Forrester Predicts 'Minimal' Success for SaaS Integration


Keeping up with SaaS news is like trying to keep a litter of puppies in a box: Another piece is constantly popping up. Yet despite the flood of SaaS coverage, very few articles mention the integration challenges of SaaS.


That's too bad, because, as IT Business Edge has repeatedly pointed out, integration should be a core criteria when you're evaluating SaaS vendors.


One reason it's such an issue is that SaaS vendors seldom include integration as part of their sales package. According to this Supply & Demand Chain Executive article by a senior VP at appliance and SaaS integration vendor Cast Iron, 62 percent of IT executives say integration with non-SaaS applications is their number-one challenge when trying to roll out SaaS solutions.


SaaS integration solutions seem like an obvious choice to help companies integrate with all those cloud applications. You would think SaaS integration solutions would inevitably thrive on the rising popularity of SaaS.


But that's unlikely to be the case, according to Forrester, which recently issued a series of predictions about which enterprise technologies would hit the cloud big time, and integration wasn't one of them.


Collaboration, Web conferencing, CRM and online backup were among the "no-duh" winner predictions. The more surprising candidates for success were Human Capital Management/Human Resources solutions and IT Service Management (ITSM).


But when it comes to integration and business intelligence, Forrester predicts only "minimal success:"


"As SaaS solutions flourish in the enterprise, SaaS-specific integration solutions will naturally rise, too. However, firms should not expect any magic integration solutions, SaaS or otherwise."


Bummer, huh? Of course, this is bad news for the many vendors who've launched an SaaS integration solution, including Cast Iron, Informatica and SnapLogic.


It's also bad news for end-user companies. After all, SaaS integration is no picnic.Some have even predicted that it could affect SaaS adoption in the enterprise realm.


I think the real problem is this: Companies aren't willing-or able, in the case of compliance issues-to send data flying over the firewall, even if it would simplify integration or cut integration costs.

Of course, there's always the hope that SaaS vendors will catch onto the value of integration. A few - including - believe that pre-packaged integration will become the industry norm. As the Supply & Demand Chain Executive article pointed out:

"Another reason that integration rises in importance is competitive pressure. Since SaaS applications offer the same benefits to all customers, any advantages gained by deploying a SaaS application at one company are just as easily realized by its competitors. SaaS applications by themselves therefore provide little differentiation unless they are integrated with highly customized back-end applications that are core to a company's operations."

Ideally, the SaaS provider will offer integration support and a number of partners who can really help you solve the integration problem. As I've pointed out before, . But don't expect every SaaS vendor to be as enlightened about integration as Salesforce.

Rick Kotermanski, the chief technology officer for IT consultancy Summa hit the nail on the head when he told e-Commerce News: "Vendors don't like to talk about the messy, difficult part of technology - they just want to close the sale.'

Kotermanski suggests a list of questions you should ask before you engage a SaaS vendor. In particular, he recommends you talk about integration during the procurement process. Even if your SaaS vendor is not as enlightened about integration as Salesforce, it should at least be able to help you find partners who can address your integration needs.

So, talk about integration early and often with SaaS vendors or face the inevitable consequence: silos in the cloud, mimicking the silos we've already got on the ground.