The Key Considerations and Questions to Ask When Choosing an iPaaS Solution

Sep 24, 2018

For organizations dealing with the challenges of data integration, considering an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is a solid move.

Some assume that because many nonprofits operate on smaller budgets, they don’t have the bandwidth or resources to invest in certain tools. When it comes to adopting new technology, there is a false perception that nonprofits lack a sense of innovation.

It’s our experience that the opposite is true; nonprofit organizations across the globe employ countless tech solutions. With the rise of cloud-based applications and services, software has become more economical and more effective for massive distribution.

Nonprofits are leveraging new technology and as a result, are generating data en masse. Rarely does a large amount of this data live in a single system of record (SoR) in any given organization.

iPaaS solutions are designed to aid database administrators and data teams in integrating data from these disparate sources. Selecting an iPaaS for your nonprofit isn’t as straightforward as you might think — it requires serious consideration.

Here’s a breakdown of what an iPaaS solution does and what to keep in mind if you’re in the market for one.

Why Use an iPaaS for Data Integration?

An integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is a collection of automated tools that are designed to connect specific software, applications, or databases which are deployed in various environments.

Simply put, these automated tools are often cloud-based services which vendors provide to organizations interested in massive data integration. iPaaS solutions are employed by companies large and small, as well as by nonprofits.

What sets different iPaaS vendors apart from each other depends on many factors. For the most part, if a cloud service is designed to bring together data from multiple systems and applications, this service functions as an iPaaS.

Through pre-built connectors to various software application programming interfaces (APIs), iPaaS vendors simplify the gargantuan and much-needed process of data integration.

The reason why any organization would use such a tool is that data integration is complex, time-consuming, and necessary. The integration of data from disparate sources is critical not only to maintaining data hygiene but also in order to glean key insights from your organization’s data.

For enterprise-level organizations with large, dedicated IT teams, data integration could be possible without an iPaaS. However, iPaaS solutions are designed to remove a lot of the manual and resource-intensive work involved with integration.

More importantly, iPaaS providers offer a more feasible, cost-effective solution for smaller companies and lean nonprofits.

Evaluating the Benefits of iPaaS Solutions

As your volume of data continues to grow at an exponential rate, prioritizing the need for integration will become more apparent. To see if selecting an iPaaS solution is right for your organization, consider the potential benefits that come along with these cloud services.

  • Improved data accuracy & decision making: When data is stored in a single system of record (SoR), database administrators and IT teams will have a much easier time maintaining the “cleanliness” of data. In conjunction with an iPaaS tool, organizations can utilize a SoR to reduce the chances of duplicate records while also keeping data as accurate and up-to-date as possible. With clean and accurate data, key decision makers will have the best information to base their judgments to help move the organization forward.
  • Increased productivity: Database administrators and IT teams can certainly handle data integration tasks. However, it stands to reason whether or not their effort and time isn’t better spent on other activities that could provide greater value to the organization. Data integration without iPaaS is typically a very manual and tedious process. The intuitive and user-friendly design of most iPaaS solutions also allows you to speed up the process of connecting multiple systems, doing so in the most cost-effective way possible.
  • Scalability: An enterprise service bus (ESB) is another common solution for data integration. In comparison to iPaaS solutions, ESBs are best suited for integrating complex, on-premises databases and not cloud-based services. As the app economy continues to grow, organizations will also continue to adopt more applications. iPaaS solutions are often designed to easily integrate data from third-party vendors, which is important to support organizations in the long-run.
  • Better use of applications: Many organizations utilize a plethora of applications, but data is rarely shared across them. With data integration provided by an iPaaS solution, applications can better complement each other. By seamlessly connecting and synchronizing data across the organization, all of the business tools work in harmony, once again contributing to better decision making.

Questions to Ask About iPaaS

iPaaS solutions are quickly becoming the tool-of-choice to help organizations connect systems and applications with ease and efficiency. However, it’s important to keep in mind that because iPaaS is a relatively new approach to integration, no two offerings are the same and there are a few things you’ll want to keep your eye out for.

  1. Connectors available/needed? — The best place to start with evaluating an iPaaS is to make sure that it supports all of the applications being used by your organization. In addition, try to understand if an iPaaS solution will be able to adopt newer systems and apps in the future. In addition to supporting your applications, see if they provide the specific actions you may need – these may include key business processes related to the capture, processing and reporting of your data.
  2. How does it handle the transformation of data? — When data lives in so many different places, you will likely run into an issue with compatibility. So, when choosing an iPaaS solution, it’s important to keep in mind how data is transformed and whether or not the data is compatible once it has been moved.
  3. Will your provider scale with your growing data needs? — As cloud technology continues to advance, so will the data needs of organizations. Use of multiple cloud applications will only become more standard and so the data landscape will, in turn, become more complex. For evaluation of an iPaaS, it’s important to know whether or not a provider is prepared to scale with your changing data needs.
  4. Who are the intended users of the platform? — The complexity and capabilities of iPaaS solutions can vary, so try to keep in mind who in your organization will be the end user. These individuals may be useful in the evaluation process to make sure they can utilize the platform to its fullest.
  5. How many data sources need to be integrated? — Along with knowing what connectors are available for an iPaaS solution, identify every possible application and database system which needs to be integrated into your SoR. This will minimize the chances of not accounting for several tools, missing an opportunity to leverage the data stored within.
  6. What security concerns are there? —Choose an iPaaS that can be trusted with sensitive data. Invest in an iPaaS that has robust security mechanisms such as data encryption, password protection, session management, security certifications, and information security standards in place.
  7. Time to revisit data hygiene? — In tandem with any data integration effort, it may also be a good time to consider any data hygiene tasks that need to be carried out before implementing an iPaaS. Data hygiene refers to the “cleanliness” or accuracy of data; the best data provides the best insights. iPaaS can be a great tool, but better, more trustworthy data increases the value of using such a platform.

Selecting an iPaaS with Confidence

With rapidly changing market conditions, it’s almost impossible for any organization to predict the features or functionalities that it would require from an iPaaS in the next few years. The key is to focus on the immediate requirements that can be addressed by the iPaaS.

The number of iPaaS providers is increasing almost constantly. But with a focus on key benefits and considerations, you should be able to choose an iPaaS that suits your integration requirements with confidence.

Jim Hart