Why SaaS Integrations Are Trickier Than the Average Integration


Every time I write about SaaS, some astute reader responds that integration challenges are not unique to SaaS and, in fact, have plagued on-premise applications for years.


Take last week, for example, when I wrote about Forrester's prediction that SaaS integration solutions would achieve "minimal" success. User372756 posted:
"Integration as a challenge is not new to SaaS. It is certainly not trivial or unimportant. However that is not a reason to not go SaaS."


Well, of course that's true. But some would have you believe that SaaS integration is also no better or worse than on-premise integration, and that's where I've got serious reservations.


This article from Computerworld confirmed my suspicions. It contends that SaaS integration is, indeed, trickier than on-premise integration for a number of reasons, including that SaaS is frequently adopted as a rogue solution, without IT's involvement.


True, this could and has also happened with on-premise applications. But SaaS makes it oh-so-much-easier for divisions to adopt a solution without so much as a wave to the CIO.


It's a lesson that Hines Interests, Ltd., learned the hard way when it launched Hines Real Estate Securities, a real estate investment trust business. The company relied heavily on SaaS products and soon found itself mired in "a tangled web of integrations linking SaaS to SaaS and SaaS to on-premises applications."


The article notes that it was like the old days, when nothing in the company infrastructure could share information. The piece even offers this grim warning from Hines Real Estate Securities Business Systems Architect Benny Lasiter: "When you're heavily reliant on SaaS, you're putting yourself in the position of siloed data once again."


Other factors that can complicate SaaS integration include API upgrades, changes to your systems' business processes, or new features in the SaaS product.


The article draws the analogy between SaaS integration and other B2B integrations, with the moral being that you need to practice the same due-diligence and strategy to SaaS as you would B2B. Otherwise, you may run into problems, including latency issues and difficulties with year-end-reporting.


What I like about this piece is that it doesn't just gripe about the problems with SaaS integration, but offers guidelines for avoiding these problems and a real-world example of how Hines solved its integration problems while avoiding future vendor lock-in.


You'll note this article is also part of a series called "SaaS Surprises." Links to the other articles, which includes a look at SaaS functionality and PaaS (platform as a service), are included in the sidebar on the first page of the SaaS integration article.