The Business Case for Embedded Integration Platforms

Embedded integration platforms help B2B software companies decrease costs, increase revenue, and reduce customer churn.

Introduction

Most B2B software companies recognize integrations as a critical part of their overall product offering. Business customers, whose technology ecosystems typically comprise tens or even hundreds of applications, demand integrations with the other applications they use. They're seeking to automate workflows, create smooth processes for end users, connect data from multiple sources, and generally increase productivity. As business customers' application portfolios continue to grow, so does the expectation for B2B software vendors to provide numerous, robust integrations ranging from simple and standard to complex and bespoke.

Embedded integration companies help with integration demand

While integrations are essential to a competitive offering, providing them is a complex and challenging task. Teams building integrations face the technical challenges of connecting to unfamiliar applications requiring a variety of integration protocols, data formats, and authorization methods, as well as non-technical challenges such as unclear user requirements, lack of third-party documentation, and the inherent difficulty of collaborating with multiple parties. They must also test integrations, set up infrastructure to run them, configure them for deployment to the appropriate customers, update them as customer needs and third-party APIs evolve, handle versioning, troubleshoot and fix problems, and provide day-to-day monitoring and support.

All of this work must be done at scale, yet most teams lack the tools and repeatable processes to do so efficiently. Depending on the industry, it's not unusual for software teams to develop integrations to hundreds of different third-party applications.

Taken all together, providing integrations is highly time-consuming and diverts significant R&D capacity away from core product initiatives. Furthermore, despite all that time and cost, the resulting integrations often fail to achieve the desired impacts on user experience and customer satisfaction.

Embedded integration platforms as a service (embedded iPaaS) make it easier for B2B software companies to build, deploy, and support integrations between the company's own software product and the other applications their customers use.

Decrease Costs

The most straightforward and compelling reason to implement embedded iPaaS systems is that they substantially decreases the time, and therefore the cost, required to provide integrations to business customers.

Providing integrations is extremely expensive. Most B2B software leaders can easily query their product management system to determine the number of hours their engineering teams spend each month building integrations. For many companies, a reduction in that number alone justifies the cost of an integration platform, especially given the high cost of software developers' time.

However, it's not until one factors in engineering time spent on other integration work like infrastructure, deployment, and troubleshooting, as well as time other departments spend on integration work, that the full cost of providing integrations comes into focus. All of this makes clear the huge potential for cost savings if less time could be spent on integration work.

Embedded integration companies work to decrease cost throughout the integration build-deploy-support lifecycle by reducing integration workload and enabling every team with the tools necessary to perform their roles efficiently.

Building Integrations

In many companies, engineering teams are responsible for building integrations, largely because it's common to create each integration by writing bespoke code to handle everything from key integration functionality to "boilerplate" technical integration requirements such as triggers, connectors, data transformations, field mappings, and authentication flows. Writing bespoke code to handle these items for each integration is time-consuming and error-prone, especially because real-world integration scenarios require developers to work with a wide array of integration protocols, data formats, and authentication types.

A central feature of embedded iPaaS products is the integration designer: a low-code environment in which users assemble pre-built components to create integrations. Components can be thought of as integration building blocks, which handle the vast majority of integration functionality including the "boilerplate" requirements listed above. An integration designer reduces the cost of building integrations in several ways.

First, leveraging pre-built components simply takes less time than writing bespoke code. To ensure that time savings doesn't come at the cost of flexibility to build any integration customers need, integration platforms provide support for writing code to create custom components to handle functionality not provided by pre-built components, such as product- or industry-specific logic and connectors to niche third-party systems.

Second, a low-code environment enables non-devs to build integrations, using both pre-built components and custom components created by their engineering colleagues. Not only is non-developer teams members' time typically less expensive than engineering hours, it is often more flexible - independent from release cycles and not competing with priorities like core product work.

