Retrieving and remixing data from web APIs and SaaS through two or more steps is a decade-old idea, starting with Yahoo Pipes in 2007 if not earlier (screenshot above from Derek Banas). While the concept is promising, the execution has often fallen short because of a variety of hurdles:
- The broader the targeted user base, the harder it is to provide a user experience that less technically-inclined people can figure out. It’s one thing to serve developers and tech-savvy business analysts, but it takes more UI chops to be within reach of your average marketer who’s likely challenged by, say, simple pivot tables.
- APIs keep changing all the time, so reliable SaaS middleware has to do a lot behind the scenes to limit breakage and confusion for its end users. Otherwise your workflow works, and then it doesn’t.
- What’s the business model? Yahoo Pipes obviously didn’t have any. On the other end, enterprise tools tend to limit themselves to the “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” upper end of the market. It’s only in the last couple of years that affordable but sustainable SaaS integration (to do more than basic 2-step workflows) emerged. That means relatively cheap subscriptions, because there’s no way ads or one-off sales can support this sort of product over the long haul.
In a previous entry I tracked the players and events in the SaaS integration market. Here I’ll start by comparing what kind of UI is delivered by market participants to manage nontrivial workflows, and I’ll conclude with a few strategic considerations. Read More