Thousands of organizations deploy countless applications and perform a variety of business processes every day to facilitate the rapid and smooth growth of their organizations. These business processes scale across all business units and initiate a flow of data. However, a majority of these business processes are still performed manually, making them very time-consuming and error-prone. Process Automation aims to address this very situation by automating, streamlining and transforming current business processes from different areas into more coherent and effective processes through software and application integration. For the implementation of such a project, an integration platform as a service is the best solution - because it is also scalable.
iPaaS: Interface between data and applications
Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is an intelligent platform consisting of cloud services for the automation of business processes and an excellent tool for various integration scenarios, such as data integration, system integration and hybrid integration. iPaaS enables seamless integration of thousands of business applications and the free flow of data across all channels - so data management also benefits. It is used by companies that want to automate applications and workflows in their cloud. iPaaS does this by creating an interface through which data and apps can be connected, enabling entire processes not only to be mapped but also modeled, data migrated, complex integrations created and a complex sequence of workflows automated. Rather than spending employee resources on mundane, time-consuming processes, cloud integration services enable these tasks to be efficiently integrated and automated to deliver better customer experiences and improve employee productivity.
What is the difference with SaaS & PaaS
The differences between iPaaS and SaaS (Software as a Service) and so-called On Premises or PaaS (Product as a Service) are as follows:
- SaaS: SaaS offerings are tools on end devices. Typically, companies have a variety of different SaaS offerings, usually based on the specific purpose. For example, Outlook 365 is used for email management or Citrix GoToMeeting enables remote presentations and collaboration - the product selection is immense. SaaS offerings could also be described as being used close to people and thus relatively at the beginning of business processes.
- PaaS: At the back of a business workflow, you'll find on-premises or PaaS offerings. This is exemplified by software development platforms that use their own environment and have less to do with the end user. The target group for on-premises is primarily system architects and developers.
Ready-to-use software components
Typically, iPaaS providers provide the server and data infrastructure, as well as middleware and other utilities and tools to build, test, deploy and manage software applications in the cloud. Most iPaaS offerings include maps and transformations to speed the development of integration workflows, as well as pre-built connectors and business rules to define interactions. Platform Services provide ready-to-use and extensible software components to deliver integration and workflow automation in a fast, scalable and maintainable manner.
Workflow automation and iPaaS go hand in hand
Workflow automation is an essential part of iPaaS cloud services. Point-to-point integrations are great for moving data directly from one application to another. However, in real-world scenarios, organizations want more control over when, how and under what conditions their applications share data. It's also common to have not just two, but multiple applications integrated into a unified workflow. Workflow automation makes it possible to orchestrate the flow of data between any number of apps and use logic and transformations to configure how the information flows.
The iPaaS platform usually offers services that are almost always used via a visual drag-and-drop workflow builder interface that gives users full control over the design of their workflows. This allows even non-technical staff to create automations without having to write a single line of code.
iPaaS offers what companies need
In recent years, various forms of process automation have increasingly helped to optimize and automate diverse business workflows and processes to achieve a transparent, efficient and productive organizational workflow. IPaaS has emerged as a solution that offers everything businesses need to achieve this.
- It offers the possibility to automate processes from almost all departments
- It establishes the desired communication within the applications
- It reduces human labor in providing the data
- It automatically provides clear insights into business data
- It brings all knowledge together under one roof
- It provides a clearer and more coherent view of business operations across the enterprise
Reduced process complexity
iPaaS is known for offering proven solutions that efficiently automate business processes for both cloud and on-premises applications. This means that by using an iPaaS, a business can automate much of its operations and focus more on developing strategies for growth. An iPaaS solution helps businesses scale by giving decision makers more time to bring innovation and better approaches into play. In addition, an iPaaS solution reduces process complexity, data errors and overhead costs by automating key business areas. This means that the integration platform fully understands each application and seamlessly connects them to initiate processes that otherwise would not have been possible.
High added value and competitive advantages guaranteed
Many companies are using iPaaS to gain a competitive edge over their rivals: Digitization enables them to offer better digital services to their customers and improve overall customer satisfaction and retention.