Third, an integration designer reduces costly rework. Communication difficulties and unclear requirements are common to the integration process, often resulting in rework when it's discovered late in the process that what was built does not meet customer needs or a third-party vendor's technical requirements. An integration designer allows all parties, including customers and third-party vendors, to access documents like statements of work and tech specs, ensuring everyone is on the same page. It also includes a built-in testing framework so teams can test integrations while building them. Involving customers and vendors in test runs ensures problems are caught prior to deployment, when they are more easily fixed.

Setting Up Integration Infrastructure

In addition to building integrations, most engineering teams also spend time setting up infrastructure to run them. Integration infrastructure must be scalable, must be secure while allowing outside access, and it requires significant monitoring and maintenance.

Another major benefit of an integration platform is that integrations are run in the platform's environment, purpose-built to provide the security and scalability integrations require. This entirely removes the burden of setting up, monitoring, and maintaining infrastructure to run customers' integrations.

Deploying Integrations to Customers

Deploying integrations can be every bit as complex and time-consuming as building them. Most B2B software companies must deploy integrations to a heterogeneous customer base, where different customers have unique configurations and credentials. As an added complexity, teams often to need to support multiple active versions of an integration simultaneously as industry standards and third-party APIs evolve. Many teams lack intuitive tools for managing customer-specific configuration and versioning, leading to duplication of effort and time-consuming processes that often can only be done by engineering teams.

Customer configuration and deployment tools are a key part of an integration platform. They allow configuring and deploying customer-specific instances of integrations without duplication of effort, and they greatly reduce the effort of managing complexities like configuration, authentication, and versioning. Additionally, they are accessible as part of the integration platform's web application so that customer-facing teams can perform these tasks efficiently without engineering involvement. They can also be integrated with a software team's existing CI/CD and DevOps toolchains to provide further time savings.

Embedded iPaaS systems typically run integrations in a cloud environment

Supporting Integrations

Integration support is typically a highly inefficient process. Most Technical Support or Customer Service teams lack access to integration tools and resources, which means they must turn to teams such as Product Management and Development to answer questions about integration functionality, check an integration's status, or investigate when something goes wrong. Some integration support scenarios also require involvement from DevOps or SysAdmin teams. The result is a slow, disruptive back-and-forth process requiring time and resources from multiple groups. When integration errors occur outside of business hours, the company incurs the additional cost of after-hours or on-call compensation.

Embedded iPaaS systems provide tools and resources that bring efficiency to integration support. Configurable alerts notify the appropriate teams when customers' integrations encounter errors, and integration logs aid in checking status and troubleshooting. Integrations are self-documenting, which makes it easy to see what they do and how, and documents such as tech specs and troubleshooting steps can be stored directly in the integration platform. These tools empower Support and other customer-facing teams to address more integration issues independently, decrease the burden on expensive engineering personnel, and reduce the costly back-and-forth.

Increase Revenue

There are several ways in which implementing embedded integration platforms often leads to increased revenue for B2B software companies.

Regain R&D Capacity for Core Product Innovation

Embedded integration platforms free up R&D capacity for driving core product innovation. When using traditional methods to provide integrations, every hour or story point Development teams spend on inefficient integration work is time away from building new, innovative products and features. Many companies find that, as their customer base grows, integration work begins to consume a greater and greater percentage of their R&D capacity, causing innovation to slow significantly.

Implementing an integration platform, by reducing time spent on integration work, helps teams regain R&D capacity. That additional capacity can be used to build meaningful new features that differentiate a product offering and create value, or to bring entirely new products to market.

Use Strategic Integrations to Pursue New Market Segments

Additionally, embedded iPaaS products enable B2B software companies to use integrations strategically to break into new market segments. Many companies find integrations so time- and cost-prohibitive that they avoid building integrations unless they're clearly demanded by the customer base or required to close a specific deal.

