If your enterprise's marketing technology has spiraled into a multi-layered array of unique customer data storage systems—some in house and some in the cloud—in an attempt to keep up with your competition, you may have reached the point of diminishing returns when it comes to data accessibility, functionality, and security.
It may be that the more customer data storage systems you layer on, the less you are able to access and use that data in a robust way. A siloed data storage system typically also leaves you unable to identify what information you are missing to maintain a competitive edge with customers.
Enterprise architect and co-founder Yacine Abdous—a data integration expert—suggests that you consider pivoting to a state-of-the-art solution, iPaaS, which transforms your marketing technology siloes into an accessible and fully functional business application.
Below we look at these questions: What is iPaaS? What is it used for? What is the value of iPaaS? What are the top 5 integration platforms? And, how should you select an iPaaS partner?
WHAT IS IPAAS?
Key to remaining competitive is a system that unlocks the hidden power of your stored data—and that is where iPaaS comes in. It is a solution for data integration across a hybrid infrastructure in one or more organizations—facilitating data integration both within one organization or with multiple partners as needed.
Gartner defines iPaaS this way: "Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) is a suite of cloud services enabling development, execution and governance of integration flows connecting any combination of on premises and cloud-based processes, services, applications and data within individual or across multiple organizations."
What does this mean for your small or medium size business?
WHAT IS IPAAS USED FOR?
Regardless of your business size, your enterprise likely has a hybrid system of data collection and storage—a combination of systems in the cloud and in house—that works with data from a range of sources in diverse applications. These highly complex systems make data difficult to access, move around, and analyze across business functions, and they require increasingly complex security applications.
An iPaaS solution is used to build and manage your enterprise's data integrations without coding and without siloes, regardless of your business's existing—and future—data sources, applications, and even cloud services.
- It uncovers data that remain hidden or inaccessible in legacy and hybrid systems.
- It jettisons the siloing of data, regardless of sources or applications.
- It aids data collection, integration, migration, analysis, and security in a way that allows all the information contained in your data to emerge because of the way it streamlines data flows among applications.
This nugget from Martech's report, Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS): A Marketer's Guide, describes iPaaS as a hub for a range of use cases in marketing, including:
"aligning marketing and sales through automated delivery of qualified leads from the marketing automation platform to the CRM, or feeding CRM opportunities to marketing automation for closed-loop reporting. Many iPaaS solutions offer 'event triggers' that automatically send data to chosen apps after a particular action. For example, a website form fill can trigger distribution of the collected data to applications managing email marketing or paid media campaigns."
WHAT IS THE VALUE OF IPAAS?
How is your business's data siloing impeding your ability to engage with and delight customers?
What if you were able to connect your marketing and tech systems in mere hours, jumpstarting your marketing and sales?
An iPaaS solution provides the critical piece to transform the power of your data, enabling you to create a business with data-driven decision making, better products and services that lead to innovations, and more engaged and happier customers.
- Data applications across business functions or services: An iPaaS solution provides a way for customer data to be extracted from one business function or service and moved to another for more a comprehensive utilization of that data.
- Data accessibility: Accessing customer information across business functions becomes not only possible, but necessary for agile processes that lead to product or service solutions which delight customers.
- Scalability: An iPaaS solution opens up opportunities for more scalability in the area of data sharing, which increases competitive advantage.
- Security: Securing data is greatly facilitated in a business environment that relies on an iPaaS integration system.
- Data quality: An iPaaS solution elevates data quality by eliminating data duplication and increasing data accuracy. Cost and process efficiencies replace the need for mind-numbing tasks such as repetitive data entry and data de-duplication.
WHAT ARE THE TOP 5 IPAAS PLATFORMS?
The cloud and hybrid cloud are key drivers behind the need for iPaaS solutions, and as future applications which depend on the cloud are developed, this scenario will remain true. Emerging iPaaS solutions, therefore, focus on how to perform seamless data integration in house and/or in the cloud.
