Tag Archives: SaaS
With Informatica’s Data Mania on Wednesday, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about REST APIs. In particular, I’ve been considering how and why they’ve become so ubiquitous, especially for SaaS companies. Today they are the prerequisite for any company looking to connect with other ecosystems, accelerate adoption and, ultimately, separate themselves from the pack.
Let’s unpack why.
To trace the rise of the REST API, we’ll first need to take a look at the SOAP web services protocol that preceded it. SOAP is still very much in play and remains important to many application integration scenarios. But it doesn’t receive much use or love from the thousands of SaaS applications that just want to get or place data with one another or in one of the large SaaS ecosystems like Salesforce.
Why this is the case has more to do with needs and demands of a SaaS business than it does with the capabilities of SOAP web services. SOAP, as it turns out, is perfectly fine for making and receiving web service calls, but it does require work on behalf of both the calling application and the producing application. And therein lies the rub.
SOAP web service calls are by their very nature incredibly structured arrangements, with specifications that must be clearly defined by both parties. Only after both the calling and producing application have their frameworks in place can the call be validated. While the contract within SOAP WSDLs makes SOAP more robust, it also makes it too rigid, and less adaptable to change. But today’s apps need a more agile and more loosely defined API framework that requires less work to consume and can adapt to the inevitable and frequent changes demanded by cloud applications.
Enter REST APIs
REST APIs are the perfect vehicle for today’s SaaS businesses and mash-up applications. Sure, they’re more loosely defined than SOAP, but when all you want to do is get and receive some data, now, in the context you need, nothing is easier or better for the job than a REST API.
With a REST API, the calls are mostly done as HTTP with some loose structure and don’t require a lot of mechanics from the calling application, or effort on behalf of the producing application.
SaaS businesses prefer REST APIs because they are easy to consume. They also make it easy to onboard new customers and extend the use of the platform to other applications. The latter is important because it is primarily through integration that SaaS applications get to become part of an enterprise business process and gain the stickiness needed to accelerate adoption and growth.
Without APIs of any sort, integration can only be done through manual data movement, which opens the application and enterprise up to the potential errors caused by fat-finger data movement. That typically will give you the opposite result of stickiness, and is to be avoided at all costs.
While publishing an API as a way to get and receive data from other applications is a great start, it is just a means to an end. If you’re a SaaS business with greater ambitions, you may want to consider taking the next step of building native connectors to other apps using an integration system such as Informatica Cloud. A connector can provide a nice layer of abstraction on the APIs so that the data can be accessed as application data objects within business processes. Clearly, stickiness with any SaaS application improves in direct proportion to the number of business processes or other applications that it is integrated with.
The Informatica Cloud Connector SDK is Java-based and enables you easily to cut and paste the code necessary to create the connectors. Informatica Cloud’s SDKs are also richer and make it possible for you to adapt the REST API to something any business user will want to use – which is a huge advantage.
In addition to making your app stickier, native connectors have the added benefit of increasing your portability. Without this layer of abstraction, direct interaction with a REST API that’s been structurally changed would be impossible without also changing the data flows that depend on it. Building a native connector makes you more agile, and inoculates your custom built integration from breaking.
Building your connectors with Informatica Cloud also provides you with some other advantages. One of the most important is entrance to a community that includes all of the major cloud ecosystems and the thousands of business apps that orbit them. As a participant, you’ll become part of an interconnected web of applications that make up the business processes for the enterprises that use them.
Another ancillary benefit is access to integration templates that you can easily customize to connect with any number of known applications. The templates abstract the complexity from complicated integrations, can be quickly customized with just a few composition screens, and are easily invoked using Informatica Cloud’s APIs.
The best part of all this is that you can use Informatica Cloud’s integration technology to become a part of any business process without stepping outside of your application.
For those interested in continuing the conversation and learning more about how leading SaaS businesses are using REST API’s and native connectors to separate themselves, I invite you to join me at Data Mania, March 4th in San Francisco. Hope to see you there.