However, when integrations are less time-consuming and costly, it becomes feasible to build select integrations for strategic reasons. Opportunities include building vertical-specific or geography-specific integrations that extend a product to meet the needs of previously unreached market segments, as well as providing highly bespoke integrations that offer the level of customization required to land larger accounts.

Minimize Customer Churn

Implementing embedded iPaaS systems also helps B2B software companies minimize customer churn and protect their recurring revenue.

Create Product Stickiness

A powerful strategy for minimizing customer churn is to create product stickiness. There are many ways to achieve product stickiness, and embedded iPaaS companies work to contributes to several: making the product central to customers' daily operations, helping customers notice and appreciate the product's value, and increasing switching costs.

A key way to achieve stickiness is to make the product central to the customer's day. A product with multiple integrations to other applications, which is made far easier by using embedded integration products, becomes deeply ingrained in the business customer's day-to-day operations. That product now goes beyond its core functionality and becomes a critical component of broader workflows: eliminating redundant data entry, automating or reducing the number of tasks users must complete in other systems, providing access to data from other sources, and making it easier to share information.

Another way to increase stickiness is to help customers notice and appreciate the value they receive from a product, which makes it easier for them to justify paying the monthly or yearly cost. B2B software companies provide significant additional value to their customers through integrations, and a customer integration portal helps to highlight that value-add. An integration platform's customer portal, typically white-labeled and embedded into the product, features integration self-service tools and an integration marketplace. This helps highlight the product's integration capabilities and the many things it does for the customer beyond its core function.

Stickiness increases further when customers recognize that it would be difficult to switch to a different product while retaining all the benefits they've grown accustomed to. For the customer, leaving a product with multiple integrations mean removing not just a single application, but also a hub of their technology ecosystem and all the connected workflows it powers. Finding another vendor with a comparable product and the ability to provide all of the same integrations, and then working with the vendor on integration requirements and configuration, represents a high switching cost involving considerable effort and disruption.

Embedded integration vendors increase product stickiness and reduce customer churn

Uphold Customer Service Standards

Many B2B software companies focus on delivering excellent customer support as part of their efforts to minimize churn. However, even companies who uphold very high customer service standards overall tend to struggle with integration support. For customers, integration support is often a slow, reactive, and frustrating experience.

Teams using an integration platform are able to provide faster, more proactive integration support. They are notified when integrations encounter errors or aren't triggered on their normal schedules, respond quickly, and can resolve issues faster with the help of built-in integration documentation and logs. Embedded iPaaS products can further improve the integration support experience by allowing customers to self-service using tools like configurable alerts, documentation, and logs.

Conclusion

Providing software integrations to customers is essential for most B2B software companies, but it is a challenging, time-consuming, and costly endeavor. Working with embedded integration vendors allows software companies to address numerous challenges that are common throughout the build-deploy-support integration lifecycle and realize the benefits of strong integration capabilities. The opportunity to decrease costs, increase revenue, and reduce customer churn presents a compelling business case for implementing an integration platform.

Prismatic Can Help

Prismatic is the embedded integration platform for B2B software companies. It's the easiest way to build integrations and provide a first-class integration experience to your customers.

Prismatic provides:

  • A purpose-built infrastructure designed for security, scalability, and performance
  • An intuitive integration designer that empowers non-devs to create reusable integrations by assembling components
  • Integration deployment and support tools that allow easily configuring integrations for individual customers and providing proactive support with built-in logging and alerting
  • An embeddable customer experience that enables customers to self-service with an integration marketplace, logging, and alerting
  • All of this was built to be developer-friendly so you can mold the platform to your product, industry, and the way you build software

About Prismatic

Prismatic is the embedded integration platform for B2B software companies. It's the easiest way to build integrations and provide a first-class integration experience to your customers. A comprehensive solution that empowers the whole organization, Prismatic encompasses a purpose-built cloud infrastructure, an intuitive integration designer, integration deployment and support, and an embeddable customer experience. Prismatic was built in a way developers love and provides the tools to make it perfectly fit the way you build software.

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