In one of our last articles we already talked about the changing position of system integrators (SIs) in the software distribution/supply chain. Back then we mentioned Apora, a Netherlands-based system integrator, as a reference case.
This week we would like to share with you the full story of Apora. From the interview below with Bharath Kumar, Cofounder and Director at Apora, you’ll learn:
- On what basis the system integrator defined a new market for revenue expansion
- How they distinguish themselves from the competition
- What piece of technology was crucial for successful implementation of Apora’s new product idea
Addressing the underserved market segment
A visionary to the core, Apora Technologies recognized early enough that system integrators need to expand their business strategy if they want to stay competitive. The company has been implementing Zoho solutions for about six years, and has recently partnered with Oracle to provide implementation and integration for its Oracle Sales Cloud. In addition to that, Apora’s expertise lies in the implementation and integration of Google Apps and a few other cloud applications.
The system integrator decided to look for a business model that would help them reinforce their relationship with software vendors, as well as find new revenue streams and address new buyer groups.
In the SMB sector, Apora recognized a new market opportunity they decided to expand to. The reasoning was simple: While custom-built integration solutions are in most cases out of SMBs’ financial range, it doesn’t change the fact that SMBs’ increasingly use SaaS applications. “Already startups use up to 20 to 30 applications on average. Small and medium business are no exception either,” explained Bharath Kumar, Cofounder and Director at Apora Technologies.[clickToTweet tweet=”The #SMB sector is lucrative for #SI because of rising usage of #SaaS & high demand for #integration” quote=”The SMB sector is lucrative for SI because of rising usage of SaaS and high demand for integration”]
In order to be able to provide SMBs with affordable integration solutions, the system integrator needed to find a way to cut own costs for integrations delivery. To allow SMBs to connect applications without Apora’s direct involvement seemed to be a logical solution, but the main question was – how to do that in a most efficient way?
Higher quality as main competitive differentiator
That was when Apora came up with the idea of building a self-service integration marketplace that would contain standardized, ready-to-use integration solutions for most common use cases. Thus, the Aplynk, Apora’s daughter company, was born: “Integrations have always been an important part of our implementation projects,” said Bharath. “That is why we decided to accumulate and share our experience and knowledge in this area with the creation of Aplynk.”
Although there is no shortage of relatively low-cost, out-of-the-box integration solutions for SMBs, Bharath Kumar knew exactly how Aplynk would stand out: “We offer pure integration as a service, not a platform. This means that little to no programming skills are required from the users of our new product. Besides, most of the available out-of-the-box solutions only connect A to B, and mostly as point-to-point integration, whereas we believe in a multistep integration. Like integrating Zoho to Exact Online, to a database, to a marketing tool and come back to Zoho.”
Choosing the right integration middleware was crucial for product development
Even though application integration was Apora’s area of expertise, the system integrator decided to build its marketplace on top of the white-labeled version of our [elastic.io] integration platform. “When we started the Aplynk concept, our focus was to build integrations,” explained Bharath why Apora was looking for a third-party cloud-based integration middleware from the start. “We knew that in order to do this, we would have to go behind an integration middleware. Since building such a piece of technology was neither our expertise nor our core business, we started scouting for integration middleware offerings.”
The most important aspect Apora was looking for during the selection and qualification process was the guarantee that Apora could keep the customer ownership. “There are zillions of platforms out there, but the end customer ownership normally goes to integration middleware vendors, and not to the integration provider like us. In most cases you not only have to sell integrations, but also licenses for the integration middleware on top of which your integrations are built. We didn’t want to expose our customers to an integration middleware provider in such a way, because this is us who own the integrations,” said Bharath.[clickToTweet tweet=”White-label #iPaaS helps build strong products w/t exposing own customers to 3rd parties #cloud #saas” quote=”White-label iPaaS helps build strong products without exposing own customers to third parties”]
With the white-labelled integration middleware provided by elastic.io, Bharath found what he was looking for: a platform that would allow standardized delivery of integration solutions on a large scale under Aplynk’s own brand:
In addition to providing new business opportunities, the new self-service integration marketplace considerably facilitated the overall delivery of integration solutions for Apora. Previously, when creating integrations, the system integrator had to rely on the infrastructure of the respective customer. Therefore, each next integration project had to be treated and dealt with as a completely new one, even if the integration steps were well familiar and done before.
“Now, with this standardized integration middleware lying at the basis of our solution, we have one infrastructure for all integrations. This reduces time for our developers, and also for our customers. Now we can meet their integration requirements and deliver the projects considerably faster,” said Bharath Kumar.
Reducing development efforts led, in its turn, to cutting overall costs and allowed Apora to make its standardized integration solutions affordable for the SMB sector.
New product also helps strengthen ties between Apora and its partners
Bharath Kumar is very positive about his self-service integration marketplace. He believes that Aplynk will provide value not only for SMBs, but to Aplynk’s partners and software vendors as well: “Our partners will be able to extend and add value to their own portfolio by providing not only implementation but also integration. From the infrastructure perspective, they won’t have to develop integrations on their own. As for software vendors, they will extend the reach of their product to different markets, different regions and different industries.” For example, Exact already provides some of the Aplynk’s integration solutions on its Exact Online App Centre.
Apora might be among the first to have recognized that system integrators’ traditional project-based business model isn’t working as it once was, but we shall expect to see more and more system integrators moving in the direction of product-based business model as a way of addressing new integration requirements and new markets. As Frank Strecker, SVP Global Cloud Computing & Partner Eco-Systems at T-Systems International, once noticed: “Digitization requires rethinking among all participants.” System integrators are no exception, and the sooner they will realize that, the better they can act upon changes.