Organisations view large-scale enterprise applications as a means to
gain competitive advantage. They believe these applications are the vehicles to
increase information and process flows, making the business more efficient, reducing
the cost of doing business, and thereby, enhancing their competitive advantage.
This demand for increased information flows has led to a proliferation
of enterprise applications in the market from major players such as SAP, Siebel
and Oracle. These applications have evolved into application suites, with the
vendors aiming to become a one-stop shop for every need.
While powerful, these suites also required huge amounts of manpower and
resources to be customised to suit the needs of a particular business. The
upfront licensing fee quickly became a small proportion of the overall cost of
the implementation project.
The entry of the cloud, however, has changed everything. The competitive
advantage today belongs to companies that find newer efficiencies through
tightly integrated SaaS (Software as a Service) applications. This is the idea
that inspired the foundation of MuleSoft, which is now the most widely used
integration platform for connecting SaaS and enterprise applications, both in
the cloud and on-premise.
SaaS: disintegrating the
The fastest-growing software market ever seen, the SaaS segment will hit
$US125 billion in global revenue by 2020, according to Forrester estimates. SaaS’
appeal comes from its attractive economics and frictionless deployment, with
immeasurable impact on enterprise operations.
Considered as something that completely disrupts acquisition and
maintenance models for enterprise applications, SaaS offers fast implementation
with little to no need for customisation. SaaS applications are managed by the
vendor in accordance with a Service Level Agreement (SLA), eliminating the
costs of maintaining hardware and software in a conventional data centre as
well as the cyclical upgrade burden. Given the thousands of customers that battle-test
the platforms every day, SaaS applications also tend to be more robust.
SaaS offerings are usually targeted at specific business problems,
disintegrating the traditional enterprise stack and allowing enterprise
customers to pick and choose and subscribe to best-of-breed point solutions for
CRM, ERP, marketing automation, talent management, expense management and many
more instead of entire application suites.
Traditionally, integration has been the pain point for getting siloed
applications to work together. With SaaS, this pain can be amplified since
there are potentially many more applications to integrate.
APIs and the integration
The advent of APIs for SaaS has revolutionised the way organisations can
connect applications together and create new business models. APIs are used by
companies to pick and choose individual SaaS applications to run their business
and connect them together.
However, even with APIs, each application is still different, which creates
a challenge in finding a bridge to get the applications working together.
Typically, integration needs to synchronise information between two or more
applications, providing data transformation, security, reliability, visibility
and error handling. Ideally this all happens in real-time so that applications
don’t get out of sync and users are always working with the most up-to-date
Additionally, most organisations will have on-premise applications but want
to adopt SaaS for specific areas. To realise the benefits of SaaS without
disrupting existing IT infrastructure calls for a new type of integration
approach: one that enables connectivity on-premise, or in the cloud for SaaS
and traditional on-premise applications.
Securing a competitive advantage
SaaS levels the playing field, theoretically giving all companies access
to the same applications and tools. The ‘atomisation’ of enterprise
applications means companies can pick and choose the best applications for
their needs rather than settling for ‘good enough’ application suites as
before. Enterprises that figure out how to make SaaS part of their application
landscape will be best able to compete.
For this to be possible companies need an integration platform that
provides connectivity for all their applications, be they SaaS applications
such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite, or Workday, or on-premise applications such
as SAP, Microsoft and Oracle.
The connections between installed applications need to be working
silently in the background, with analytical visibility required for the
information running through these applications to help tune the business and
discover new insights.
In conclusion, a company’s competitive advantage is no longer in the
applications they use but the platform they choose to connect them.
By Will Bosma, MuleSoft