As a business, it’s fairly likely that you have a plethora of apps and software that you use on a day-to-day basis. But what happens when you need to integrate those apps, such as when you want to create a streamlined user experience for your customers? This is where iPaaS comes in, and this article will explain what it is, and where and when you might need it.

What is iPaaS?

Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) solutions provide tools that help to create and maintain integrations between apps, giving users a prepared set of tools and elements to construct “bridges” between different systems. This also allows API definitions to be updated in bulk, saving support time and taking it away from necessarily being a developer-only task. iPaaS is therefore a way to integrate disparate software solutions in your business.

Bringing order to chaos

Apps are everywhere, and everyone has them: from consumers on their handsets to businesses who rely on third party apps and programs for their everyday operations, both internally and externally. There are both positives and negatives to this. Apps bring convenience, better ways of doing things, and save time and money. But there are also drawbacks: because we have a tendency to use them like fast food restaurants – mixing and matching a little from many, rather than just using one.

This can lead to a business using different software services to look after just one aspect of its operations, such as accounting. The more the number of apps, the greater the potential for chaos.

Businesses not only rely on different kinds of software from many different providers, but they also store their own data in different locations, such as the cloud and their own data centres. This then makes it difficult to integrate their third party apps with their cloud-based data and their on-site data, leading to slow processes, confusion, data loss and unhappy customers.

Bringing platforms and apps together in the same ecosystem, by combining several pieces of software, smooths the way for both customers and businesses alike. This is where iPaaS has a role to play.

Constructing connections

iPaaS integrates all the programmes and apps an organisation uses into a single ecosystem, by providing them with the ready-made tools and elements to create and manage integrations, constructing bridges (or connections) between systems.

The bridges are made via an API, which is the ‘connection point’ provided by a software vendor that enables an application to connect with other applications. Connecting two APIs together so that they can communicate is the essential building block of an integration. This standardises the flow of information between apps and manages the data.

iPaaS simplifies the integration of data, applications, security, and business compliance, something that’s incredibly useful in today’s increasingly cloud-based environments.

Why use iPaaS?

Integrations did exist before iPaaS, but the only way to link two systems together was by coding a bridge directly between them. These tended to be written from scratch making them a developer-intensive process. Each bridge also had to be individually maintained, and if a change was made to one of the APIs, developer support was needed to make appropriate adjustments to the integration itself.

Instead, iPaaS solutions create a consistent, easy-to-use wrapper around APIs, translating them into a common language. This allows integrations to be created and data to be requested, manipulated and transferred without having to write custom code every time.

Some example integrations include ecommerce websites and point of sales; ERP and financial accounting systems; and CRM and marketing cloud platforms.

Building better business intelligence

The best iPaaS solutions include easy graphic tools so that you can visualise and work with an overall business intelligence picture. It also allows API definitions to be updated in bulk, which saves support time and takes it away from necessarily being a developer-only task. The iPaaS solution is the link between systems and so it is also the ideal location to run automations and logic, providing greater functionality beyond simple updates from one platform to another.

iPaaS has a number of business benefits too, which include removing the need for developing your own software by integrating existing software; enabling a business to scale by bringing together data from different environments; offering greater convenience, improving security and the ability to spot threats more easily, and implementing holistic security measures thanks to a centralised system.

iPaaS vs. embedded iPaaS

iPaaS solutions are designed for an end-user to directly resolve their own problems. In contrast, an embedded iPaaS solution allows SaaS vendors to create, manage and deploy integrations to their clients directly from within their own platform. The SaaS vendor can resolve integrations on behalf of their users seamlessly from within their own SaaS product.

Embedded iPaaS solutions combine the power of a full iPaaS system with the flexibility of a white labelled solution, allowing SaaS vendors to rapidly expand their integration offerings without adding to their developer backlog. They can resolve key integration problems including API versioning and updating, individual integration maintenance, and handling and maintaining multiple API and authentication types. If there’s no API in place, an embedded iPaaS solution enables the direct connection with databases, or other third-party data sources, in order to manage user data.

Embedded iPaaS providers will furnish companies with a toolkit that enables them to focus primarily on the customer solution, while the heavy lifting from a coding and infrastructure perspective is done by the embedded SaaS provider. The appropriate and intelligent use of embedded SaaS solutions can accelerate time to market and deliver rapid feature enhancement.

Who uses iPaaS?

iPaaS is, in the main, used by three different types of users.2For SaaS applications, embedded iPaaS solutions are the interface that enables the creation of integrations and automation workflows, which can be self-served by their users within their application. This technology allows for a wider range of team members to create integrations, leaving developers free to focus on product development.

System integrators are teams who specialise in creating integrations and automations between systems for their clients’ companies. As businesses increasingly adopt a wider range of SaaS applications to run their operations on, an iPaaS solution allows them to create integrations with new systems without having to learn their architecture inside out.

Finally, enterprise companies will likely run their businesses on a vast array of systems. iPaaS services allow them to control the data flow into their main systems, so they can monitor the business from a top-down level, and enabling employees to use the systems they find most effective to do their jobs.

The rise of SaaS platforms, the proliferation of APIs and the inevitable desire for consolidation has meant that the need for integrations has rapidly developed into a general expectation. An embedded iPaaS platform allows you to focus on the solution to your customers’ needs, rather than having to build, manage and maintain the component building blocks of the solution.