There’s a reason that the most common KPI for new partnership managers is the number of new partnerships created. More integrations means your product can fit into more workflows and thus, be appealing to an ever-growing number of customers.
More sounds nice, but your product and engineering team can only manage so much on top of its typical product roadmap. If your goal is to multiply the number of integrations in your tech ecosystem year over year, you’re going to need to invest in a solution that can help you manage the extra work. And really, you have three options:
- Hire more internal developers, and split your team’s time between the product roadmap and the integration roadmap, ultimately with dedicated roles for each.
- Hire an external agency or contractors to help build your integrations, which may still require internal engineering resources in some capacity.
- Utilize a tool to help you build and manage your integrations and/or integration infrastructure, like an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) or a universal integration framework provider.
(Keep in mind: you can use a combination of #1-3 above to build and manage your integrations, integration infrastructure, and marketplace UI. We talk all about this in our article on how we launched our tech ecosystem.)
This post is about option #3. iPaaS vendors can help SaaS companies go to market with new integrations quickly by providing the building blocks that help a company’s internal or external developers build integrations quickly through connections, recipes, and templates. Some examples of iPaaS vendors include: Tray.io, Workato, Zapier, and Automate.io.
Survey-building platform Typeform went from 30 integrations to more than 100 integrations in one year by adopting an iPaaS solution. Take a look at Typeform’s 2019-2021 integration timeline to get an idea of the scale:
- In 2019, Typeform developed just a few integrations and had a backlog of integration requests from customers
- In 2020, Typeform adopted iPaaS solution Tray.io and developed 20 integrations
- By 2021, Typeform developed 70 more integrations with the help of its partners and by using Tray.io, bringing its tech ecosystem to more than 100 integrations in total!
We spoke with Kabir Mathur, Head of Product Partnerships at Typeform, to hear why his team chose to adopt an iPaaS solution and to discuss some considerations you should make when scaling your own tech ecosystem.
The benefits Typeform observed by adopting an iPaaS solution:
1. Develop integrations within a diverse range of use cases and categories, at speed
Mathur says that by adopting Tray.io as Typeform’s iPaaS vendor, Typeform’s engineering team could create the first integration in a particular category (for example: an integration with a project management tool) and then replicate some of the work to create another in the same category.
“The diversity in the type of partners we work with is key to fulfilling the workflows that our diverse customer base has,” says Mathur. “That’s why we decided to invest in an iPaaS platform, because it allows a certain level of abstraction where you don’t have to get into the weeds of every single API and the very specific requirements each partner might have.”
Mathur says this helps to level the playing field for developing different types of integrations with differing complexities. There’s a heavier lift in the beginning to develop the first of a kind, and then the rest is templatized.
The speed at which Typeform is now able to go-to-market with its integrations doesn’t rely solely on iPaaS. Typeform has an integrations team in Barcelona, Spain that manages the integration infrastructure side of things. This team was responsible for integrating the iPaaS solution with Typeform, essentially laying the foundation for building integrations through Tray.io. Then, Typeform’s integrations team in the US, which is responsible for the integration development, builds the individual integrations.
“Once we built the first one, it was almost like a template we could use to recreate the additional integrations,” says Mathur.
For example: Typeform launched integrations with email service providers (ESPs) like Constant Contact, ConvertKit, and Mailerlite — all in a single quarter.
2. Avoid the awkward dance of who’s going to build the integration — you or your partner — and just start building
In many cases, if you’re trying to partner with a company that’s much larger than yours, the responsibility of building the integration is likely to fall on your team. After all, the integration will benefit your company the most, since your partner’s positioning in the ecosystem can help elevate your brand and give you access to a larger customer base. Alternatively, if you’re partnering with a company that’s much smaller than yours, they should build the integration.
If you’re partnering with a company that’s a similar size to yours, the answer isn’t quite as obvious.
There could be a high level of demand from customers on both sides of the partnership to develop the integration, but sometimes the odds just aren’t in your favor.
“You always have to do this awkward dance with partners where you try to figure out who’s going to build the integration, and that could take ages.That conversation could delay the whole integration by months,” says Mathur. “We just decided we would invest [in iPaaS] and do it ourselves.”