Martech's iPaaS Guide reports that "Integrating CRM with other Martech applications is one of the most important—and frequently used—features offered by the iPaaS vendors profiled in this report. Studies have shown that automating the 'speed-to-lead' hand off between marketing and sales can improve the lead qualification process by up to 20x."
The top five iPaaS vendors
Of the top five iPaaS vendors, two—Adobe and Salesforce AppExchange—offer cloud-based solutions. They are joined by Neolink, a vendor having emerged since the arrival of the cloud.
Three of the top five iPaaS vendors are enterprises which, logically, have been developing new integration service platforms based on existing, on-premise tools modified to work with cloud applications:
- Microsoft Azure
- SAP Cloud Platform Integration
- Oracle Integration Cloud
Key differences, including advanced features
The Martech Guide shows these key differences among iPaaS vendors:
1) The number of apps supported;
2) Connectivity, especially with a plug-and-play approach;
3) Data storage;
4) Self-serve platform management—no coding experience required;
5) Centralized dashboard and integration reporting;
6) CRM marketplace availability; and
7) Annual contract required—or replaced with monthly billing that reflects your number of users, data records and applications integrated.
Note, too, that when it comes to data storage, strong rules must be in place. Some iPaaS vendors rely on encryption, while for others, HTTPS and encoded database are preferable. Effective May 2018, iPaaS vendors with European customers also will have to comply with the European Union's new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations).
With the range of features that vendors offer, selecting the right vendor is your key to an iPaaS system that is right for your business.
HOW DO YOU SELECT AN IPAAS PARTNER?
Keeping in mind that iPaaS offers a way for you to integrate data from siloed databases or unique applications using a single user interface, what you look for in a partner is a solid match with your current specific data storage systems and with the marketing and PR capabilities your business requires to maintain a competitive edge.
In other words, you need a partner whose system and functionality directly correlate to your business objectives.
iPaaS solutions can have a single use case application or be applicable more broadly; they can be stand-alone services or embedded in larger cloud applications. Some are out-of-the-box, as-is solutions and some are customizable.
Consider these key data integration and application concerns prior to partner selection in order to manage a seamless integration of your marketing and tech functions, now and into the foreseeable future:
- Cloud vs. in-house platform: Partner selection starts here. Identify which platform type best fits your existing data integration needs—recognizing that the strongest partners will be the ones who also can support evolving martech needs into the future.
- Customization capability: Particularly if your existing marketing automation platform (MAP) has been customized, your iPaaS partner also will need to be customizable for a seamless integration.
- Applicability and alignment across use cases: Your partner's data integration solution should be applicable and align with most of your use cases—or at least be flexible enough to be customized to accomplish that level of integration.
- Integration and performance: Can your new partner perform all the data-related functions you require or just some of them?
- Customer support: Keep an eye out for the vendor's level of customer support.
- Perform a crossmatch: Look at the list of approaches and features outlined above. Inventory your existing data applications, APIs, and marketing tools. Crossmatch a vendor's focus and features with your business's existing and future data requirements. Taking the time to perform this crossmatch will eliminate vendors unlikely to offer your optimal iPaaS solution.
- Request demos from your top contenders—and prepare a list of questions in advance that cover your requirements.
- Check references, then negotiate.
THE REAL SOLUTION
It may be time to rethink what has been working—even working well—for your business. As the Harvard Business Review says, "If your current business is like a carefully tended garden, with neat beds and high walls, that's not enough. The next opportunity (or threat) may lie outside those walls, at the messy intersection of sectors and markets."
The real solution, then, is recognizing that the messy intersection of sectors and markets demands that your data work for you in any business environment—and that your data management system will offer you the competitive edge regardless of evolving marketing, PR, and IT needs.
Cruz Street Digital's VP of Technology, Yacine Abdous, and the rest of our team stand ready to put decades of expertise at your service. Please let us know how we can help you keep your edge.