience, and your customers and partners don’t have to pay additional licensing fees. You can work on multiple integrations without diverting resources from your core product strategy. Furthermore, you don’t have to maintain the integration code which is a major drag on your engineering resources.
Here’s what we have learned from our experience…
The Quick and the Dead.
You may already have tackled the first few integrations in your product roadmap. Or perhaps you have yet to start integrating the applications your customers and partners are asking for. Whatever stage you are at, few understand the software engineering workload it takes to maintain every integration they build. With time, APIs and data schemas alter. Some succeed and improve, some vanish, but you have to adapt to all of it!
And that’s just the initial wave of integrations. The real challenge appears when you’ve ticked off the first few integrations, when a lack of planning dilutes your ability to focus on core business needs.
Plan your roadmap before you integrate. Don’t second guess it. You’ll save yourself a warehouse full of technical debt. We know it is tempting to push an in-demand app integration out as soon as possible but shipping fast should never be the top priority.
Think of it this way: you build an integration that’s been on your roadmap for months. Your customers and partners love it. Another month later, the system on which you developed the integration enjoys a significant update. You know the integration will break soon unless you divert valuable resources to fixing it.
Everything, everywhere, all at once – well your data at least.
When you are working on an outbound integration, remember that all your data is in more than one place simultaneously – likely multiple applications. If your source application’s data is bad, it will be bad everywhere, creating lasting hygiene issues that will take a lot of cleaning up.
Likewise, importing and exporting data from Salesforce to your product is not the same as real-time integration. Assuming this, is a grave error. When you export files in batches, you get a snapshot of the data at that given time. So, even if you import/export files repeatedly, (and people do) the data would still not be in sync in some applications.
So – decide if you want a batch or real-time integration. It will help keep your data quality high. A simple strategy is to audit your data for consistency and accuracy regularly. It will keep your information clean, and the cleaner it is, the easier the integration process.
The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary
Speaking of dictionaries….Documentation often comes as an afterthought; something tacked on at the end of the list. Don’t make that mistake. Like you would write and compile comprehensive documentation for your core product, do the same for integrations.
If your solution supports multiple integrations, then it is even more crucial. You and your team will be thanking yourselves for developing and maintaining excellent documentation with a clear taxonomy and definitions of integration components in the future.
Track your users for effectiveness
Integrations are not one-time, quick fix features. They expose the depth and breadth of your solution or platform, opening new paths to attract prospects and give your customers and partners the incentive to engage and succeed, leading to greater satisfaction and retention.
In short, integrations make your platform or service more valuable, which is why it is essential to assess their effectiveness. Just like you would track the impact of your marketing strategies or measure how well your core product is doing, you need to track the users who utilize your integrations.
Identify how they use your integrations in different ways and then take further decisions on where to focus your efforts and time – engineering, support, partnership, or marketing. This enables you to forge a better experience for your customers and partners.
So how does FuseGenie® help?
In today’s digitally transformed and software-centric business environment, you need to be able to act quickly in response to customer needs, and changes in the competitive landscape.
Effective in-app and on-platform software integrations allow your teams, customers and partners to access data and create new sources of value inside the applications of their choice. There’s no need to learn new paradigms or switch between systems, thereby reducing investment, time to market, training and ongoing costs.
FuseGenie® believes that the success in this ecosystem is measured by the ability to deliver value to the ultimate customer.
Our proven integration and automation platform, combined with our trademark magic, enables us to deliver integrated solutions to technology partner-led businesses that are greater than the sum of their parts, helping to drive broader growth and new market opportunities. For some this may not yet seem relevant to their business. But at the rate business applications technologies are advancing and becoming more affordable via SaaS, a well designed integration approach can bring increased efficiencies, enhanced customer experiences and new revenue streams.
With digital transformation well underway, now accelerated by macroeconomic factors, partner-centric ICT businesses that don’t evaluate how in-app and on-platform software integrations fit into their business technology strategy and act on the opportunities they bring, will be left speaking an obsolete language.