Application connectors: how they work and why they’re invaluable for integrating and automating at scale

Examples of application connectors

Anyone who’s built to an application’s API knows how burdensome the task is.

The implementation phase requires your engineers to engage in the discovery, planning, and (finally) build; and once built, the team has to closely monitor any changes to the API through the company’s product release notes, where if certain changes occur, they’d be tasked with addressing them as soon as possible.

Multiply this by the dozens, if not hundreds, of applications that need to be integrated and you end up with engineers who are fully occupied with building and maintaining integrations. This leaves them unable to engage in the tasks they’re uniquely equipped to perform, hurting your product long term as well as your relationships with clients and prospects.

To avoid this scenario, and to integrate your apps at scale successfully, you can use application connectors, or pre-built connectors, provided by an enterprise automation platform. 

We’ll further explore their benefits, but first, let’s align on what they are.

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What are application connectors?

They’re API-based connections to applications, where the connections are built and maintained by the enterprise automation platform. Each includes a method of authentication, such as OAuth 2.0, as well as triggers and actions.

Related: What are webhooks?

The benefits of application connectors

While the reasons for adopting application connectors are extensive, here are the top ones to keep in mind:

Ease of use

To help non-technical builders adopt application connectors, an enterprise automation platform strips away the technical verbiage specific to the API-endpoint; where instead, the terminology is laid out in terms that anyone can understand. 

For example, say you’re looking at the application connector for Salesforce. Its actions should read as follows:

A look at some of the actions offered by Workato's Salesforce Connector

Within a split second, anyone can understand the scope of API endpoints available to them and won’t confuse one with the other when building out automations with Salesforce.

Related: 4 benefits of back office automation

Low maintenance

As mentioned earlier, once you’ve built to an API successfully, the work is far from over. Your developers are required to stay on top of any relevant changes to their APIs, and if anything needs to be accounted for, they’re expected to move quickly and successfully to avoid API outages (and the negative consequences this creates).

Fortunately, application connectors can take this responsibility off the developers’ proverbial backs.

The enterprise automation provider routinely checks for any changes to the APIs, and if any take place, they’re addressed quickly and without disrupting the existing automations they’re used in.

Comprehensive options

Given all the ways popular applications get used, an enterprise automation platform not only makes the most in-demand endpoints available but also adds additional ones that account for niche use cases.

Moreover, an enterprise automation platform offers a broad selection of application connectors, spanning various CRM systems, HRIS platforms, ITSM tools, marketing automation platforms, etc. This broad selection makes it all the more likely that organizations can avoid the challenges that come with building to an API in-house.

Intelligent triggers

Even with all the benefits highlighted above, your API endpoints are only valuable when they’re called at the right time. 

To accommodate this need, an enterprise automation platform offers intelligent triggers that can work in real-time, on a recurring time cadence (i.e. a polled trigger), or on a specific schedule. In addition, to help avoid confusion, the enterprise automation platform lists how specific triggers operate. 

Going back to our Salesforce connector, for example, you can easily tell which work in real-time and which don’t.

A look at some of the triggers offered by Workato's Salesforce Connector

The application connector also abstracts the complexity associated with powering these triggers. For instance, in the case of a real-time trigger, the connector makes an API call to the application to register a webhook. Then, once a specific event takes place in the application, the webhook alerts the enterprise automation platform and the corresponding automation gets triggered—all in real-time.

Related: What is data streaming? Plus, a look at the different forms it can take

Ready to leverage application connectors?

Workato, the leader in enterprise automation, offers more than a thousand application connectors that deliver on the benefits highlighted above. 

Using our low-code platform, you’ll also get access to:

  • Hundreds of thousands of automation templates to help your team brainstorm and implement automations quickly and with minimal customizations
  • Enterprise-grade governance and security, through features like role-based access control and activity audit logs
  • Workbot, a platform bot that lets you access data and functionality from business communications platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams
To learn more about our application connectors, you can schedule a demo with one of our automation experts.

About the author
Jon Gitlin Content Strategist @ Workato
Jon Gitlin is the Managing Editor of The Connector, where you can get the latest news on Workato and uncover tips and frameworks for implementing powerful integrations and automations. In his free time, he loves to run outside, watch soccer (er...football) matches, and explore local restaurants.