Build vs buy: how to navigate the integration conundrum successfully

build vs buy

Every SaaS business, regardless of its maturity or the industry it’s in, can benefit from offering product integrations.

Product integrations are key to keeping clients happy; they’re pivotal to attracting new business; and they provide the moat your platform needs to keep competing vendors at bay.

The question isn’t whether you should build integrations with your product—it’s how you build them. To that end, product managers are often faced with two options: build native integrations or embed integrations. 

How are the two different? And how do you decide which is right for your platform? Like many things, the answer is dependent on a range of factors. We’ll break down those factors so that you can make an informed decision on which you use.

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When to invest in native integrations

Though its definition can vary, depending on the context, we’ll treat native integrations as any integration that requires your team of engineers to build directly to another application’s API.

Each native integration involves members of product and engineering who can access an app’s API and, using the documentation provided, write the code necessary to complete the integration.

You should look to implement native integrations when the following scenarios are met:

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  • Your team only needs to implement one integration. This can be relatively manageable for your team, as it doesn’t require gaining expertise on building to and implementing several complex APIs.  

Note: Implementing a single native integration can easily open the flood gates to integration requests. As an example, let’s say you implement a native integration with a file hosting service like Dropbox. Clients and prospects who become aware of this and who use alternative platforms—like Box or Google Drive—, might request integrations with the ones they use. 

  • The integration is critical to your business. Some integrations can fundamentally transform the product or service you offer for the better, while others may fall in the bucket of nice-to-haves. Assuming it’s the former, like an API to the application your product sits within the ecosystem of, the native integration can provide your business with a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • The integration scope is fairly shallow. If you only need a minimal number of capabilities from the integration, the scope of build to an API becomes less complex and is easier to maintain.
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When to invest in embedded integrations 

Put simply, embedded integrations are any that get added into your product via an integration platform as a service (iPaaS). 

They can be worth implementing when at least one of the following scenarios rings true:

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  • You need to take your integrations to market quickly. Many integrations can significantly improve your team’s ability to attract and retain clients, but lengthy timelines for building each integration threatens to hamper both new business sales and client retention.

Embedded integrations directly address time to market by shortening your team’s integration-building timeline from months—if not years—to days. 

  • You need engineers focused on building out your product’s core features. Your engineers are uniquely qualified to tackle challenges that are specific to your product and the market problems you’re trying to solve. This means that moving them off of critical product-specific initiatives and onto integration-related projects fails to leverage their expertise in the most valuable ways.

Embedded integrations, however, allows you to get the best of both worlds: engineers can stay on business-critical projects AND your team can have the integrations your customers need. 

Related: Comparing build vs buy across a range of considerations

  • You’re experiencing a high volume of integration requests. As your business expands into new use cases or market segments, you’ll receive integration requests organically and look to build others proactively.  

For the reasons outlined above—embedded integrations don’t require engineering resources and can be taken to market quickly—, an embedded iPaaS is best positioned to solve for quantity, without compromising on quality. 

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  • You don’t have the budget to hire engineers who focus on integrations. Engineers who can build to and work with the APIs can, all else equal, command a higher salary. But these highly-skilled engineers aren’t just a strain to your budget—they’re also hard to find and recruit.

While an embedded iPaaS does come at a cost, it offers greater economies of scale than native integrations. Why? Because once you’ve connected your product to a modern embedded iPaaS, each integration you add doesn’t require additional headcount or time from your existing dev team. 

Related: 3 reasons to invest in an embedded integration platform

Looking to build embedded integrations? Try Workato’s Embedded iPaaS

Workato, the leader in enterprise automation, offers Workato Embedded Platform, an embedded iPaaS that can provide the following (and much more):

  • The ability to embed the platform into your UI with a configuration that works for you—users can initiate an automation with the click of a button or customize/build any automation without leaving your platform
  • Pre-built connectors and automation templates (“recipes”) so that your clients can implement any integration and automation with minimal customization
  • A centralized admin dashboard for monitoring permissions and usage
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Want to learn more?

Schedule a demo with one of our automation experts to better understand how the Workato Embedded Platform can benefit your product.

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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, examples, and frameworks for implementing powerful integrations and automations. In his free time, he loves to run outside, watch soccer ( matches, and explore local restaurants.