By: Todd Owens, CEO of Azuqua
Best of Breed v. The Suite
For over a decade we’ve been debating the merits of best of breed vs. the suite. I must admit that I spent much of this time in the corner of the suite. Simply put, I believed that the size and cash coffers of SAP, Oracle, and IBM would crush the small fry – the little venture-funded engines that thought they could. Boy was I wrong. Today there are nearly 7,000 cloud applications in MarTech alone, while HR Tech and FinTech account for thousands more. Best of breed is winning. Score one for the entrepreneurs out there — their speed and their focus on driving value to the end user has been exceptional.
The Future of Work and its Unintended Consequences
As organizations adopt these best of breed solutions, they face a new challenge, one which the suite providers will continue to shine a spotlight on. Digital silos. Lack of process integration. An incomplete view of the customer. All of this leads to a loss of productivity for employees, data quality issues and disjointed end-user experiences.
With the average large enterprise being home to over 1000 discrete cloud applications, it should be no surprise that many mission-critical systems are not integrated. IT is simply not resourced to integrate the volume and variety of SaaS applications adopted by their business counterparts. And SaaS application providers can’t possibly build native integrations to the constantly evolving ecosystem with which they go to market.
As a case in point, let’s consider a single business function, demand generation. Businesses are now relying upon half a dozen apps or more to power their demand gen program. This can include any combination of the following tools: 1) Live chat tools including Drift and Intercom 2) Marketing Automation tools including Marketo and Eloqua 3) CRM tools including Salesforce and Hubspot 4) ABM tools including Engagio and Demandbase 5) Sales Productivity tools including Salesloft and Outreach 6) Collaboration tools including Google Sheets and Smartsheet and…surprise…few of these tools work well together!
For Every Action There is an Equal and Opposite Reaction… or Maybe a Few
To combat these digital silos, the industry has responded in a haphazard way. Some SaaS providers have built relatively simple point-to-point connectors and marketed them on partner marketplaces. Opportunistic startup companies have sprouted up with the sole purpose of doing the same. Systems Integrators are standing by at $400 an hour to solve the problem. And some of the more customer-centric SaaS vendors will stop short of nothing — including prioritizing valuable developer resources — to build and maintain custom integrations. In fact, I was actually spending almost $1M/year in development resources at a previous company of mine doing this exact thing…and it felt like we were barely making a dent in our integration backlog with this investment!
Most best of breed SaaS applications, recognizing that they must play well in the sandbox, have built APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Not just ordinary API’s. RESTful APIs! These are meant to allow other SaaS applications to take the initiative and integrate to their application. These are frequently referred to as “Native” integrations, built by one SaaS application to the other applications that matter most to end users. This is a good start, but APIs are the language of developers, not the app’s end users, and therefore very few integration use cases have been solved this way.
Then there is the rare end user, with enough clout to win the time and focus of their IT team. They write code – yes code – to integrate their SaaS applications to exacting standards.
I have to ask, was this the promise of the cloud? Where has all of this left us? I’d say we are left with more confusion, limited functionality, questionable security, and more complexity than ever before.
SaaS Vendors Have a Market Opportunity
Every problem is an opportunity in disguise. Instead of relying upon 3rd party connectors, or referring prospects and clients back to their own IT team, the most successful SaaS providers are taking ownership of business processes that extend beyond their own application boundaries. By playing a lead role in defining best practices and business processes across their ecosystem of partners, and taking responsibility for the technical integration required to automate that process, they are setting themselves apart and establishing their role as a strategic platform.
The return on investment for SaaS vendors is incredible. The breadth and depth of integration capability is a competitive differentiator and will win more deals. Integration can command a premium, allowing it to be monetized directly. And we all know that integration creates stickiness, reducing churn. It’s a grand slam for unit economics.
The SaaS economy has ushered in a new battlefield. Vendors can no longer avoid integration or defer the problem to others. Customers expect a seamless, automated, intelligent business process. Workfront is a great example of a market leading SaaS company that has put integration front and center in their strategy. Workfront Fusion, their integration and automation offering, promises to bridge the gap between technologies and the enterprise.
“Adding to your tech stack shouldn’t slow you down. With Workfront Fusion, you can connect the Workfront platform to your other business-critical applications.“ —- Workfront
Extending the Value of your SaaS Application
The time is now for SaaS vendors to put integration at the forefront of their business strategy. They need to be equipped with a tool to handle the ever-growing SaaS ecosystem. Simply hiring more developers is increasingly expensive and unscalable. Packaged solutions that offer point-to-point integrations are not flexible enough to fulfill all (or even most) unique customer needs, resulting in a library of solutions that increases architectural complexity.
A tool like Azuqua is the glue that binds your app to your ecosystem of partners. Instead of adding additional developer headcount or sacrificing customer needs for simplicity, Azuqua allows you to build powerful solutions that are malleable and flexible enough to change based on your customer’s business requirements, the applications used, and their ever-evolving business processes. With new demands on SaaS vendors, “Your application must connect to X, Y, and Z for this to really work”, wouldn’t it be nice to go to market with your application and say “Yes” and deliver the connected solution your customer needs? With Azuqua you can sell more, sell faster, and make your customers happier.