“We just decided we would invest [in iPaaS] and do it ourselves.”Kabir Mathur
If you decide to invest in an iPaaS solution, it could help you alleviate some of the pressure from your partner to build it for you and get the integration into the ecosystem faster.
3. It’s white-labeled
A user who adopts one of Typeform’s integrations built with Tray.io has no feasible interaction with the iPaaS vendor at all — all thanks to a configuration wizard for customization. The iPaaS’s mechanisms exist behind the scenes, but as a Typeform user, you’d never know it.
The user experience of finding an integration on Typeform’s site and getting started happens exclusively in-app. Take a look at the user experience for adopting Typeform’s integration with project management tool Asana below.
The next page (below) is powered by Tray.io, but it’s customized to match Typeform’s branding and provides a seamless experience without requiring the user to leave Typeform’s site.
Things to keep in mind if you’re considering adopting an iPaaS solution:
How many integrations do you need to develop over time?
If the success of your product relies on many integrations, you’ll need a solution that can help you develop a large number of integrations quickly. That solution could be working with an iPaaS vendor. If you only need to develop a handful of strategic integrations each year, your internal or external developers may not need the repeatable mechanics that an iPaaS solution affords.
In Typeform’s case, the more tools Typeform integrates with, the more value it can deliver to its customers. That may not be the case with your product.
How complex are the integrations you need to develop?
Determine the use cases your customers need for the integrations to be successful. Bring those use cases to your conversations with iPaaS vendors you’re considering. Some iPaaS vendors might not be able to satisfy all of the use cases, and that’s something you should know from the start.
How much flexibility does your dev team have right now to build and manage your integrations?
The success of your integrations relies on the efforts of integration developers and integration infrastructure developers. On top of that, they’ll need to put in work to ensure your APIs are functioning in a way that meets the needs of each integration’s use case. All of that, and you’ve got your product roadmap to account for.
If you have a small product and engineering team and their time is split between product development and integration development, an iPaaS solution can help you alleviate some of the pressure from your team so your team can prioritize building the most strategic integrations or other product features. As Mathur mentioned, adopting Tray.io has helped Typeform build integrations that fit into a specific category (like ESPs) at scale.
Once Typeform’s developers who manage the integration infrastructure side of things have established the foundation for building out integrations through iPaaS, they can move on to other things (like supporting external developers building on top of Typeform’s product). Meanwhile, the developers who manage each individual integration’s development can roll with the “templatized” style of building integrations through iPaaS to accelerate the growth of Typeform’s tech partner program.
Mathur says they would have needed to hire an additional 5-6 full-time developers to achieve the same time to market they had with the iPaaS solution.
Is your leadership team bought into your tech partner program?
Whether you’re growing your product and engineering team to establish roles dedicated to integration development, you’re adopting an iPaaS solution, or going with another option entirely, each scenario requires buy-in from your leadership team.
If your leadership team doesn’t see the value in developing integrations at scale with iPaaS, they likely won’t approve of the upfront costs to the business or to your customers. Alternatively, if your leadership team is not ready to invest in a dedicated internal engineering team, an iPaaS solution might be a more financially feasible route for growing your tech partner program.
Some iPaaS solutions require your company to take on the cost of using their platform, while others require your customers to take on the cost. You’ll need to determine how these costs will impact your revenue, retention, and integration adoption rates.
Mathur suggests conducting a cost-benefit analysis to see which option is best-suited for your team, and present your findings to your leadership team to determine the best course of action. Some iPaaS vendors have a platform fee, cost per integration, cost for customer usage of each integration, and so on.
HubSpot has a list of the top 22 iPaaS vendors so you can compare the features of each one and determine the best fit for your tech ecosystem. From there, you can research your favorite iPaaS vendors to learn more about the benefits and pricing.
If you’re researching options for scaling your tech ecosystem, check out our article on how we launched our tech ecosystem with more than 30 integrations in just six months in 2021. We did a ton of the research for you, like determining:
- Who will build your integrations
- Who will build and manage your integration infrastructure
- Who will build and manage your marketplace UI
- And how to establish your “ecosystems team”
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