Productizing Integrations: How to Treat Building Native Integrations Like a Product Management Effort
In the B2B SaaS world, it isn't enough to just develop an appealing core product. SaaS businesses also need to showcase how they can fit into their users' tech stack and connect with the tools they use for their daily business processes.
Native integrations are integrations built directly between two or more software and are built by one or both of the system owners. These typically use each system’s API.
Native integrations enable SaaS companies to control the entire integration lifecycle, including development, design, implementation, support, and modification.
Why are native integrations best for building B2B user-facing integrations?
Since they are built directly using each system’s API, and by at least one party who owns one of the APIs, native integrations enable:
Greater functionality and flexibility, including the ability to leverage all the potential actions of the API being used (like posting, getting, deleting, and updating data to each system).
Customization to address a greater number of use cases that meet more of the end user’s objectives.
They also allow the user interface of the integration to be customized within either SaaS system. This allows for a more streamlined user installation and integration management experience.
It's also worth noting that some SaaS companies, like BigCommerce and Attentive for example, will only partner with organizations who build native integrations. They won't go to market with anyone trying to use low-code or no-code tools to build an integration with them.
What does it mean to productize integrations?
Productizing integrations is when the process of building an integration is treated as a product development and management effort, rather than a one-time custom development project.
In other words, it’s treated like any other product or feature being added to the SaaS platform.
This involves applying product management principles and practices to the integration process, such as user research, product design, development, testing, launch, and ongoing support.
The goal is to make the integration process as seamless, standardized, and scalable as possible, enabling businesses to save time, reduce costs, and focus on their core business objectives.
What is the lifecycle of a native SaaS integration?
The integration lifecycle outlines the entire process involved in building a b2b native integration from ideation to GTM to modification.
Here is a brief overview of each stage:
User research: Involves Identification of user personas as well as beta customers.
Creating integration use cases: Here you figure out the opportunities, pain points and what options you want to give to users of the integration.
Creating user stories and acceptance criteria: This is where you figure out what needs to happen to ensure the user can accomplish their goals. This includes data mapping and identifying limitations.
Check out our pre-development surveyto make sure you have taken into account the important technical and business considerations before building.
Selecting a cloud hosting provider: You’ll need a place to run your integrations.
Choosing a secrets manager: Every good integration will have some sort of authentication and you’ll need a place to securely store secrets at a large scale.
Logging and monitoring: Logs are essential for developing, monitoring, and optimizing integrations. Monitoring tools can be used to track various metrics such as response time, CPU usage, and memory usage.
Automated testing: Automated testing involves using software tools to run tests automatically, without the need for manual intervention.
Beta testing: Beta testers can identify areas that need improvement, such as user interfaces that are difficult to navigate or slow response times, allowing developers to enhance the user experience.
Internal alignment: Aligning with sales, marketing, and other internal stakeholders on the role they play in integration implementation.
Documentation: This includes creating technical documentation, such as API spec docs as well as user-facing documentation, such as training materials and user manuals.
Identifying who will support the integration: As part of these discussions among partnership teams, you must agree upon who will be the primary support provider.
Identifying who will be managing integration support: Integration support usually is handled by customer support or customer success teams however this may change depending on the organization.
Implementing the right tools for support: Ideally, you are using a system that can quickly and easily tell you if an integration is having a problem, what problem they are having, and which account the issue is associated with.
Monitoring integration requests and feedback: Have a way to collect requests and feedback in an organized manner for you to prioritize later.
Integration modification and iteration:
Consider dependencies: While iterating on an integration, understand how the changes made in one system can impact other systems.
Gather requirements: Looking at the feedback and suggestions from users and stakeholders, analyze performance metrics, and consider the future goals of the integration.
End-to-end testing: When making modifications to an existing integration, end-to-end testing is crucial to ensure that the changes do not cause any unintended consequences.
User communication: Users need to be informed about changes and how they will be affected. This communication can involve training, documentation, and other resources to help them understand the new features or functionalities.
For a more comprehensive guide on how to treat building integrations like a product management effort, and what implmentation looks during each part of this lifecycle, download our end-to-end guide here.
While this may seem like an involved process for something that may feel peripheral to some people in the grand scheme of their SaaS business, B2B customers are looking for integrated solutions now more than ever.
They are also vetting integrations more closely in order to make sure they actually help with solving their business problems.
Business processes in SaaS require continuous modification and flexibility. By applying product development and management best practices to the integration process, B2B SaaS businesses can make integrations that scale better and are more valuable to customers.