You're probably familiar with SaaS, or Software as a Service. SaaS tools like Slack, HubSpot and Mailchimp are accessible over the internet, don't require a physical or custom installation, and are instantly updated when a new version is released. They've become the norm for digital businesses.
With so many SaaS apps on the market, it's never been easier to pick and choose the best specialized apps for specific functions. And most businesses use a lot of them.
According to Blissfully's 2019 Annual SaaS Trends Report, an average small business with fewer than 50 employees uses up to 40 apps. This can go up to 79 apps for businesses with 51-100 employees.
That's a lot of apps - and a lot of data within them. Although every app brings benefits to your stack, it's easy to run into problems with apps that don't play nicely together:
- Data silos arise
- You struggle with duplicate contacts
- Confidence in data accuracy plummets
- Departments become disjointed, often leading to misunderstandings
- You lose faith in your reporting and wonder, how did this mess happen?
As a business today – especially one using many SaaS products – you must have a software integration plan, no matter the size of your company.
iPaaS offers the best solution.
When you sync your tools with an iPaaS solution, you can get away with using multiple systems.
You can pick and choose your favorite apps and know they can work together, because data will flow between them to create an enriched and accurate view everywhere.
But what really is iPaaS, how can you use it, and how can it benefit your business? Here's everything you need to know and how to get started.
- What is iPaaS?
- Benefits of iPaaS
- Looking closer at two-way iPaaS integration
- iPaaS best practices
- iPaaS trends for 2020
- Get started with iPaaS
What is iPaaS?
iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) is a cloud-based solution that connects your SaaS apps. It's a third-party tool that acts as a bridge between multiple systems, allowing for integration and data sharing.
With one subscription, you can keep your apps integrated and your data enriched and updated across multiple tools or centralized in one place.
Most iPaaS offer a one-way integration that pushes data from app A to app B based on triggers. Zapier and Automate.io are good examples of this: their trigger-action workflows can be used in a huge array of use cases, based on if-this-then-that scenarios with a wide range of data formats.
For a real-time data sync between your databases, you can use PieSync's two-way integration. This means that whenever contact data changes in app A or B, it's instantly reflected in the other app. A two-way sync is best for contact and company data, as this kind of data is often changing and requires consistency.
iPaaS vs. native integrations
Native integrations are offered as an in-app option by SaaS vendors. Some SaaS apps offer native integrations for all pricing plans, while others gate them behind higher-priced packages.
Native integrations often serve the most common use cases, so they will likely cover the typical workflows users expect to have between apps - however, these tend to be one-way syncs and are limited in scope for customization.
Another advantage of using iPaaS instead of native integrations is that they connect to a huge number of apps. You can sync your apps in one place, rather than one by one with disconnected native integrations.
|Type of integration||Vendors||Function||When to use|
|One-way iPaaS||Zapier, Automate.io||Trigger-action||One-way if-this-then-that scenarios, like a Slack notification when you get a new customer|
|Two-way iPaaS||PieSync||Customer data sync||Keeping contact, company, customer and lead databases in sync between apps in real time|
|Native integrations||Offered by individual SaaS apps||Usually trigger-action||Enabling two apps to work together in specific ways, such as creating Zoom meetings in a Zendesk conversation|
|Enterprise iPaaS||Mulesoft, Dell Boomi||API management solution||For highly customizable end-to-end workflows that process data across multiple applications on a single platform|
One thing to remember is that it's not necessarily about choosing the best integration provider, but the right integration solution for each use case.
Many businesses get the best results from using different types of iPaaS and integrations layered upon each other.
For example, you could use PieSync to keep your contact databases in sync between all your apps, while Zapier alerts your sales reps when a sales qualified lead enters the CRM. Meanwhile, a native integration could enable you to embed Shopify products in your email newsletters.
Rather than looking for a one-size-fits-all integration, start by identifying exactly how each app needs to interact with others and find the best integration for each goal.
Benefits of iPaaS
Since organizations use so many different applications to run their business, syncing your apps can be a gamechanger, especially if you're struggling with data silos, unreliable data or manual updates on multiple platforms.
Here are just some of the many benefits of iPaaS that can benefit every type of organization, from one-person small businesses to huge corporations.
1. Managing all syncs in one place
iPaaS keeps everything centralized. You can rely on a single platform for each type of integration, such as Automate.io for trigger-action automations and PieSync to keep your contact databases in sync.
This keeps it simple to set up new syncs, and you can see all live integrations at a glance. That means no more losing track of unique standalone integrations, overlapping native integrations and unruly API connections.
2. Less tool-switching
With an integration platform in place, you don't need so many tabs open – you can do more work in your central tool and quickly find the data you need. iPaaS can also eliminate the need for manually updating several apps – after updating one tool, this change can be automatically reflected in others.
3. Improved communication
With an iPaaS tool keeping everything in sync, you know what needs to be discussed across departments. By looking at the same information – such as tasks, projects and contact data – your whole team can chip in with new perspectives and notice problems that could otherwise be overlooked.
4. More power from every app
Best-in-breed apps are even more powerful when they're integrated with the rest of your stack.
Trigger-action automations enable an enormous range of highly customizable ways for your stack to work together, such as sending data from your productivity software to a Google Sheet to power your team reports.
