What is SaaS Integration and why is it important?

According to Gartner, worldwide IT spending is projected to total $4.7 trillion in 2023, an increase of 4.3% from 2022 and with a large proportion of that spending attributed to enterprise software. Nowadays, every company employs a variety of SaaS technologies, replacing traditional back-end systems. For example, Sales teams utilize customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, Finance teams rely on enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, Human Resource teams make use of human resources information systems (HRIS), and so on. Notable technologies in this landscape include Salesforce, Netsuite, SAP, Workday, Zendesk, and more.

The rapid emergence of Software as a Service (SaaS) occurred in the 2000s, revolutionizing business practices within a decade. Unlike traditional software, which involved purchasing licenses with service contracts and maintaining a static state, SaaS brought about dynamic changes. Upgrades, requiring payment and manual installation, were necessary to access new features, paving the way for the more fluid and automated nature of SaaS applications managed through a subscription.

That boom naturally presented another challenge in the form of data integration and the integration of these various SaaS platforms.

What is SaaS integration?

Put simply, SaaS integration facilitates the automatic transfer of information from one application to another.

SaaS integrations have emerged as a solution to address the challenge of data silos. In simple terms, a SaaS integration establishes a connection between a SaaS-based application and either another cloud-based application or on-premise software through an application programming interface or API integration. Upon successful integration, both applications can effortlessly request and share data with each other. Without integration, the tedious and error-prone task of manually inputting data from one application to another is unavoidable.

What’s an example of SaaS Integration?

An example of SaaS integration is the connection between a customer relationship management (CRM) system, such as Salesforce, and an email marketing tool like Mailchimp.

In this scenario, the CRM system holds valuable customer data, while the email marketing tool is used to send targeted marketing campaigns. Without integration, businesses might need to manually export customer data from the CRM and import it into the email marketing tool, leading to inefficiency and a higher risk of errors.

With SaaS integration, these two applications can be connected seamlessly. For instance, when a new lead is added to the CRM, the integration can automatically update the email marketing tool with this information. Conversely, if a customer unsubscribes from an email campaign in the marketing tool, the CRM can be updated to reflect this change.

The Role of a CDP in SaaS Integration

A Customer Data Platform (CDP) is a type of software that collects, organizes, and activates customer data from various sources. It creates a unified customer database that can be accessed by other systems, making it a valuable tool in SaaS integration.

The primary objective of a Customer Data Platform is twofold: firstly, to construct a consolidated view of customers, and secondly, to leverage these profiles for enhancing the quality of customer interactions across diverse touchpoints. Embracing a "build once, use everywhere" approach, organizations can employ a CDP to ensure personalized, consistent, and valuable customer interactions across all engagement channels.

To realize this goal, a CDP undertakes several key functions:

  • Data Ingestion:
    • CDPs establish integrations with various first-party data sources encompassing marketing, sales, support, and the product itself, to compile comprehensive customer information in relation to the organization.
  • Profile Construction:
    • Customer Data Platforms create unified customer profiles, often referred to as "Customer 360," combining static traits and aggregate behavioral information to present a holistic view of each customer.
  • Optimizing Profile Utility:
    • Once the customer profiles are formed, they are actively employed by internal applications, as well as sales, marketing and support vendors. These applications leverage the data to personalize communications or contextualize interactions, ensuring a more tailored and relevant engagement for all involved parties.

When it comes to making use of customer data from a data activation standpoint, CDPs offer a broader range of capabilities and much more functionality when compared with Master Data Management (MDM) or Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) solutions.

iPaaS solutions facilitate the direct transfer of data between applications with minimal data transformation. Typically featuring a visual interface for integration creation, iPaaS leverages API endpoints exposed by SaaS vendors to either push or pull data.

Generally speaking, iPaaS solutions execute predefined actions upon being triggered. Put simply, when a specified event happens in one system, the associated information is sent to another application through an API or Webhook, prompting one or more predetermined actions.

In principle, all iPaaS solutions share a common functionality—they transport data between point A and point B. However, these point-to-point connections, often resembling extensive workflows, pose maintenance challenges in their own right.

A CDP Data activation is the execution of business activities which are informed and fueled by data, with the view to improving business outcomes. Often thought of solely through marketing use cases, it’s best defined more broadly because every business unit, from sales to customer support, is ultimately working to improve business outcomes and can make use of CDP data activation.

