Mario DeSousa is the lead SaaS Architect at MetraTech, the leading provider of agreements-based billing, commerce and compensation solutions. From the UI to the API, Mario is a key evaluator for technology and architecture decisions related to Metanga, MetraTech’s SaaS billing engine.
Last week we sat down with Mario to learn more about the technical criteria he evaluated CloudHub against, and the internal benefits that the engineering and product teams have seen to date as a part of the SaaS integration partnership. The integration app model powered by CloudHub not only passed Mario’s technical evaluation criteria, but it’s safe to say, it blew him away. Read on to find out why.
Q: What use cases are your customers are trying to implement?
A: Generally our customers are looking to have information from Metanga tightly integrated and reflected in third party financial applications. For example, I’m if I’m sending invoices through Metanga on an ongoing basis, in real-time or on a monthly basis, all of the revenue intelligence associated with those invoices also needs to be reflected in my financial application.
Q: What were some of the challenges for Metanga to meet these requirements?
A: From an R&D perspective, being able to support a wide range of financial applications is a major challenge. Typically each application has its own protocols and concepts that you need to be able to map from your core application. From an analyst’s perspective, going through that development process with each one, you’re talking about a few weeks and then an implementation which is a challenge in and of itself.
It also makes your time to market extremely long because there are a lot of financial applications out there. If we talk to 10 customers, all 10 could have a different financial application that they need Metanga to connect to. Therefore, in order to be able to reach as many customers as possible, we need to be able to easily integrate to those applications without putting any pain on the customer. We don’t want to tell them, “Hey we have an API, you can just integrate your financial application to us.” From their perspective that makes Metanga a solution that is very hard to implement and more expensive.
Q: What was the implication if the integration challenge wasn’t addressed?
A: Last year we lost a number of deals because we lacked this capability. Today when a customer buys a cloud-based solution, there is an expectation that it should be pre-integrated with their existing systems. For us, having this capability allows us to reach more prospects and it’s an important checkpoint for them. Without it, we’re simply not in the game.
Q: How does the SaaS partnership with MuleSoft help solve these challenges?
A: The partnership with MuleSoft is allowing us to have a single integration to the CloudHub platform. From Cloudhub, we can connect to any number of financial applications that appear in our customer base. We’re able to leverage MuleSoft’s library of connectors within our integration app and configure the integration for our customers in a much shorter time frame. It allows us to provide the benefit of integration to our customers without deviating from our core competency, which is billing.
Q: What are the sales benefits of having integration as a part of Metanga?
A: This is already helping us engage more closely with prospects. The conversation simply goes something like this, “Metanga integrates with your financial application. Yes, it’s already available. Great, problem solved.” It really helps us focus the conversation around their core billing requirements, and communicating the value of Metanga.
Q: What are the product and support benefits?
A: It helps us offer a more complete solution without having to hire a number of resources that would have to be fully focused on integration. It allows us to instead leverage two partners: MuleSoft for the technology, and a System Integrator, Riptide for customer configurations. Riptide configures each customer and works through any questions that customer has, which allows Metanga to continue to stay focused in developing a best of breed SaaS billing application.
Also from a support standpoint, we’re able to leverage a mature solution from day one. Each Cloudhub integration app has a defined approach for how it works and how it’s setup. Also whenever a new endpoint needs to be configured, as the administrator it is a straightforward process to get the customer live. As the application owner, CloudHub also offers functionality that allows us to go in and take a look at our customers’ integrations. We can quickly see if there are any issues, diagnose them, and if we’re interested we can also view reports across all integrations.
Q: What evaluation criteria would you suggest to evaluate SaaS integration tools?
A: I would look to see if the vendor has connectors to the applications you need to talk to today, and potentially in the future. I’d also look for an integration application and platform that is mature, meaning it supports a number of different approaches for integration. For example, allowing external systems to send notifications into the integration and for that integration app to be able to accept those notifications at any time. Another example would be in addition to integrating to SaaS financial applications, it also needs to exchange files with an on premise application like SAP.
Finally having a good, well designed front end that would allow an administrator to log in to look at the integration details, and to troubleshoot any issues is key. If your integration tool does not have that type of dashboard, then support may become a significant cost for you. Integrations tend to be challenging, especially in situations where the customer owns one of the end applications. In a situation where the customer manages the third party app, there could be any number of problems that arise. If the customer does network maintenance or maybe changes their credentials, you want to very quickly tell the customer, “Hey, it looks like you recently made this change and that has broken the application.” From the customers perspective, Metanga has this integration included in its service. If we are not able to easily monitor and troubleshoot the integration, the problems will reflect badly on Metanga and would impact customer satisfaction and Metanga’s SLAs.
Q: What is most exciting about having integration as a part of your service?
A: Having complex integrations that actually work smoothly is something I’ve rarely seen before. The integration app allows Metanga to simultaneously exchange information with five different financial applications at the same time. The data synchronization is so smooth. Anything you do in Metanga is immediately reflected in the third party applications… all at the same time. That type of packaged integration is really amazing. It’s also so easy to set everything up. Just unprecedented.
Q: What guidance would you give to other SaaS providers?
A: I definitely think MuleSoft should be one of the top solutions you consider. Generally, implementing these integrations is not part of most SaaS company’s core competencies. If you really want to make sure that your developers are focused on delivering your core value, make sure that you are not taking away resources or being slowed down by offering an application that has a rich set of integrations with other popular solutions. Definitely look at CloudHub and consider leveraging it to create pre-packaged integration apps. I think integration apps should be an important aspect of any SaaS company’s strategy.