The product manager’s guide to integrations

Product manager's guide to integrations

As a product leader, you’re likely facing immense pressure during these difficult economic times.

You might be forced to redesign your product roadmap; you might be feeling pressured to deliver more features, faster; and you might be searching for and taking advantage of opportunities to showcase your team’s work (in the hopes of avoiding layoffs and maintaining planned headcount). 

In short, you likely have to deliver more value to your organization and to your clients with the same—if not fewer—resources as before. 

To help you navigate this situation successfully, you can leverage an embedded integration platform as a service (iPaaS) to implement a scalable, high-performing product integration strategy. 

We’ll cover how, exactly, an embedded iPaaS can benefit your team and your product, as well as what you can do to get internal buy-in for purchasing the solution. But to start, let’s define embedded integrations.

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What are embedded integrations?

They’re integrations that are powered by an embedded iPaaS and that you or your clients can embed directly into your product’s UI. 

The integrations can be embedded in one of two ways:

1. You can use an in-line experience, whereby you build the integrations and automations yourself, while your users simply access them as a part of your product.  

For example, the fictional HR platform below is integrated with a payroll system and—using the embedded iPaaS’ in-line experience—has added the button “Sync document to payroll” within its UI. This allows their users to sync offer letters directly to payroll with a simple click off a button.

A button that, if clicked in an HRIS, automatically syncs a document to payroll

2.  You can use embedded automation customization, whereby your clients can implement integrations and automations themselves.

For instance, let’s assume your company is ACME ERP systems. Within your platform, clients can build the integrations and automations they need, which might include syncing issues in Jira with cases in Salesforce (as shown below).

A made up company that allows its users to integrate apps and implement automations across systems

Why you should invest in embedded integrations 

To help you better understand the “why” behind using an embedded iPaaS, you need to be aware of the top challenges you’d face when building integrations natively

Based on an analysis we ran on 200 product managers, here are the top issues that come with native builds and that an embedded iPaaS can solve for:

A vertical bar chart that shows the top challenges that come with building integrations natively

Let’s drill down on the three most frequently-cited sources of friction. 

Related: 3 benefits of using embedded integrations

Volume of requests

The implicit and explicit feedback that you and your team receive over time is likely to reveal a long list of integrations that need to get built.

Once a client discovers an integration you brought to market, for example, they might request an integration for a similar application they use; your sales reps might uncover that, in order to be competitive during the RFD process, your product needs to offer certain integrations; your customer success managers might find that the absence of a specific integration is causing clients to churn—and so on.

The current economic climate is only increasing clients’ expectations: They expect you to either already integrate with the applications in their tech stack or to provide such integrations with little delay. Falling short of these standards is likely to lead to fewer sales and a drop in client retention.

Unfortunately, the work required in building to each API and in maintaining each connection is extensive and likely requires participation from your most technical engineers. As a result, your team is likely to struggle, both in terms of taking integrations to market fast enough and in pushing enough integrations live over time.

An embedded iPaaS neatly addresses these drawbacks. 

For one, the platform offers pre-built API connectors to applications and databases, allowing you and your clients to integrate to these systems with little hassle. 

Equally important, it offers a low-code UX, which enables clients’ business teams as well as your own to get involved in building and maintaining the integrations and automations. This, in and of itself, offers numerous benefits; less technically-inclined individuals can tap into their business expertise when designing and implementing integrations and automations—all but ensuring that they’re built in the most impactful ways. Moreover, introducing additional builders helps prevent integration bottlenecks from taking shape.

Engineering resources

As your clients put a microscope on their software investments, you’ll want to leave little reason for them to scrutinize yours.

Any issues that threaten to plague your product experience need to be minimized—if not avoided; new features need to get rolled out on time and successfully; product enhancements need to get executed on a consistent cadence, etc.

And while it might not seem to be the case, building integrations natively threatens your engineers’ ability to carry out these very tasks. Instead of focusing on your core product, they’re forced to spend their time on building to various apps’ APIs—with each requiring its own process around discovery, planning, and build.