It’s no secret that the explosion of software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps has revolutionized the way businesses operate. From humble beginnings, the titans of SaaS today include companies such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite, Marketo, and Workday that have gone public and attained multi-billion dollar valuations. The success of these SaaS leaders has had a domino effect in adjacent areas of the cloud – infrastructure, databases, and analytics.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), which originally had only six services in 2006 with the launch of Amazon EC2, now has over 30 ranging from storage, relational databases, data warehousing, Big Data, and more. Salesforce.com’s Wave platform, Tableau Software, and Qlik have made great advances in the cloud analytics arena, to give better visibility to line-of-business users. And as SaaS applications embrace new software design paradigms that extend their functionality, application performance monitoring (APM) analytics has emerged as a specialized field from vendors such as New Relic and AppDynamics.
So, how exactly did the growth of SaaS contribute to these adjacent sectors taking off?
The growth of SaaS coincided with the growth of powerful smartphones and tablets. Seeing this form factor as important to the end user, SaaS companies rushed to produce mobile apps that offered core functionality on their mobile device. Measuring adoption of these mobile apps was necessary to ensure that future releases met all the needs of the end user. Mobile apps contain a ton of information such as app responsiveness, features utilized, and data consumed. As always, there were several types of users, with some preferring a laptop form factor over a smartphone or tablet. With the ever increasing number of data points to measure within a SaaS app, the area of application performance monitoring analytics really took off.
Simultaneously, the growth of the SaaS titans cemented their reputation as not just applications for a certain line-of-business, but into full-fledged platforms. This growth emboldened a number of SaaS startups to develop apps that solved specialized or even vertical business problems in healthcare, warranty-and-repair, quote-to-cash, and banking. To get started quickly and scale rapidly, these startups leveraged AWS and its plethora of services.
The final sector that has taken off thanks to the growth of SaaS is the area of cloud analytics. SaaS grew by leaps and bounds because of its ease of use, and rapid deployment that could be achieved by business users. Cloud analytics aims to provide the same ease of use for business users when providing deep insights into data in an interactive manner.
In all these different sectors, what’s common is the fact that SaaS growth has created an uptick in the volume of data and the technologies that serve to make it easier to understand. During Informatica’s Data Mania event (March 4th, San Francisco) you’ll find several esteemed executives from Salesforce, Amazon, Adobe, Microsoft, Dun & Bradstreet, Qlik, Marketo, and AppDynamics talk about the importance of data in the world of SaaS.
I have always loved making connections: between people, between a product and its message, between partner companies and their messages. Coming from a creative agency background where I worked with our clients, created messaging, found images, and wrote copy all day, what I did not love was cold hard data. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit I rarely thought about it. I handed off my creative work and let the client worry about the boring details. As long as they kept coming back, all was well.
Enter year 2008. I decided to go in-house for an IaaS provider, with a laser focus on SaaS companies. In many ways it was an easy transition, with one glaring difference – METRICS. I used every trick in my book to escape tracking and reporting. I was “too busy” with “more important” things. Needless to say, this did not go over well. But my background, along with our non-compatible (how I saw it at the time) systems, had me up nights worrying about the reports I should be doing. In truth, I was too busy to spend an extra several hours pulling information from three systems, sifting through and manually mashing it together in a spreadsheet to get the report I needed. And by the end I always had a huge headache and wasn’t even sure my information was correct. But none of that got me out of doing the work I hated.
Then came the first time I was able to prove a program’s worth; there was a spark of excitement – an awakening to the power of data. For the next several years, through both start-up and enterprise environments, I had a love / hate relationship with data. No company I worked for had integrated SaaS/software systems, and reporting took hours of manual work for me, and my teams. The desire was there, even the occasional win – but it was laden with bitter feelings, from the pain of wasted time and uncertain results.
Everything changed last year when I joined Informatica. For the first time, my marketing automation was integrated with my CRM, which was integrated with my… you know the rest. And reporting? Even that was now easy. For a company that lives and breathes data integration, obviously this makes sense. As a person who’s never experienced this before, I had no idea what a relief it would be until I lived it.
Now imagine unlocking this ease of use not only for your employees (very important), but also for your customers (maybe even more important). I’d like to invite you to Informatica’s first SaaS ecosystem event where data-driven executives from Salesforce.com, AWS, Tableau, Marketo, AppDynamics, D&B, Adobe, NewRelic, and more will share their stories around data and the difference it’s made in their competitive differentiation.
