Giving customers access to their data is becoming increasingly important for SaaS companies, not just because they may ask for it or own their data, as outlined in many service agreements, but companies have become so much more data literate and want to combine data from your system with their other platforms for a holistic picture of their business performance. By inhibiting this, your platform becomes a liability instead of an asset. Providing data access on-demand also helps your users see the value of your system; customers just won’t need to think about it – the data will just appear where they need it.
Providing data access to customers is a multi-tiered process (If only it was as simple as opening up access to a database or two). It requires your engineering team to set up permissioning and security, it is difficult to maintain performance and transformation pipelines, and as your schema evolves new versions of your entire pipeline are necessary for the accuracy of data.
How can you make data access easier for you and your customers?
If you don’t find a way to simplify it, customers might churn and your sales team might lose deals when decision-makers are concerned about data integrations and you don’t provide a simple data access program.
This guide will dive deep into the data access side of customer analytics and reporting so you can spend more time on your core features.
Table of Contents
- How can you give customers their data?
- What is a Data Access API?
- Challenges with Data Access
- How does data access API fit into the customer reporting strategy?
- Who manages customer data access APIs?
- How to monetize customer data access?
- The improved process for Data Access APIs
How can you give customers their data?
Traditionally in enterprise software there is an analytics maturity curve that is dictated by the level of resources a company can put towards customer-facing analytics and how loudly customers scream for access to their data. The points on the curve generally follow this arc;
- Manual exports and custom queries
- Customers have a specific request so they ask their support team for their data. The support team then asks an engineer to pull data and they email a CSV back to the customer.
- CSV Download buttons
- Once these custom queries become frequent and consistent enough engineers will create a download button in the platform that kicks off the query and provides a CSV file to the customer. Most of the time it pulls data from the production database, running the risk of system wide performance issues.
- Analytics Dashboards
- Begin creating visualizations for customers to understand KPIs. These usually start as static dashboards without any customization for users to view the data how they want.
- Self-service analytics becomes important when your customers have different types of data and view it in unique ways.
- Data Access APIs
- This allows customers to pull their data into their platforms like BI tools or CRMs to combine it with other platform data to get a holistic view of their business. It makes it easy for customers to streamline their business processes and get additional value from your platform.
What is a Data Access API?
A data access API is a REST API endpoint that allows your customers to pull data that they have access to from your system so that they can use it to compare across their organization or combine with data from other sources that help them run their business.
Some of the verticals that generally require external data access, most of which focus on a B2B SaaS market;
- E-commerce Platforms
- Supply Chain and Logistics
For example, there are many segments of e-commerce platforms that a business needs to compete across their industry. In the e-commerce industry the average business is on many platforms but they want to centralize their customer and sales data in their core business applications. By providing a Data Access API customers can easily pull data from your system into their core business applications.
Challenges with Data Access Programs
When you don’t prioritize customer data access and analytics due to resource constraints there are several challenges that can frustrate your customers and your internal teams.
- Manual process for customer success and engineers
- Asking engineers to manually run reports or create queries is really inefficient and a bad customer experience. In the time that an engineer needs to run reports they can create a lot more value for your platform.
- Customer Value is diminished
- By not providing customers access to use their data through analytics features in your platform or external platforms, you’re limiting the value that they receive from using your platform. Finding the right type of data access program is key to maximizing the value that you provide your users.
How does a Data Access API fit into the customer reporting strategy?
When it comes to customer analytics and reporting, data access is often left out of the conversation. More often product managers and engineers set out to create analytics dashboards (which we also love) but dashboards can leave out some critically important information for users.
The hard part in justifying dashboards is the high opportunity cost of building custom dashboards and data infrastructure to support them. The level of effort required to implement these features compared to building core features of a platform means dashboards are often delayed or not built. But this can leave a large gap in your platform for users.
Additionally, your data may only be one piece of a broader set of platforms your customers use to run their business. Reporting on your subset of data can be valuable but customers will also need an aggregate view of their data across all platforms. This is where data access APIs come in handy. It allows your customers to get to their data when they need it and move it to where they need it.
Data Access gives your customers control
Oftentimes the data in your platform is more valuable when combined with other data. By giving control to your users through a REST API they will have the ability to make the data more valuable. When optimize this data access and make it as painless as possible for them, the following benefits occur:
- Decreased time to value
- Increase product value
- Reduced Churn
Data Access APIs alleviate work for internal teams
Teams across your company benefit when customers have control over their data.
- Customer Success – Less time pulling or requesting data be pulled. More time focused on success metrics.
- Engineering – Less time working on non-core functionality or infrastructure management.
- Product – More time to focus on value creation in the platform without the distraction of customer data requests.
To experience these benefits and make data access a key part of your customer reporting strategy, a data experience platform can be used. With a data experience platform, product engineering teams save significant time. Key platform features include:
- Data modeling and transformations
- Row level security
- API user management
- Data configuration
- Collaboration with stakeholders
- No code required (so non-technical team members can use it without requiring assistance from engineers)
- Documentation for users
Who manages customer data access?
Depending on the size and maturity of a company, customer data access will be managed by product engineering teams who seek to make the process easy for customers or data science/analytics teams who manage internal business intelligence programs.
Altogether, these are the people who might collaborate to handle customer data access:
- Product Managers
- Software Engineers
- Data Engineers
- Data Analysts
- Data Scientists
- Customer Success Managers
With self-service data access programs, your product teams should seek to continually evolve the data available as your platform grows. Otherwise, data will be missing and customer value drops.
For better self-serve data access APIs, check out Data Access API collections, our ready-to-go solution.
How to monetize customer data access?
Monetizing access to data is a great way to increase revenue from enterprise clients. The highest-performing and fastest-growing companies have adopted data monetization and made it an important part of their strategy, according to McKinsey & Co. Even though customers may own their data, most of them will be willing to pay the convenience fee to access their data via API so that’s it’s readily available when they want and in a format they can immediately work with.
Introducing Verb Data Access APIs and the improved process for Data Access APIs
Let’s take a look at the few steps necessary to stand up a Data Access API with Verb.
- Connect and select data to be shared
- Verb’s no-code modeling and pipeline tools make this fast and configuring the data available to users is a few clicks.
- Setting row level security and permission on the model
- Do this once and it’s reused across any collection created from a model.
- Create keys and share documentation
- Creating users takes a few seconds and documentation is automatically generated when sharing their key.
- Product evolution
- As schema’s change, Verb makes it easy for you to update details and automatically generates documentation with each new version.
With Verb, Data Access APIs are set up within a few hours and non-technical team members can manage most of the workload. It’s easy to evolve the API and continue to add data or create new APIs as customers request them.
Providing this level of data access becomes an easy win for your product and there is virtually no additional work for your teams to implement and maintain these APIs.
Data Access APIs are Verb’s fastest way to implement a customer data program that helps provide enterprise customers with their data as they need it.