And with two-way integrations for contact syncing, you can enrich the data in every app for the best results everywhere – from your email segmentation to your sales automation and company reporting.
5. Better customer experience
Nearly 80% of customers expect consistency when interacting with multiple departments of the same company. For this to happen, all departments need access to the same information and view of the company.
With an iPaaS solution in place, you know that when a customer calls, anyone who picks up the phone will be able to see the full picture and provide the best service.
By syncing relevant tools to your CRM – including your support software, ticketing tool and phone apps – you create a centralized data trail for every customer. You can also use data from all customer touchpoints to create more personalized workflows and get better results from automation.
6. No more silos
Eliminating data silos helps break down barriers between departments. Instead of battling with data being difficult to access and scattered between tools, everyone in your company can find key insights and numbers. iPaaS makes for a more transparent organization.
7. A comprehensive bird’s-eye view of performance
While you need an overview of your customer data, your management team needs a crystal-clear view of business performance. iPaaS enables your business leaders to know exactly where the important data is – and they can be more confident in its accuracy, too.
After integrating your apps and data, it's much simpler to set up an all-in-one reporting dashboard for management to keep an eye on key insights and trends.
8. Centralized contact data
By syncing your CRM with other apps that store contact data, you can easily find the right information about your contacts, no matter which app you're looking at. No more looking at five versions of the same contact record wondering which is the right one.
The sooner you set up iPaaS, the better. As your organization grows, you don't need to worry about which expensive custom integrations you should build to deal with the added complexity.
If your iPaaS tool offers connections between all the tools you're using, your business is sorted for life. When you start using a new tool or migrate apps, you can also easily sync data to the correct new places, so you won’t have to worry about manual updates.
By centralizing your integrations with iPaaS, you can manage your apps and data from a bird's eye perspective and reduce the scope for errors and data mismanagement. This can boost your company's security and compliance.
Looking closer at two-way iPaaS integration
Rather than setting up individual one-way integrations, PieSync acts as the traffic warden directing contact data two ways to the right locations.
For example, this can mean syncing contacts in your CRM two ways with your email marketing app, or only syncing contacts with the label 'Customer' with your customer support software.
To determine exactly how your data behaves and interacts between apps, you can set "if-this-then-that" rules to customize the sync.
Below is an example sync between Outlook and HubSpot CRM. If contacts are in the category 'Customers' in Outlook, then they're synced to HubSpot and added to a specific static list.
This sync keeps an up-to-date data view in Outlook and HubSpot, so you know you're always looking at the latest version of your contact data.
By syncing between specific categories and lists, everything's kept organized and you know where new HubSpot contacts have come from.
iPaaS best practices
Getting the best results from iPaaS doesn't just happen. That said, it's much simpler to integrate your business than you might think, especially if you choose a zero-code iPaaS solution.
Read on for some iPaaS practices to help you get the best results from integrating your apps, both now and longer term.
Evaluate your app stack as a whole
When you set up your iPaaS solution, take the opportunity to look at your overall marketing, sales and support app stack.
While most teams use many apps to power their work – and that's OK – you can still benefit from simplifying your tools where possible.
Maybe your CRM has introduced a new feature that you can try instead of getting a separate tool, or you don't really need a fancy analytics app anymore.
A simple and connected stack can be the most powerful option for your business.
Choose the best iPaaS for you
To get started with an integration platform, you first need to find the best iPaaS for your business.
However, iPaaS doesn't need to be technical. PieSync is designed to be a user-friendly iPaaS solution to connect contact data between your apps, with zero coding skills required. It fits even the smallest businesses.
Remember what we shared at the start of this post: it's about finding the right iPaaS for the kinds of integration you need.
You can use different iPaaS together to hit different business needs. Apps like Zapier and PieSync layer beautifully to accomplish different integration and automation goals.
Set aside time for setup
For your iPaaS solution to be a success, you need to make sure it's set up correctly. Take some time to map out the apps you're using and where your data should flow.
Next, set up your integrations. Check that everything syncs to the right places from the start, using custom field mapping to align matching properties between each app.
To integrate contact data, you can sync any labels and properties so you know which app a contact comes from, their original source and any other important information needed across departments.
Don't forget about maintenance
Every so often, set aside an hour or two to check up on your integrations. Check that all your syncs are running correctly, ensure your data is labeled and organized neatly in all apps and ask yourself if there are any new tools to connect.
With quick and regular checks, you can be sure you're getting the most from iPaaS.
iPaaS trends for 2020
As more businesses recognize the need to integrate their app stacks and optimize their organization's data flow, we predict a few iPaaS trends for 2020 and beyond:
- Increasing popularity of iPaaS and greater adoption of integration platforms.
- Simple and connected SaaS stacks that are constantly optimized and upgraded.
- Companies paying more attention to data flow through their organization to integrate data from sales, marketing and support.
- More organizations launching projects to get their data under control and eliminate silos.
As organizations continue to use more SaaS apps for marketing, sales and support, iPaaS has become a must-have instead of a nice-to-have. It's the easiest way to keep your business connected and silo-free. How will you use iPaaS to enable your apps to be stronger together?