Picking up where we left off in Part 1 on the latest SaaS integration trends, the current article will address some of the major challenges companies face today when choosing to adopt new SaaS platforms into their lifecycle.
The whole notion of application integration and data management today is synonymous with the cloud. By and large, businesses now rely upon a multitude of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications that are delivered over the web. Unlike the old days of onsite servers and expensive proprietary software licenses, now any business unit with a credit card can connect to a cloud-hosted SaaS service in less than 5 minutes for a fraction of the cost and no setup headaches.
But this is not to say that SaaS integrations are always as easy as flipping a switch or, in this case, swiping a credit card. That’s the ultimate hope, but now with thousands of SaaS on the market, companies must navigate the API highway and find the quickest solutions for their SaaS integration challenges.
The misperception is that SaaS APIs are the magic solution for cross-connecting software services. Such is not the case. In fact, quoting one industry expert, “they’re frequently proprietary, long and complicated.”
At the end of the day, companies need to be savvy about what it takes to successfully leverage SaaS platforms in ways that increase their bottom line. As one article nicely sums up:
CIOs need to figure out how to bring all these new devices, applications, and data sources together in a way that allows them to be seamlessly integrated, analyzed in real time, and mined for insights. And they need to do it quickly because the potential of these disruptive technologies is tied to revenue growth and there’s a need to achieve results in a narrow window of time.
As far as SaaS integrations are concerned, the faster and easier they are the better!
Integrating SaaS with On-Premise Apps
One of the biggest nuts to crack in the area of integrations is with connecting to on-premise applications. In fact, in one survey 32% of respondents said this is a top concern of theirs, second only to data security and privacy (39%).
One major pain point is in the methods used. A prevailing assumption has been that traditional integration techniques like Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) is a good way to go for bringing cloud technologies onsite. But these methods are expensive, require specialized training, and are not often well-suited to how the cloud works.
There are a number of other major integration challenges: ensuring the data transformation works correctly from on-premise to the cloud, ensuring the same level of security and connections, and “orchestration” – or making certain the right data gets to the right location.
The ultimate pain point is not a lack of technology but of knowledge. As one industry expert points out, “The technology is there. We just don’t have the strategic knowledge [or] know how all these pieces and parts work and play with our existing infrastructure, processes, data — all the things we have to keep track of.”
Costs of Integration
Integration of existing IT structures with SaaS is a complex endeavor that requires the expertise of highly skilled technicians and cloud consulting firms. Getting it right is costly at best. But getting it wrong can mean real headaches. One source sums it up well: “A poorly-planned integration could result in siloed apps that do not communicate with each other, which wipes out the benefits of using SaaS.”
The resulting lost revenue and productivity could be disastrous for a company. The point here is that companies need to count the cost and use methods and tools that are reliable and vetted. Integration-as-a-service is one model that has received wider adoption in recent years due to its lower cost approach to solving the integration conundrum.
Let’s face it, those businesses that want to adopt SaaS integration usually want it yesterday. The reality however is that the process is time-consuming and, if not managed properly, can lead to real productivity issues. The major challenge here is with data migration; the process will take longer than expected since transferring data requires significant bandwidth. And keep in mind that niche applications that are not as widely used will take even longer to integrate than more popular ones. Pre-migration studies that analyze migration constraints can help to ease some of the pain of this process.
The important point is that companies must plan ahead for any SaaS integration and factor any contingencies and other delays. Count on the process taking longer than expected.
There are a number of problems that can arise during the SaaS integration process. Improper integrations can wreak havoc on an organization. Imagine if sales and accounting data doesn’t sync correctly with your CRM, invoices are sent to the wrong customers, or if users start working in different systems than they’re assigned to.
The challenges of integration are only compounded if the process is not done correctly. Lost revenue, productivity, and morale could be the negative consequences of a poorly executed integration strategy.
Some best practices for a successful integration strategy involve carefully vetting your SaaS vendors, not relying on just one methodology or approach but remaining flexible, and considering the migration of your services incrementally rather than all at once.
Keeping company data secure is the single biggest concern among stakeholders and business leaders when it comes to conducting SaaS integrations. And rightfully so! Integrating disparate software can bypass important security protocols and can lead to data residing in silos in various cloud services.
Companies may also be under a deadline to roll out their new features to the market; this could lead to vulnerabilities that even if addressed in the weeks to follow still leave open gaps that can be easily exploited by hackers.
Any SaaS integration must be able to implement strong multi-layered security controls. This will require authenticating access to an organization’s infrastructure both in the cloud and on-premise. Additionally, data must be encrypted and meet the most up-to-date security protocols (SSAE 16). Some best practices for ensuring a secure integration is to agree on a common authentication protocol, offer fine-grained access control, and also allow auditing.