App Integration vs. API Integration vs. SaaS Integration

In the modern landscape of software solutions, the terms SaaS integration, integration, app integration, and API integration are often used interchangeably, reflecting the pervasive influence of Software as a Service (SaaS) on the way businesses operate. However, it's essential to understand the nuanced differences between these concepts.

1. SaaS Integration: SaaS integration refers to the process of seamlessly connecting different SaaS applications or services to streamline data flow and functionality across an organization. This integration facilitates the sharing of information, workflows, and processes between various cloud-based software tools. In essence, when we talk about SaaS integration, we are primarily focusing on integrating cloud-based software services.

2. Integration: Integration, in a broader sense, encompasses the broader spectrum of connecting and combining various software systems, including both on-premises and cloud-based solutions. While it may include SaaS integration, it also covers the integration of different types of software applications, databases, and technologies, regardless of whether they are cloud-based or not. Integration, in this context, is a generic term that encompasses all types of system connections.

3. App Integration: App integration is a term often used informally to refer to the process of connecting or linking different applications or software tools, whether they are SaaS, on-premises, or a mix of both. It emphasizes the collaboration of various applications within an organization to create a cohesive and efficient software ecosystem. App integration can include SaaS applications, legacy software, and any other software components used within an organization.

4. API Integration: API integration is a specific method of connecting software applications and systems through the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). An API is a set of rules and protocols that define how one software application can interact with another. API integration involves leveraging these interfaces to enable data exchange, communication, and functionality sharing between different systems. RESTful APIs, which use HTTP requests, are commonly used for this purpose.

Traditionally, API integrations required skilled developers to write code that establishes communication between applications. However, in recent years, Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) platforms have emerged, simplifying API integrations. These platforms provide a user-friendly, visual interface that allows non-technical users to configure integrations without the need for in-depth API knowledge.

In summary, while SaaS integration, app integration, and API integration are closely related terms, they have distinct nuances. SaaS integration specifically deals with connecting cloud-based software services, while app integration encompasses a broader range of software applications. API integration is a method used to achieve integration by leveraging APIs, with iPaaS platforms making it more accessible to non-technical users. Understanding these distinctions can help organizations make informed decisions when planning and implementing integration solutions to optimize their business processes.

SaaS Integration Benefits

1. Time Savings:
Efficiency is a critical aspect of modern business operations. SaaS integration plays a pivotal role in saving valuable time. Instead of investing human resources in manual data transfer, integration automates the process. Once set up, it operates seamlessly, eliminating the need for manual data entry. This not only frees up your workforce for more strategic tasks but also accelerates the pace of operations.

2. Reduced Human Error:
Mistakes resulting from manual data entry can be both financially burdensome and damaging to your business's reputation. Correcting errors requires resources, and the repercussions of inaccuracies can lead to delays and unsatisfied customers. SaaS integration minimizes the risk of human error by establishing a direct, automated flow of information between applications. This eradicates the middle-person, ensuring that data is transferred accurately and reliably.

3. Enhanced Team Visibility:
In today's data-driven business landscape, access to timely and accurate information is paramount. SaaS integration empowers your teams by ensuring that the right data is available in the right place at the right time. Information can be automatically synchronized and updated within your chosen tools, granting your teams the visibility they need to make informed decisions and perform their duties effectively. For example, in the context of a Customer Data Platform, one example of a use case might be a marketing team's ability to access real-time customer data, enabling them to create personalized campaigns and strategies.

4. Improved Customer Service:
Exceptional customer service is a competitive advantage in any industry. SaaS integration enables your business to meet the high expectations of today's customers. Whether it's sending instant confirmation emails for hotel reservations or processing refunds swiftly, integrated systems ensure that essential processes are executed without delay or error. This, in turn, leads to heightened customer satisfaction and loyalty.

5. Scalable Processes:
As your business grows, manual processes can become unwieldy and prone to errors. However, with SaaS integration in place, your applications seamlessly exchange information, bypassing the need for human intervention and eliminating the possibility of copy errors. For businesses aiming to scale efficiently, integration is an indispensable component of their automation strategy. Large enterprises, in particular, benefit significantly from integration as they often rely on a multitude of business applications across various departments. It ensures that operations remain streamlined and accurate even in the face of expansion, supporting the agility and growth of your organization.

Get the Data Maturity Guide

Our comprehensive, 80-page Data Maturity Guide will help you build on your existing tools and take the next step on your journey.

Build a data pipeline in less than 5 minutes

Create an account

See RudderStack in action

Get a personalized demo

Collaborate with our community of data engineers

Join Slack Community