Elliot White, the Head of Product at Tango Card, a leading incentive-delivery technology platform, elaborates on this predicament:

“Every single integration required someone in our product or engineering team, and oftentimes multiple people, needing to become an expert in how (for example) a particular CRM is architected.”
Elliot White Head of Product at Tango Card

An embedded iPaaS can free up your engineers for many of the reasons highlighted earlier. Namely, builders without a coding background can play a big role in building and maintaining connections and automations. In turn, your engineers are freed up to focus on what they’re uniquely qualified to handle: working on critical initiatives specific to your core product.

Related: When to build integrations natively and when to buy (embed) them

Time to market

Your clients not only expect their integration requests to get addressed quickly—they want a clear timeline of when certain integrations will go live.

Building native integrations leads you to fall short on both fronts. Your engineers will likely struggle to keep pace with demand, and, given all of the technical variables involved in building them, assigning a go-live timetable for any is likely all but impossible.

Fortunately, embedded integrations allow you to expedite delivery timelines from months to days. In addition, your team can accept integration requests more readily—which helps ensure that you’re providing a best-in-class customer experience.

David Devenport, the Head of Integrations at Spiff, the leading sales commission software and commission tracker, highlights how Workato’s Embedded iPaaS has allowed them to fast-track their time to market for integrations:

“Now (with Workato’s embedded iPaaS) we can say yes to almost everything, and we can turn it around in a few days to a week instead of in a few quarters.”
David Devenport Head of Integrations at Spiff

How to get internal buy-in for investing in an embedded iPaaS

Once you’re bought into using an embedded iPaaS, you’ll need to get your key stakeholders bought in as well. And while there are a variety of approaches that may prove effective, here are a few we recommend:

Present current issues with business-critical data 

Your approvers likely aren’t as interested in the various features that an embedded iPaaS provides. They’re more focused on the reasons behind the investment.

With this in mind, you can compile and then share out a few metrics that are likely to resonate and create some urgency:

  • The number of hours your developers currently spend on building to APIs and in maintaining the connections over a given timeframe
  • The average number of weeks (or even months) it takes your team to launch a new integration
  • The number of deals (as well as the expected sizes of those deals) that your team recently lost due to not offering a certain integration(s)
  • The clients that churned and the revenue that was lost due (at least partly) to not offering certain integrations

There’s obviously a host of other data points you can bring to the conversation. As long as you pick ones that you know your colleagues care about and will give them a healthy dose of anxiety, your path to acquiring a budget will be that much easier.

Recruit internal champions 

While your superiors respect your requests, especially when they’re accompanied by meaningful data, they won’t carry as much weight if they only come from you and your department. 

Based on the current challenges of native builds, you may be able to recruit leaders within engineering, sales, customer success, etc. to also advocate for having an embedded iPaaS. Once they are, your request becomes all too difficult for management to reject.

Share evocative success stories 

Management likely has certain companies they admire and want to emulate in various ways. In addition, there are likely certain competitors they’re keeping a close eye on and want to get an edge over or catch up to.

The embedded platform you’re evaluating may have publicized customer success stories with such competitors or admired brands. Simply pulling them and their stories into your internal pitch can move the needle effectively.

Transform your product with Workato’s Embedded Platform 

Workato, the leader in enterprise automation, offers an Embedded Platform that accelerates product innovation and adoption by offering integrations at the speed and depth your customers demand.

The Workato Embedded Platform, which is used by brands like Autodesk, Unanet, CyCognito, and Tango Card, allows you to: 

  • Take embedded integrations to market 3x faster with access to 400+ pre-built connectors to SaaS applications and databases and hundreds of thousands of automation templates—which we refer to as “recipes”
  • Enable less technical resources to implement integrations and automations in minutes via our low-code UI (freeing up engineering resources to focus on your core product)
  • Seamlessly embed our platform directly into your product with the configuration options that meet your needs
  • Leverage our patented Workbot to build chatbots that can be incorporated into your product’s workflow automations—or that simply allow clients to access data and actions from your product without leaving their business comms platform 
You can learn more about our Embedded Platform by scheduling 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, 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.