Hosted in the cloud
Companies don't have to buy hardware or software, they don't have to buy licenses to use all the features of the Platform service, and they don't have to pay for upgrades and new features because it's a cloud service and the provider is ultimately obligated to keep everything functional and up to date. All iPaaS customers and users have the right to use all the platform's features. Another big advantage is that the offering is constantly evolving. After all, the various providers cannot afford to fall behind in the rapidly growing market.
Integration capabilities are still scarce, so having an iPaaS provider that implements integration solutions on an integration platform is a big advantage. The solution can be developed and deployed much faster and companies only need to deploy one IT person to help with specifications and end-to-end testing.
The faster the solution is deployed, the faster enterprises can see the value iPaaS brings. Short development and deployment cycles are especially important when companies need to connect to a large ecosystem - the project should not take years to implement.
Because integration requirements can evolve quickly, the platform must be able to meet users' changing needs. Sometimes new connections need to be added to existing solutions. With iPaaS, this can be done quickly.
Data enrichment and validation
It is not enough for the information to be available to all parties, but the data must also be correct. To avoid manual processes in validating and enriching the data, iPaaS can automate them to reduce processing times.
Challenges that are no longer challenges with iPaaS
iPaaS solves many of the challenges when different business processes are present. From consolidating existing data to integrating new ones to effective data management under one roof.
Efficient and seamless data and application integration
The biggest challenge that iPaaS implementation solves is the complete and seamless integration of all existing applications, systems and data sources. Once these systems are integrated, all business processes are efficiently automated and a free flow of data is initiated by connecting the different applications.
All data under one roof
iPaaS solutions reduce the need to constantly enter information manually into each system because most of it is automated. Data, once entered, can be updated across all applications as needed. This means that human labor is greatly reduced, and automation ensures that virtually no mistakes are made when entering data into the system. In addition, there is no need to constantly search for information in different software programs, as iPaaS brings them all together in one place.
Lower cost of doing business
The cost of automating different business processes and integrating different environments and applications with iPaaS is comparatively very low. This means that iPaaS not only works seamlessly, but is also more cost-effective than other solutions. Moreover, iPaaS also reduces the cost of maintaining a certain number of employees to manage the platform by simply automating it.
High safety at all levels
When an iPaaS service is deployed, data is classified and encrypted using the most effective and secure protocols. Information within the integration platform and other systems can only be accessed by those who are authorized to do so. This security ensures that business-critical information does not fall into unwanted hands. Processes are streamlined and routed to exactly the right people. In addition, the level of security in iPaaS consists of various layers that ensure that nothing can leak out.
Presence of all information under a single platform
It's no secret that the amount of information that needs to be entered into multiple systems is now huge and difficult to manage without the use of a Process Automation solution. An iPaaS ensures that all information entered into these systems is automatically synchronized using templates. As a Process Automation solution, it communicates with and consolidates data and processes to display them coherently under a single-page dashboard.
For the highest level of customer satisfaction
iPaaS helps focus more on delivering a better customer experience by automating processes such as instant chat support, email responses, business notifications and ticketing. Many see iPaaS as a game changer in cloud computing and process automation.
Streamlined business processes
An iPaaS service provides the ability to streamline all existing business processes and bring coherence and clarity to operations. It consolidates and merges data and ensures efficient data accuracy when transferred within the organization.
The implementation of an iPaaS solution leads to a noticeable improvement in the relationship between man and machine. Automated integration makes processes smoother and more productive, with increased speed and efficiency. Efficient automation via iPaaS enables the full use of technologies to optimize business processes and improve productivity.
Fast and reliable scaling through cloud computing
IPaaS is able to easily integrate different applications and offers the chance to scale effectively. iPaaS solutions can quickly meet growing demands due to the power of cloud computing. Even when newer systems are introduced in a very short time, iPaaS can efficiently integrate the applications and automate the processes.
Improved decision making and rule implementation
Using a robust integration platform, business rules and processes can be easily automated, defined and implemented to sequence the uninterrupted flow of data. This brings significant benefits to data management. With Process Automation, a company can focus more on improving its workflows, and this opens up more opportunities for decision makers to sustainably improve the business model.
