What is an Integration Platform as a Service

Integration-Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) is a cloud service that allows applications and platforms to communicate and to exchange data and documents. IPaaS simplifies and standardizes integration between otherwise incompatible platforms, allowing businesses to automate the flow of data within their organization and between organizations without the need to manage hardware or carry out expensive custom development work.

As a cloud service, the software and hardware of the iPaaS platform are managed by the vendor, radically simplifying the process of integration and automation compared to traditional enterprise middleware and platform-to-platform solutions.

IPaaS adoption has increased in recent years. According to Gartner, iPaaS is one of the fastest growing enterprise software market segments. Its growth is fueled by the need for businesses that have embraced digital solutions to generate cost savings and increase operational efficiency through integration and automation.

For example, in the B2B space, iPaaS platforms facilitate the integration of supplier eCommerce applications with buyer back-end eProcurement and spend management platforms. Once integrated via a cloud iPaaS platform, B2B buyers and suppliers benefit from a host of automations that include PunchOut catalogs, purchase order automation, electronic invoicing, and more.

How Does iPaaS Facilitate Integration and Automation?

Modern businesses rely on multiple applications and services. A typical business uses a variety of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications, self-hosted applications, data storage platforms, and communication and collaboration platforms. In 2020, 60 percent of businesses will rely on digital platforms for as much as 30 percent of their income, according to IDC Manufacturing Insights.

These applications and platforms digitize business operations, increasing efficiency and transparency. They also provide user interfaces that encourage employees to follow best practices and policies.

But one of the most significant potential benefits of digitization is automation. An iPaaS provider can enable data to flow from one application or platform to another without manual intervention. A purchase order created by a buyer can appear in the vendor’s eCommerce interface almost instantly for the order to be fulfilled. Then it is possible for an invoice to be automatically created and  sent back to the buyer’s eProcurement or spend management system once products have been shipped and received.

Integration Challenges

Although deeper integration is the goal, this level of integration and automation has proven to be challenging and expensive for businesses to implement internally. As businesses and their partners adopt new applications and services, the number of possible integration points multiply. Individual application developers are rarely motivated to build APIs that make it easy for businesses to integrate, necessitating expensive custom integrations.

Consider how many integrations a mid-sized B2B supplier would have to develop to accommodate hundreds of buyers that use dozens of different back-end eProcurement, spend management, ERP, and accounting platforms.

iPaaS Reduces Integration Cost and Complexity

An iPaaS solution offers a managed cloud gateway capable of consuming data from a variety of platforms and converting it to a format that is compatible with other platforms. An organization that wants to integrate its software with the software of other organizations needs only to integrate with the iPaaS. Then the iPaaS vendor takes care of mapping and transforming data, communicating with APIs, implementing business rules, and any software development and hardware management required for the integration layer.

While the gateway reduces the scope of the problem, there remains the challenge of building an integration between an organization’s software and the cloud iPaaS service. The best iPaaS providers make integration even more straightforward by providing a suite of connectors that reduce the complexity of integration.

For example, TradeCentric, a specialist iPaaS for B2B buyers and sellers, offers simple integration with hundreds of eCommerce, eProcurement, spend management, and enterprise resource planning applications. TradeCentric’s pre-built connectors allow sellers to quickly and easily hook their eCommerce platforms up to TradeCentric’s iPaaS gateway without custom development. TradeCentric has pre-built connectors for MagentoSalesforce B2B Commerce CloudInsiteBigCommerceZnode3dcart, and XMPie among many others.

Managed Services are an important part of any iPaaS offering. In addition to providing the cloud service that handles the flow of data between applications, the vendor’s B2B integration experts are needed to take care of implementing the integration between endpoint applications. In the case of TradeCentric, a fulfillment team full of expert developers and project managers facilitate the integrations between clients and their buyers or suppliers, providing guidance and technical support for both sides of the transaction.

What Should Businesses Expect From iPaaS?

Businesses have long been interested in integration and automation. Over the years, many solutions that aim to enable or simplify integration have been proposed, but, although useful in their way, they suffer from limitations that modern iPaaS platforms do not.

To conclude this article, we’ll look at five features that businesses should expect to see in an effective and reliable iPaaS platform.

  • A comprehensive selection of connectors. Ideally, an iPaaS should be able to accommodate the broadest possible number of applications and platforms within the niche it serves. It should support all of the most popular applications and platforms within a niche and be capable of transferring and translating the full range of relevant digital files and other data supported by those platforms. Even if a pre-built connector does not exist, a best-in-class iPaaS provider should be agile enough to perform custom integrations where needed to leverage an organization’s existing technology.
  • Partner enablement and management. Inter-organizational integrations—between B2B buyers and sellers, for example—depend on a three-way relationship between the organizations seeking integration and the iPaaS provider. Typically, the relationship is initiated by one party, and  the iPaaS vendor should be able to rapidly on-board the partner organization and integrate efficiently with the other business on the partner’s behalf..
  • Enterprise application integration. An iPaaS solution offers a useful waypoint as data travels between platforms and organizations. It should be able to act as a “quarantine zone” that checks data quality and alerts partners to anomalies. Without this functionality, it is challenging to monitor the quality of data and diagnose issues. For example, TradeCentric offers a client portal that gives 100 percent visibility into every transaction and movement of data between systems, along with the only integration emulator capable of testing and validating different integration scenarios.
  • Advanced analytics. Huge amounts of data pass through an iPaaS, presenting an opportunity for end-to-end visibility that would be difficult to achieve using other sources. An iPaaS vendor should provide analytics tools that businesses can use to improve decision-making and insight into their relationships with partners.
  • Scalability. As the volume and velocity of data that your business communicates to partners grows, the iPaaS must be able to scale in line with the needs of its users. Reliable scaling is essential because integration latencies can introduce significant delays in data communication and the business processes that depend on it. In the B2B space, top iPaaS providers should be able to take a single connection with one company, and branch out to as many trading partners as needed, making it efficient to scale up and foster new business relationships.

TradeCentric provides a specialized iPaaS solution focused on integrating B2B eCommerce platforms and buyer spend management, eProcurement, and ERP platforms. We connect any eCommerce application with any buyer back-end platform for PunchOut Catalogs, purchase order automation, eInvoicing, eQuotes, and so much more.

To learn more about how TradeCentric accelerates B2B workflows through integration and automation, contact us today.