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SaaS integration is the connection of SaaS apps into a greater whole. Learn about the pros and cons of SaaS integration with legacy systems and why to consider hybrid integration.


SaaS Integration: A Guide to What It Is, Its Benefits and Challenges, and How Best to Achieve It

Posted by Angela Davis on March 13, 2024
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Today, there’s an app for everything, from personal hobbies to performing work tasks. The cloud hosts many, varied Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. Their availability in the cloud provides rapid deployment and great flexibility, and your organization is likely using dozens if not hundreds of SaaS products as we speak.

As businesses increasingly shift to cloud-based applications, data generation is also perpetually increasing. Before the cloud, the swivel chair was a godsend for entering data from one app to another. That was if you were lucky enough to have two monitors at your workstation. 

Today, connecting data between apps isn’t so manual. There are many ways to build SaaS integrations and open the data pipeline. Some are more complex than others, and not every solution requires you to completely replace your existing tech stack. 

In fact, it’s perfectly possible to make the shift to cloud-based apps without leaving your legacy systems behind.

What is SaaS integration?

SaaS integration is the process of connecting two or more applications or services. Integrations can open one-way, two-way, or seamless communication between various SaaS apps. Data is synced, batch-loaded, or streamed to allow your applications to work together for greater efficiency. 

SaaS integrations are either custom-built or provided by vendors. They can also be delivered via an iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) model. 

Some integrations allow for only the most basic communication of data; others, for far more complex processes.

SaaS apps are typically hosted using cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, and Azure. As more organizations make a go of digital transformation, cloud-based applications continue to trend upward. 

Annual revenue of Amazon Web Services (AWS) from 2013 to 2022.

The adoption of cloud-based services saw AWS increase its revenue to over 80 billion dollars in 2022.

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In 2022, AWS generated 80 billion dollars in revenue. In the same year, Google Cloud saw revenue increase to over 26 billion.

SaaS integration vs. API integration vs. app integration: Is there a difference?

The terms SaaS integration, API integration, and app integration all mean essentially the same thing. 

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) facilitate modern SaaS integrations. Hence, API integrations, also known as app integrations, connect services from two or more vendors.

For example, say your organization uses a customer relationship management platform (CRM). This tool helps you track and manage customer interactions. Your marketing team also uses email automation software. 

While creating a campaign, marketing doesn’t want to create new customer lists. Luckily, an app integration can connect all your CRM data to your email marketing tool, allowing for easy customer segmentation when writing a new drip campaign.

SaaS integration benefits

SaaS integrations are necessary for businesses wanting to keep up and remain competitive. Here are several benefits of SaaS application integration.

Improved visibility and transparency across applications

Today, organizations increasingly depend on cloud-based applications, and different departments will see the benefits of using multiple SaaS apps. Before you know it, however, SaaS sprawl may inadvertently build data silos. Using so many tools can thus lead to gatekeeping various robust capabilities.

SaaS integrations help demolish these siloes. They give everyone in your organization access to the data they need. For example, sales can access contact center metrics as part of their strategies, and management can pull data from different business apps to monitor employee productivity. 

With SaaS application integrations, every stakeholder can pull the assets they need, and each team member has access to every byte of data. This gives your entire organization greater transparency over how it operates. It also opens up the possibilities for collaboration and data-sharing.

Streamlined workflows that can save time and boost productivity

A primary use case for SaaS integration tools is to optimize workflows. With API connections, gone are the days of manually exporting or re-entering data. 

Data entry isn’t the only place where integrations save you time. Some SaaS integration services work with triggers or events. First, a customer or employee triggers an event. Next, the API signals connected apps to take a predetermined action. 

For example, in hotel management, a booking service takes guest reservations. Afterward, an integration triggers an email service to send confirmation.

Productivity boosts don’t stop at simple processes like the above example—a survey from mid-2023 found that 86% of cloud companies planned to have an AI feature by the end of that year. 

86% of cloud services and apps were predicted to have at least one AI feature by the end of 2023.

82% of cloud services and apps had at least one AI feature in mid-2023, with more planned.

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API connections also allow businesses to take better advantage of AI technology like machine learning (ML).

For instance, you could connect your inventory management system to an internal ML service. As data streams to the ML tool, new analyses can take place. Soon, you’d gain predictive modeling capabilities to optimize your inventory.

Minimized human error in data entry

Re-entering data doesn’t just take up time—it creates room for error too. Monotonous, repetitive tasks are a likely culprit for many human oversights. 

These mistakes can lead to a huge loss of company resources. Siloed data makes it that much more difficult to find the root cause of a problem due to data entry errors, but SaaS integration services eliminate human error and the need for manual data entry.

Effective integration can provide a centralized, single source of truth for all your data. This means your data scientists, IT engineers, and other team members always have clean, accurate information available in real-time. 

Enhanced customer experience

SaaS software integration is often a win for your customers, too. Your business tools will work together seamlessly to deliver a better customer experience. 

For example, you could integrate your communications platform and helpdesk app—a connection that ensures your reps have access to all customer account information as soon as they receive a call. 

