Data is the heart of every SaaS product and service. The most basic function of SaaS is moving data from one place to another faster and more efficiently than on-prem. Yet this fundamental task—data onboarding—has historically been cumbersome, tedious, and time-consuming. At the same time, it’s rife with precarity; done wrong or poorly, your company may find itself with frustrated customers, high churn rates, and overall lags in key processes.
The amount of data the world produces continues to grow at a breakneck pace, and it’s not going to slow down. A data onboarding survey that Flatfile conducted of B2B SaaS companies found that a whopping 96% of surveyed companies said they’ve run into problems with onboarding customer data, and 23% of software companies reported that importing this data can take them weeks—or even months.
Data onboarding is a bottleneck, and smart SaaS companies will look at improving their data onboarding experience as a way to gain a competitive advantage over others in the industry. But it’s even more important than that: Solving the data onboarding problem is table stakes for participating in innovation. The companies that fail to find ways to improve their data onboarding are cutting themselves off from the next wave of data-driven innovation. And it’s not just some or most SaaS companies—it’s all of them.
The universal (data) translator
Fortunately, data onboarding doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be just as quick and easy as other SaaS features. Regardless of what market, vertical, or industry you’re in, one business should be able to send any type of data to another, and the process should be so smooth and seamless that everyone forgets there were ever barriers and bottlenecks to overcome. Ideally, it should be a one-click experience.
That’s what Flatfile does. Created to solve the industry-wide data onboarding problem, Flatfile serves as essentially a universal translator for data onboarding for B2B SaaS companies. The platform offers a fast and easy data onboarding experience that’s comprehensive and secure. And it doesn’t require data experts, so data owners within your organization, like the sales team, customer success team, and product team, can use it.
Before your customers can benefit from your product or service, you have to onboard their data. Data comes from myriad sources, including other software products, spreadsheets, offline and analog data, and a combination of offline and digital data.
This is known as “high-variance” data—that is, data that hasn’t been cleaned up and precisely formatted prior to the onboarding process. This leaves SaaS companies with suboptimal choices.
They can ask their customers to format their own data ahead of the import process.
Require their customers to onboard their own data through self-service migration .
Provide the data formatting and onboarding on behalf of their customers.
The first option offloads a burden onto those customers—which is not exactly a good first impression—and if they have to use a self-service portal, it needs to be incredibly easy and painless to use.
But handling the whole data onboarding process on behalf of customers is expensive, requiring companies to burn cycles and resources. It also adds more time to the onboarding process, which delays the speed at which customers can begin enjoying your SaaS offering (and when you can start billing them for it).
In either case, it’s still typically a heavily manual process. But Flatfile’s ability to handle high-variance data from a multitude of sources uncomplicates and accelerates the whole data onboarding process and removes obstacles for business operations.
The origins of data onboarding and the next chapter
While the data onboarding challenge is not new, the category is. Just a few years ago, Flatfile co-founders David Boskovic and Eric Crane were working at a software startup where they painstakingly struggled to handle and clean up the firm’s customer data. Why was it so difficult to onboard customer data? Both had experience building custom data importers to try and solve the problem. Out of personal frustration, they “rage designed” the first iteration of Flatfile, a side project that could help them automatically organize and format data as they migrated it over to their product.
Since launching Flatfile in 2018, the company has seen over 1.5m customers onboarded across 400+ SaaS companies across the world. Over the past three years, Flatfile learned from its customers data onboarding pain points and use cases, resulting in the recent launch of the company’s new data onboarding platform.
When it comes to onboarding customer data, a company may want to embed data import directly into their SaaS application or run more complex onboarding projects with customers. Early on, Flatfile offered a drop-in SDK for web applications and had been testing a project-oriented workspace for collaborative data onboarding. Now, those concepts have been refined and the resulting capabilities made generally available, leading to a comprehensive data onboarding solution.
Broadly, the platform is designed so that companies can set it up once, and your organization’s teams and departments can use it however they need to import data. Flatfile seamlessly plugs into a range of data onboarding flows.
The platform also offers data templates, validation rules, and Data Hooks® (a feature that lets users easily find fringe issues and perform data healing and validation). It’s built for scale and security (HIPAA, GDPR, SOC 2 Type I compliant) is a key focus since Flatfile works with customers’ (and their customers’) data.
The challenge of data onboarding isn’t going away; it’s only becoming more complex, and every organization that accepts data from its customers has to solve for it. At the same time, fast and seamless data onboarding has never been more important for reducing customer churn, growing a customer base, decreasing time to value, and preparing for new innovation.
Flatfile has been the leader in obviating the universal challenge of data onboarding. The recent platform update is a step in its continued evolution towards that end, and you can expect to see more iterations and updates coming soon.