Integration as a capability
At the end of the day, yes, you need to deliver integrations--individual parts of your product that interact with other ecosystem products to create a cross-product experience for your mutual customers.
For most B2B SaaS companies who get to any level of success, they'll do this dozens of times, if not hundreds. It is not reasonable to think you can build a sizeable SaaS platform (and truly mean the word "platform") without accepting the responsibility of providng this level of connectivity.
To set yourself up for success, think of integration as a capability, not just a feature.
Integration as a capability is about the developing your approach to building out connectivity; not just building out that connectivity. It's about having a process and a philosophy around prioritizing, designing, and delivering integrations. It's about how before what.
This is a mindset shift, and it requires product leaders to not be solely driven by short term needs. Yes, those short term needs are important and many must be addressed. But, the product leader has to also make room for the long term vision. Deciding how the team will approach connectivity means thinking about integration as a capability.
Questions that should be considered:
- What does the team who designs and builds integrations look like? What are the roles and the skills they possess? How do they work together?
- What's our methodology for deciding which customer requests to react to and which to politely decline?
- What's our methodology for deciding for ourselves which integrations are important for meeting our strategic goals?
- What's our strategy for standardizing how these are built, so we minimize cost of ownership?
- How are we going to make ongoing updates to enhance the functionality of the integrations? What about keeping them compatible with future API versions?
- How locked down and consistent will our integrations be? Will we allow for highly customized or completely bespoke ones? How will that work?
- What's our philosophy for monetizing integrations?
All of these are critical questions to answer. None of them are answered by reactively building integration features. You must develop your approach--your integration capability--and allow it to evolve as your company does.
But, just saying it doesn't make it so. What does it look like to get there?