If the adage “data is the new oil” stands true, then Integration Platform as as Service (iPaaS) is the machinery you need to drill and tap it. The allure of iPaaS is that it offers the integration needed to knit and integrate the data and processes of multiple business applications and the actual applications themselves. When you consider the number of cloud services, microservices, business applications, and third-party applications within a business can amount to close to 800 – iPaaS makes even more sense. 

But iPaaS hasn’t enjoyed the best reputation, as many off-the-shelf solutions haven’t provided clarity, or at the very least, transparency, around what can be expected from their base-level features – not to mention drilling into more complex automation and integration requirements. For the most part, iPaaS is coming of age as customers identify the value it can offer when it sits within their digital core and serves the entire enterprise.

For iPaaS to become this digital core, and help become the glue between systems, it needs to take on the almost-impossible task of integrating data from all apps, automating the building of app connectors within cloud services, connecting on-premises and cloud-based processes, offering connectivity through APIs, and leaning heavily on AI-fueled process automation. 

Are we there yet?

Many of the customers we work with treat the iPaaS conversation with some suspicion because the solutions they have embedded to perform the desired functions promised by iPaaS are falling horribly short. The problem is that badly architected iPaaS opens the door for poor security, creates complicated application controls, or conversely gives too much freedom to the average user without governance or oversight from the IT team. 

The result is a flood of data with no real place to go – badly architected APIs, leaky security, and almost rogue automation with no real benefit to the business. To solve this, dial back the iPaaS conversation and look at the express business needs of the organization and align integration requirements to the business strategy. iPaaS must add quantifiable business value to the customer, as they can’t limit their choice of applications, data sources, and new application development, purely because the integration capabilities of legacy environments are limited.  

A good iPaaS solution will provide value and accelerate the connectivity of apps, data sources, and devices through any style, including API-led and event-driven, across on-premises and cloud environments. They enable collaborative integration with experiences tailored to the overall architecture of the business, connect to just about any endpoint, provide independent and flexible integration, and most importantly do it from an open platform.

Simplicity is king

Integration is critical to architecting modern applications, but it can’t work in a vacuum. iPaaS is as useful for the business looking to extract insights from disparate data as it is in performing business process automation or defining real-time customer experiences. 

A lot of iPaaS solutions are focused on the integration between monolithic and third-party applications and the data in between. But these monolithic applications, for example ERP environments, are very good at building their own proprietary applications with little thought for how they will engage with third-party apps. This takes a lot of technical knowledge and know-how to get right. 

Ultimately, it’s this behavior, and the desire of customers to work a patchwork of digital solutions into their growing business application landscape, that is fueling the API economy. 

To start, customers need to enable a modern application architecture that is API-led and AI-infused. What sits above that really shouldn’t matter because that is where your iPaaS environment will start to flex its muscles and deliver value – even better if you are using iPaaS to create the cohesion needed between business services, data, cloud services, and applications. 

With this model in place, businesses can rely on APIs built with a low-code approach to empower all the people in an organization to unlock the digital flow of information and data. This unlocks self-service tools that enable business users to troubleshoot on their own.  

The modern application frontier

Today, process and automation are as strategic to a business as the app itself. Process automation is seen as the digital transformation game-changer, but often, IT, DevOps, and data teams aren’t always on the same page. This is where low-code iPaaS enables a more fluid approach to connecting applications and data without the need for a programmer to be called in with every requirement – and it can be accessed from anywhere. 

The recent SaaS boom has forced iPaaS to grow up and stand to account for activities around exchanging, migrating, replicating, and even integrating external data into the overall application environment. AI plays a big role in accelerating data integration with smart data mapping and uncovering insights from an API ecosystem, and helps shorten the time between business moments and digital business insights. 

Beyond integration is the data-fueled customer experiences that iPaaS can unlock. For example, Caesars Entertainment has deployed an iPaaS solution to help it perform customer personalization, by connecting customer experiences. Now from making a booking, to watching a show, gaming, eating out, or going for a swim, the company can measure a customer’s satisfaction levels and use intuitive data to influence the overall experience. 

That is where we see the maturity of iPaaS. Not just to integrate applications and data, but to turn this integration into qualified business results. Has iPaaS come of age? I’d like to think so, and we are only now seeing how, when used across the entire application landscape, it is helping customers turn applications into the new business currency.