Data Mania is a private event for SaaS leaders, March 4, in San Francisco. Right now, it’s the stealth version of Dreamforce or Oracle Openworld. And like any A-list after party, it’s drawing a who’s-who of SaaS & data industry insiders. It is the event to attend if you are a product management, engineering, professional services or customer success executive at a SaaS company and want to know the data story behind some of the most successful companies in your space.
Planned sessions and panels include something for everyone.
For customer success management, we offer the chance to learn firsthand how native connectors quickly onboard new customers, improve business processes and establish connectivity with other best-of-breed applications.
Engineers and developers – and anyone involved with R&D – will hear how their peers have figured out a way to refocus their attention on developing new products and enhanced features while still providing the data integration required for mass adoption.
And, finally, for product management, we offer freedom — to consider all the potential opportunities and applications that open up when you quit worrying about how “to make the data work and scale” and instead focus on “all the ways data can make your product better” and provide your customers with greater insights and value.
Leading up to Data Mania, we’re also holding Connect-a-thon, a hackathon-like event to get you connected to hundreds of your customers’ cloud and on-premises apps. Connect-a-thon will give your dev team direct access to Informatica Cloud R&D resources – at no cost – to help them develop connectors and custom mappings to make these connections. And if your company is under $5M in annual bookings, and you choose to embed Informatica Cloud, we have a very special offer* for you (think free software and services). Then come to the show for advice on the next steps from your peers and data-driven leaders.
In the end, if you think Salesforce, Adobe, Amazon Web Services, Tableau, Qlik, Dun & Bradstreet and Informatica have something to say about connection and data — and the role they play helping to create the customer-driven enterprise – then you want to be at Data Mania to hear it.
I’m proud of the event we’ve put together and I know you won’t be disappointed. Conceiving and producing Data Mania with a small team here has been my chance to come full circle back to my love of making connections in the SaaS community, using my creative background AND working with the data and metrics I’ve learned to love. I’m counting down the days to the event on March 4th, and I hope you’ll join me. I’ll be the Data Maniac with the biggest smile.
*Offer applies to the first 25 participants
Back in 2004, we saw the rapid growth of SaaS providers such as Salesforce.com. However, there was typically no consistent data integration strategy to go along with the use of SaaS. In many instances, SaaS-delivered applications became the new data silos in the enterprise, silos that lacked a sound integration plan and integration technology.
10 years later, we’ve gotten to a point where we have the ability to solve problems using SaaS and data integration problems around the use of SaaS. However, we typically lack the knowledge and understanding of how to effectively use data integration technology within an enterprise to integrate SaaS problem domains.
Lawson looks at both sides of the SaaS integration argument. “Surveys certainly show that integration is less of a concern for SaaS than in the early days, when nearly 88 percent of SaaS companies said integration concerns would slow down adoption and more than 88 percent said it’s an important or extremely important factor in winning new customers.”
Again, while we’ve certainly gotten better at integration, we’re nowhere near being out of the woods. “A Dimensional Research survey of 350 IT executives showed that 67 percent cited data integration problems as a challenge with SaaS business applications. And as with traditional systems, integration can add hidden costs to your project if you ignore it.”
As I’ve stated many times in this blog, integration requires a bit of planning and the use of solid technology. While this does require some extra effort and money, the return on the value of this work is huge.
SaaS integration requires that you take a bit of a different approach than traditional enterprise integration. SaaS systems typically place your data behind well-defined APIs that can be accessed directly or through a data integration technology. While the information can be consumed by anything that can invoke an API, enterprises still have to deal with structure and content differences, and that’s typically best handled using the right data integration technology.
Other things to consider, things that are again often overlooked, is the need for both data governance and data security around your SaaS integration solution. There should be a centralized control mechanism to support the proper management and security of the data, as well as a mechanism to deal with data quality issues that often emerge when consuming data from any cloud computing services.
The reality is that SaaS is here to stay. Even enterprise software players that put off the move to SaaS-delivered systems, are not standing up SaaS offerings. The economics around the use of SaaS are just way to compelling. However, as SaaS-delivered systems become more common place, so will the emergence of new silos. This will not be an issue, if you leverage the right SaaS integration approach and technology. What will your approach be?
