One of my favorite parts of working for Workato is meeting what I call “Workato Champions”: people who preach the power of integration and automation to their organizations. These digitally-minded agents of change are at the core of our relationships with our customers. And they’re not all executives or directors; many of them are everyday employees in sales, marketing, IT, and HR.
It’s always inspiring to see people champion workflows that solve real problems, helping them and their colleagues work smarter, not harder. But it can also be incredibly frustrating.
Over and over, I’ve watched people who want to bring change to their organizations quickly get deflated when they see how challenging it can be to bring their colleagues on board with their integration dreams.
The problem is that companies often don’t have a budget for an iPaaS tool. Or if they do have a budget, it’s already eaten up by other tools or talent, which are perceived as adequate solutions to the company’s integration challenges. Convincing your organization to spend money (or more money) on a new platform is incredibly tough—especially in an era where running a lean operation is paramount.
But it’s not impossible.
In the course of working with many Workato Champions, I’ve discovered a few tried-and-true methods for justifying your proposed iPaaS budget. Based on those conversations, here are a few tips that can help you champion an iPaaS platform within your organization.
Know what tools you’re already using—and what you aren’t.
In 2018, most organizations aren’t completely devoid of integration and automation. Though companies may have trouble scaling their use of these technologies, they’ve usually got at least a couple use cases up and running.
At most enterprises, these use cases were created in one of two ways:
- By hard-coding custom integrations, either using internal development talent or by leveraging an outside firm.
- With specialized tools. Even if your organization doesn’t have an
iPaaSyet, there are probably niche or even in-house tools for creating workflows.
Before you open up a conversation with your leadership about investing in an iPaaS, it’s crucial to know which bucket your organization fits into. Acknowledge the tools you may already have in place—and then identify the pain points they’re causing for your company.
For example, larger enterprises often already have an expansive integration toolkit. But many enterprise-grade tools (as well as custom code) require special knowledge to use. This can exacerbate the problem of scaling your use beyond a few initial use cases. And because only specialists can create integrations, it can create a long waiting list of business-critical integrations.
Figuring out the ROI of an iPaaS platform doesn’t require an advanced math degree!
On the other hand, if you’re a smaller organization, your current integration tools might not offer the rigorous security or error-handling features you need to feel confident in your workflows. And custom-coded integrations are notoriously brittle. If the creator leaves, that code is difficult to manage and re-work when changes need to be made.
Calculate your ROI. (It’s really not that hard!)
For many organizations, the question of whether to invest in an iPaaS platform comes down to one question: What will the return on investment be? To the average iPaaS champion, this is often the toughest question to answer. How can you project the value of a tool you haven’t even implemented yet?
In reality, however, figuring out the ROI of an iPaaS platform doesn’t require an advanced math degree or any special insight. It’s something you can determine with a little brainpower and basic arithmetic.
Step 1: Determine your costs
To begin with, you need to figure out what other methods (like building your own integrations or doing nothing at all) cost your organization. It’s helpful to break these costs down into three components:
- Talent. Estimate how many developers you would need to complete your business-critical integration projects. Then determine the average salary for each of those developers.
# of Devs x Average Dev Salary = Talent Cost
Finally, multiply the two numbers to see how much you would spend (or perhaps are already spending) on integration talent. Remember: if you’re custom-coding integrations, you also need to account for keeping a few developers on hand to maintain and modify that code!
- Productivity. Calculate the number of hours employees would otherwise spend on the process that you’re looking to streamline with integration. With some simple arithmetic, you can translate this into days saved and overall annual savings. Keep in mind that every hour saved on mundane or repetitive tasks is an hour employees can devote to higher-value work!
- Server/admin overhead. If you’re using other integration tools already, you’ll have to consider the fixed costs of using them.
These expenses include any servers you’ll need to own and manage, as well as any professional services you might need to keep your integrations up and running. And these costs aren’t one-time—they reoccur as schema changes happen, APIs evolve, or your business priorities shift.
Taken together, these three factors add up to your total cost.
Step 2: Pick a perspective
From here, you must decide how to frame these costs and any savings an iPaaS platform would bring. There are a few different perspectives on ROI, which can be helpful in explaining to others in your organization why an iPaaS solution is valuable over both the short and long term:
1. Use Case-Specific ROI
Think about how you’re already executing these business-critical processes. Is it highly manual? How much time does it take you? Then, using the formulas above, determine the cost savings that automation or integration would bring.
Remember: the ROI of an iPaaS platform doesn’t only come in the form of reduced expenses or vague time savings. Ultimately, these technologies can free employees up to spend more time on higher-value activities—like interacting with customers or tackling creative work.
2. Operational ROI
This way of looking at ROI focuses on how the platform-as-a-service model can reduce the cost of creating and maintaining integrations. If you already use another tool or custom-code your integrations, this is a great perspective to consider. You can calculate, in dollars and cents, how much it costs to create those integrations and keep them in working order. Then you can compare it to the cost of an iPaaS platform over time.
3. Aspirational ROI
Finally, I frequently encourage Workato Champions to think about aspirational ROI.
What is the ideal future state of your organization in terms of costs, productivity, agility, and efficiency? What digital transformation and innovation goals have leadership outlined?
Ultimately, an iPaaS tool can free employees up to spend more time on higher-value activities.
Justifying an iPaaS platform requires more than one or two use cases where you could save money or time. It requires creating a holistic narrative based on a shared vision. You can articulate this as either an organization-wide endeavor (“Integration and automation will help us increase overall productivity by X amount”) or as department-specific goals (“The customer success team should decrease churn by creating a smoother customer experience through integration”).
Overall, it’s important to think about ROI strategically, not just tactically. A higher-level, long-term approach is more likely to resonate with key executive stakeholders, who aren’t as concerned with the nitty-gritty aspects of on-the-ground processes.
Step 3: Think beyond traditional integration.
Usually, businesses don’t just need integration to achieve their innovation goals. They need automation, cognitive technologies like AI, and the power of bots, too. It’s crucial that whatever tool they choose be able to help them not just move data around, but also execute tasks involving that data.
Finding a platform that can meet your iPaaS needs and your automation needs will boost your ROI much more than traditional integration alone. Keep this in mind when evaluating solutions. Ask yourself: will this tool solve my current need—and any likely needs I will have in the future?
Think about the extras.
The final piece of advice I give Workato Champions is this: sometimes, it’s the little things that matter most.
One distinct advantage of an iPaaS platform is that it connects you to a community of users and experts who can help you get started. They also often offer professionals services, concierge support, and other features that can make creating and maintaining your integrations much easier. And these perks often come at a fraction of the cost of hiring your own developers or consultants.
Likewise, iPaaS vendors are well-versed in the best practices for building integrations. They have deep knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, and can guide you through the initial stages of ideating, testing, and implementing your integrations.
At Workato, for example, we applied AI to a large body of previously-created workflows and packaged them together into our Automation Editions. These allow you to use the best, most popular integrations for sales, marketing, HR, and IT—without having to reinvent the wheel every time.
Ultimately, investing in an intelligent iPaaS platform that can also enable automations can be a smart, cost-saving choice for your organization. Before you pitch the idea to colleagues and leadership, it’s good to have a plan. Understand what your organization is currently struggling with, what solutions they’ve tried in the past, and—most importantly—where they hope to improve in the future. Then, take the first step towards