Better monitoring and fewer errors
An iPaaS solution provides better monitoring of all business processes within environments by bringing all data under one roof. Due to the accuracy that an iPaaS solution provides in handling data, the company also reduces the error rate in the processes. This approach to error-free and clear business processes provides better control and knowledge of workflows and reduces time and effort.
iPaaS vs. ESB
Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) is widely used for creating, deploying and managing integrations. The basic idea of ESB and iPaaS is the same. Both are designed to enable the connection of systems and applications and facilitate the exchange of information.
But with iPaaS, companies don't have to buy software or hardware because integration platforms are based on public or private clouds. Therefore, they don't have to pay for upgrades and maintenance. ESB was designed for on-premise integrations and supports legacy messaging standards. By comparison, an iPaaS service can provide a variety of integration solutions, whether the environment is on-premise or in the cloud, regardless of the data standards and formats the systems use. While ESB is a great tool for connecting internal systems and applications, iPaaS provides horizontal solutions for B2B integrations.
Scope and flexibility for different application scenarios
As end-to-end integration requirements increase, iPaaS is the answer for many of today's emerging use cases. The biggest advantage of iPaaS is the tremendous scope for flexibility and customization, which opens up a wide range of use cases for enterprises. Below, we've chronicled four interesting use cases.
Automatic API generation
APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are the "back-end pipes" that connect business applications. For example, they connect the CRM application to the accounting program, data storage, and other applications. They also connect the company's own applications with those of its partners, suppliers and customers. Coding an API by hand in the traditional way is a tedious and time-consuming process that sometimes takes a developer days and weeks and requires a lot of money.
Modern iPaaS services drastically simplify the API creation process. They offer an interface for no-code API creation along with a large library of pre-built connectors. This allows even non-technical users to create, configure and publish APIs - simply by dragging and dropping.
Cloud-to-cloud and hybrid cloud integration
For large enterprises with complex, legacy infrastructures looking to adopt new cloud strategies, iPaaS complements an existing enterprise service bus (ESB) technology for app connections and enables on-premises and firewall-protected platforms to connect more efficiently with cloud-based solutions. For simpler cloud-based infrastructures that don't have to deal with legacy messaging protocols or on-premise systems, iPaaS can serve as the backbone of the overall cloud-based architecture.
B2B data connections
Companies not only need to make connections between their own business applications, but also connect their systems to those of their partners, customers, suppliers and service providers. The faster they can make these connections, the faster they can onboard new partners, stay competitive, and grow their business.
Traditional B2B integration tools, such as Value Added Networks (VANs), are expensive and require time, labor and specialized expertise to set up. In addition, the growing risk of supply chain breaches makes security of third-party B2B data connections a priority.
As a horizontally flexible integration solution, iPaaS supports fluid, seamless, fast and secure integrations between the enterprise, the supply chain and the partner. This reduces the time, effort and cost of onboarding new partners. In many cases, the task is reduced to a point-and-click task that anyone can complete in minutes.
The complexity of building an IoT network presents significant challenges that surprise most integration managers due to the large amounts of data and the number of devices and APIs that an IoT network requires. With iPaaS technology, these challenges can be overcome.
For example, to improve maintenance intervals for trucks, IoT sensors are placed on each truck to provide real-time data on the condition of parts such as brakes, engines, transmissions, and so on. From an integration perspective, this IoT network requires the following:
- A network of IoT sensors connected to various truck parts.
- An API that receives and aggregates real-time performance data from IoT endpoints.
- A cloud-based IoT app platform integrated with the "IoT Sensor Data API".
- An API that integrates the 'cloud-based IoT app platform' with the existing on-premise ERP system.
Whether an enterprise is integrating with thousands of IoT endpoints in a fleet of trucks or millions of IoT devices, iPaaS provides the speed and horizontal scalability that an IoT network needs. In addition, iPaaS' automatic API generation capabilities help quickly create the various APIs for that network.