The Informatica Cloud team has been busy updating connectivity to Hadoop using the Cloud Connector SDK. Updated connectors are available now for Cloudera and Hortonworks and new connectivity has been added for MapR, Pivotal HD and Amazon EMR (Elastic Map Reduce).
Informatica Cloud’s Hadoop connectivity brings a new level of ease of use to Hadoop data loading and integration. Informatica Cloud provides a quick way to load data from popular on premise data sources and apps such as SAP and Oracle E-Business, as well as SaaS apps, such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite, and Workday, into Hadoop clusters for pilots and POCs. Less technical users are empowered to contribute to enterprise data lakes through the easy-to-use Informatica Cloud web user interface.
Informatica Cloud’s rich connectivity to a multitude of SaaS apps can now be leveraged with Hadoop. Data from SaaS apps for CRM, ERP and other lines of business are becoming increasingly important to enterprises. Bringing this data into Hadoop for analytics is now easier than ever.
Users of Amazon Web Services (AWS) can leverage Informatica Cloud to load data from SaaS apps and on premise sources into EMR directly. Combined with connectivity to Amazon Redshift, Informatica Cloud can be used to move data into EMR for processing and then onto Redshift for analytics.
Self service data loading and basic integration can be done by less technical users through Informatica Cloud’s drag and drop web-based user interface. This enables more of the team to contribute to and collaborate on data lakes without having to learn Hadoop.
Bringing the cloud and Big Data together to put the potential of data to work – that’s the power of Informatica in action.
Free trials of the Informatica Cloud Connector for Hadoop are available here: http://www.informaticacloud.com/connectivity/hadoop-connector.html
Now in its third year (2012, 2013), The State of Salesforce Annual Review continues to be the most comprehensive report on the Salesforce ecosystem. Based on the data from over 1,000 global Salesforce users, this report highlights how companies are using the Salesforce platform, where resources are being allocated, and where industry hype meets reality. Over the past three years, the report has evolved much like the technology, shifting and transforming to address recent advancements, and well as tracking longitudinal trends in the space.
We’ve found that key integration partners like Informatica Cloud continue to grow in importance within the Salesforce ecosystem. Beyond the core platform offerings from Salesforce, third-party apps and integration technologies have received considerable attention as companies look to extend the value of their initial investments and unite systems. The need to sync multiple platforms and applications is an emerging need in the Salesforce ecosystem—which will be highlighted in the 2014 report.
As Salesforce usage expands, so does our approach to survey execution. In line with this evolution, here’s what we’ve learned over the last three years from data collection:
Functions, Departments Make a Difference
Sales, Marketing, IT, and Service all have their own needs and pain points. As Salesforce moves quickly across the enterprise, we want to recognize the values, priorities, and investments by each department. Not only are the primary clouds for each function at different stages of maturity, but the ways in which each department uses their cloud are unique. We anticipate discovery of how enterprises are collaborating across functions and clouds.
Focus on Region
As our international data set continues to grow we are investing in regionalized reports for the US, UK, France, and Australia. While we saw indications of differences between each region in last year’s survey, they were not statistically significant.
Customer Engagement is a Top Priority
Everyone agrees that customer engagement is important, but what are companies actually doing about it? A section on predictive analytics and questions about engagement specific to departments has been included in this year’s survey. We suspect that the recent trend of companies empowering employees with a combination of data and mobile will be validated in the survey results.
Variation Across Industries
As an added bonus, we will build a report targeting specific insights from the Financial Services industry.
We Need Your Help
Our dataset depends on input from Salesforce users spanning all functions, roles, industries, and regions. Every response matters. Please take 15 minutes to share your Salesforce experiences, and you will receive a personalized report, comparing your responses to the aggregate survey results.
SOA was born out of purposeful intent, to solve a specific problem in a particularly novel way: standards-based and interoperable service-based integration driven by the WS-* standardization efforts. It foreshadowed the fragmentation of the monolithic on-premise software providers and pre-dated the rise of a new cloud-centric world – and it arguably arrived too fast for many organizations to take advantage of it on-premise. The constant churn of WS-* specifications didn’t help the cause either.