Better employee experience and engagement

So far, the business and your customers have gained much from app integration capabilities. SaaS integrations can also boost how your employees engage with the workplace. Greater data visibility and app communication allow them to build more efficient workflows.

This means they’ll be able to get more done in less time. They’ll also be able to eliminate mundane administrative tasks and avoid the extra work that comes with team member errors.  

Annual employee engagement in the US.

Employee engagement in the US has decreased to 32%, but best-practice organizations are seeing engagement rates as high as 72%.

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Why is this important? Because a recent Gallup poll found that only 32% of the US workforce and 23% of the global workforce are engaged in their work. One contributing factor is that only 38% of employees believe they have “what they need” to do their work. 

Do you want to give your team what they require to perform their jobs? One way may be to provide them with the streamlined functionality of SaaS integrations.

SaaS integration challenges

So far, we’ve highlighted how app integrations make life easier for everyone. So, what about SaaS integration disadvantages? Well, getting different applications to cooperate can come with some drawbacks. 

Typically requires technical expertise

Your organization needs a high degree of expertise to develop API integrations for your tech stack. 

Many of those who use business tools won’t be able to integrate SaaS applications on their own. Stakeholders can bring their needs to the attention of management, but after that, their hands are tied due to a lack of technical know-how. 

The integration burden is then placed on your IT department. Each integration presents unique challenges. Oftentimes, your development team can’t simply repeat what they’ve built for one connection and apply it to another. Integration coders will also need to account for compatibility and protocol standards.

Another source of friction with building custom API integrations is subject matter experts. You’ll need experts on the type of data, processes, and logic of each app you want to connect. They’ll also require institutional knowledge to ensure the process successfully achieves what’s needed. 

Additionally, your team will be responsible for the maintenance of all your SaaS integrations. For example, the next time your Salesforce CRM updates, some app connections may break. This can create bottlenecks for other teams while IT experts scramble to update your APIs. 

Can take a long time

SaaS sprawl is real. Each of your different teams will use services that align with their daily responsibilities. This helps them work more efficiently but leaves plenty of room for optimization with custom app integrations. 

In other words, the more SaaS applications you use, the more complex things get and the more potential siloing of business data. 

Your organization wants to future-proof and optimize operations. This means you need SaaS integrations to centralize and improve data visibility. Ergo, you won’t achieve your integration goals until every necessary connection is built and working as intended. 

Adopting digital transformation with SaaS integrations can take even longer with monolithic systems, and connecting SaaS to legacy systems requires subject matter expertise that’s often approaching extinction. 

It’s a limited approach

Most vendors build API functionality into their services. They control what other applications can access and what’s possible with integrations. Some apps may be hardwired to only work with other tools from the same vendor; others may only allow for simple batch transfers of data and no other capabilities. 

You can reduce the amount of time and technical expertise needed by using SaaS integration software. However, even these options may be limited. Although they’ll let your team connect SaaS tools with no-code/low-code interfaces, what happens when you need to add in your legacy systems?

You may find your legacy software doesn’t work properly with modern apps. It gets worse. Perhaps your integration service can’t connect your cloud-native tools to your legacy infrastructure. Unfortunately, you’re bound to your monolithic architecture and thus prevented from a complete digital transformation until you can resolve this.

Platforms like OpenLegacy Hub can streamline API integrations and free your team from the coding and technical knowledge required to build app connections. 

Instead, they can focus on centralizing data and creating optimized workflows. This means you get the best of both worlds—connecting SaaS services and your legacy systems.  

SaaS integration platforms: Approaching integration via iPaaS

iPaaS takes data from apps, data warehouses, databases, and other sources. All of this integrates into a centralized hub where anyone can pull it as needed. Platform providers can also facilitate API integrations to provide an intuitive ecosystem. This allows you to identify, analyze, compile, and glean insight from data across your entire organization.

Additionally, iPaaS can simplify the implementation work involved for your company. You pay a monthly or yearly subscription to gain access to pre-built connectors and integration templates. This means no coding is required, so your team can tap into better processes and efficiency right away. 

Hybrid integration: A better SaaS integration strategy

There’s an even easier way to embrace digital transformation without suffering the pains of integrating with legacy systems. The solution you’re looking for is known as hybrid integration. 

OpenLegacy Hub is a hybrid integration platform that lets you expose whatever legacy assets or data you need. The platform eliminates the security risk of data exposure and takes care of regulatory compliance.

With OpenLegacy, you reduce the complexity involved with connecting on-premises and cloud solutions. You can automate legacy system access and generate cloud-native services that help your team work smarter. You can reuse workflows and design with our no/low/full code platform, too, to save time and money.

With our tools, you can essentially modernize your entire business tech stack. Our hybrid services help you do this for both legacy and cloud-based applications. Want to reduce your mainframe footprint? Then you can also use OpenLegacy to migrate data and replace your monolithic architecture.

From a single source of truth, you can thus operate with the agility of continuous development, modernizing and altering assets as needed to keep up with various technology trends.

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