Three things are needed for the right solution
When selecting an iPaaS provider, three characteristics should be considered: configurable connectivity, extensibility, and a unified platform with features that cover a wide range of integration needs and use cases.
To generate immediate value, iPaaS must have configurable connectivity - such as a marketplace of pre-built connectors, templates and APIs - that enable assets to be shared and reused quickly and easily. Configurable connectivity enables enterprises to select "best-of-breed" cloud apps and easily add new capabilities to their ecosystem.
iPaaS should be robust, agile and able to expand as the business grows. The platform should be able to enable non-specialist integrators to use low-code, drag-and-drop UI to address a wide range of use cases, while providing specialists with a full-featured integrated development environment (IDE) to solve strategic integration problems. Low-code functionality is important to enable non-technical users to automate their own processes and tasks. However, because many "low-code" iPaaS vendors optimize their platforms for non-technical users to complete individual tasks, their platforms often lack a key feature that all central and specialist IT teams need: Extensibility. As enterprises scale, these solutions often evolve into tightly coupled applications - hindering agility.
Core integration - connecting applications to other applications - is at the heart of iPaaS. Often, enterprises adopt one or more approaches, from migrating existing on-premises applications and data to the cloud, to integrating SaaS applications with on-premises applications and data, to connecting cloud native applications across on-premises and cloud environments. With API management and iPaaS in a single, unified platform, enterprises can implement the above use cases, share and monitor access to critical systems via APIs, and reuse assets without the risk of losing existing investments.
In the meantime, there is a multitude of iPaaS software or services for every use - and the trend is increasing. The most important providers are therefore listed and described below:
Automate.io is a modern iPaaS platform for connecting cloud applications that allows users to create simple one-to-one business process integrations or complex workflows without coding using a drag and drop interface. With Automate.io, any application from the library can be connected to over 200 integrations, including Salesforce, Hubspot, MailChimp, Facebook Lead Ads, Google Apps, and more.
Celigo is the complete integration platform (iPaaS) that makes integration easy and simple, enabling organizations of all sizes to integrate systems, synchronize data, automate business processes and streamline operations by integrating their cloud applications. Celigo's integrator.io iPaaS platform enables both business and IT users to easily integrate any cloud application.
Make (Formerly Integromat)
Make is a free tool for connecting apps and automating workflows with a beautiful, visual builder without code. It allows you to connect to any API and create complex integrations using built-in apps and tools without the need for coding. Make is the perfect software especially for beginners, as the interface and design are easy to access and understand.
MuleSoft's Anypoint Platform™ is a leading software service for API-driven connectivity that creates an application network of apps, data and devices, both on-premises and in the cloud. This hybrid integration platform includes iPaaS, ESB and a unified solution for API management, design and publishing.
Workato, as the leading Enterprise Automation Platform, enables both business and IT teams to integrate their applications and automate business processes without compromising security and governance. It enables organizations to get real-time results from business events. No coding is required and the platform leverages machine learning and patented technology to make automation creation and deployment faster than traditional platforms.
Zapier allows anyone to integrate their apps and automate work without writing code. For growing businesses, Zapier offers a simple, powerful, and cost-effective automation solution.
With n8n's software, a wide variety of web applications can be connected and synchronized without programming knowledge - similar to Zapier, but so far without a SaaS approach and touted as a Node alternative to self-hosting.
Founded in 2019 by Jan Oberhauser, the startup is currently still flying somewhat under the radar, but was recently able to attract Sequoia Capital as an investor. This represents the first seed investment of the American financier in Germany and underlines the potential that n8n has.
With the increasing use of the cloud, iPaaS has become an integral tool. iPaaS and other cloud apps have enabled enterprises to take advantage of new use cases to create more agility and achieve one of the key pillars of digital transformation. And the iPaaS scene continues to evolve inexorably, with new exciting features hitting the market every day. Data and application integration will continue to be among the most important requirements for many modern B2B companies.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank our friends at Wemakefuture, who always help us with advice and support when it comes to IPaaS and cloud automation. If you're interested in these topics, feel free to check them out as well.