‍Build or buy integrations? How to land on the best decision 

Building product integrations, or integrations between your platform and your customers’ applications, isn’t a choice; they offer business-critical benefits, from improving customer retention to increasing your close rate to helping you expand to new markets.

A bar chart that shows the benefits of offering integrations
More than half of the SaaS organizations we surveyed for our State of Product Integrations report said they’ve realized the benefits highlighted above 

However, deciding whether to “buy” or “build” integrations isn’t always a clear-cut decision. Each approach has pros and cons, and every pro and con can carry more weight for some organizations and less weight for others.

To help you evaluate these two options effectively, we’ll align on how each of them work, break down their respective pros and cons, and then compare them directly.

Overview on building integrations

Building integrations simply refers to a company enlisting their engineers with implementing and maintaining customer-facing integrations

These in-house engineers are on the hook for understanding the API providers’ endpoints, constructing the API requests, testing the connections, implementing the infrastructure to handle the responses successfully (e.g., adopting specific error-handling workflows), and more. 

visual of building integrations

Benefits of building integrations

Here are some of the benefits of building integrations:

  • Lets you avoid investing in 3rd-party integration tooling
  • Allows you to customize the integrations to your specific use cases
  • Gives your team full control over identifying and resolving integration issues as they arise

Drawbacks of building integrations

Unfortunately, building integrations come with several issues:

  • Forces your engineers to invest significant time in not only building integrations but also in maintaining them—which is never-ending work
  • Lowers engineering morale, as every time an integration breaks, affected customers and team members will voice their frustration with the engineers, even when the fault lies with a 3rd-party API provider
  • Scaling your integrations requires you to hire more engineers and invest further in your infrastructure

Related: When to outsource integrations

Overview on buying integrations

Buying integrations is investing in a 3rd-party platform that lets you add integrations to your product. Depending on the vendor, this can also include integration maintenance support and observability tooling.

Buying integrations screenshot
You can buy integrations from an embedded iPaaS or a unified API solution. The former forces you to build one integration at a time and requires users to have a technical background; the latter lets you build once to access hundreds of product integrations

Benefits of buying integrations

Here are just a few reasons to invest in a 3rd-party solution:

  • Enables engineering to save significant time—which they can reallocate toward your core product
  • The solution may offer powerful and accessible observability features, allowing customer-facing teams to identify, diagnose, and resolve integration issues independently
  • You can leverage a wide range of reliable, secure, and comprehensive integrations out-of-the-box

Drawbacks of buying integrations

There’s also a few potential issues to keep in mind:

  • Depending on the vendor, the pricing model can be cost-prohibitive at scale
  • The platform may force you to build one integration at a time and require users to have a technical background
  • The platform may not cover the specific applications you need to connect to or the individual objects and fields you need to sync

Given all the pros and cons of both building and buying integrations, it can be hard to pick the approach that’s best for your business. To help you land on the best one, we've outlined general guidelines for making the decision in the next section.

Related: A guide to 3rd-party integrations

Building vs buying an integration

The decision depends on your integration’s requirements, available developer resources, and the level of control you want to have throughout the integration’s life span. However, it’s generally more cost-effective to buy an integration.

Decision tree to help you decide whether to buy or build integrations
Use this decision tree to whenever you’re deciding between building and buying integrations

Merge makes the build-versus-buy decision easy

Merge, the leading unified API solution, lets you add hundreds of integrations through a single integration build, which include HRISs, ATSs, CRMs, file storage solutions, and more. 

The platform also offers Integration Observability features—such as automated issue detection and fully-searchable logs—and integration maintenance support to help you provide reliable integrations and allow your customer-facing teams to address issues with ease.

Finally, the platform offers advanced features for accessing custom objects and fields, such as Field Mapping, ensuring you can sync all the data your customers care about.