Some IT shops got bogged down in religious arguments over WS-* vs. REST while others pushed on, bolting on service interfaces to existing application stacks and protocols and building new service infrastructure as an investment for the future. The result, as we all know, was a lot of hype and dashed expectations for some.
Fast forward five years, and the future foreshadowed by SOA is almost a reality. And while SOA (the acronym) may be dead, the need for a service-oriented architecture is very much alive.
We now live in a hybrid world, populated by cloud, social and on-premise applications, and the move to the cloud for business is a fait accompli — or at the least, inevitable. Cloud initiatives are fueling a new type of service-oriented integration – one where, unlike in the past, the approach is no longer strictly defined by protocols but rather by application services and event-based integration.
In this new world, IT no longer controls the architecture of the apps its business users use (or where they execute), and so consumers and providers – cloud apps, on-premise apps and systems – need to interact in loosely-coupled service-oriented ways. This evolution forces new integration realities that had for many been hidden from sight and kept within the domain of application owners.
Eight or nine years ago, when SOA fever was at its height, everyone was running around trying to transform their internal systems and build new and complex infrastructure to meet an incomplete technological imperative.
Today, the landscape has completely changed. The need for ESBs and tightly coupled integrations that expose the innards of your infrastructure no longer apply. Eventually, as applications move to the Cloud, there will no longer be much infrastructure left to expose. Instead, the integrations are and will increasingly be occurring in the cloud, over an open framework, through high-level service-centric APIs.
At Informatica, we’ve taken the lessons and imperatives of SOA – simplicity, data consistency and accessibility and security – and incorporated it into a platform that makes the promise of service-oriented, hybrid, event-driven integration a reality.
We’ve innovated, and now deliver tooling that both enables technically savvy application owners to implement integrations themselves and IT to assist. And we’ve also made it possible for application owners to consume data and business services and processes in an intuitive user interface that abstracts the underlying details of our hybrid integration platform.
The result is an integration platform that empowers application owners. This is what makes what we’re currently doing at Informatica Cloud so particularly exciting, and potentially disruptive.
SaaS companies are growing rapidly and becoming the top priority for most CIOs. With such high growth expectations, many SaaS vendors are investing in sales and marketing to acquire new customers even if it means having a negative net profit margin as a result. Moreover, with the pressure to grow rapidly, there is an increased urgency to ensure that the Average Sales Price (ASP) of every transaction increases in order to meet revenue targets.
The nature of the cloud allows these SaaS companies to release new features every few months, which sales reps can then promote to new customers. When new functionalities are not used nor understood, customers often feel that they have overpaid for a SaaS product. In such cases, customers usually downgrade to a lower-priced edition or worse, leave the vendor entirely. To make up for this loss, the sales representatives must work harder to acquire new leads, which results in less attention for existing customers. Preventing customer churn is very important. The Cost to Acquire a Customer (CAC) for upsells is 19% of the CAC to acquire new customer dollars. In comparison, the CAC to renew existing customers is only 15% of the CAC to acquire new customer dollars.
Accurate customer usage data helps determine which features customers use and which are under utilized. Gathering this data can help pinpoint high-value features that are not used, especially for customers that have recently upgraded to a higher edition. The process of collecting this data involves several touch points – from recording clicks within the app to analyzing the open rate of entire modules. This is where embedded cloud integration comes into play.
Embedding integration within a SaaS application allows vendors to gain operational insights into each aspect of how their app is being used. With this data, vendors are able to provide feedback to product management in regards to further improvements. Additionally, embedding integration can alert the customer success management team of potential churn, thereby allowing them to implement preventative measures.
To learn more about how a specialized analytics environment can be set up for SaaS apps, join Informatica and Gainsight on April 9th at 10am PDT for an informational webinar Powering Customer Analytics with Embedded Cloud Integration.
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After having lived in China since May 2012, I’ve been fortunate to have met with the leaders of most multinational software companies, leaders of local firms as well as industry analysts. My inspiration for this blog is based on a conversation I had with a senior leader at a leading “cloud” provider. (more…)