Cloud integration pays off for tax software business
Avalara increases customer satisfaction with an e-commerce solution that uses Dell Boomi for integration and API Management
As a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, Avalara provides tax automation solutions that integrate with customers’ financial, billing, e-commerce or point-of- sale systems to deliver accurate, real-time tax calculations over a secure Internet connection. Avalara calculates the rates, rules, boundaries, exemptions, tax holidays, reporting requirements and filing deadlines (and lots of other tax compliance headaches), giving customers more time to focus on their business. Avalara’s Compliance Cloud™ platform manages the complexity of sales tax and other transactional tax compliance — cost-effectively and with e-commerce-class scale, speed and reliability.
Automating e-commerce, increasing customer satisfaction
While Avalara’s software is highly automated and efficient, its sales process used to be high-touch and high-cost. In particular, provisioning customers involved several time-consuming, manual steps that took longer than anyone liked. So Avalara turned to Slalom to build an e-commerce solution that Avalara’s platform services team could maintain on its own — one that would speed up on-boarding and improve customer satisfaction.
When it came to integration, building its own custom, in-house solution was out of the question for Avalara. The company lacked the internal resources to develop and maintain a custom solution, and it wouldn’t scale over time. Avalara turned to systems integrator Slalom to design and implement a system that would allow it to bring features to market quickly, offer faster time to value, and be relatively easy to maintain, deploy and monitor. The challenge for Slalom: It had to implement a solution within three months.
From Slalom’s perspective, Dell Boomi was the answer.
For this initial e-commerce project, Avalara wanted to create an API that would allow other areas of the company to create subscriptions and submit leads through Avalara.com and other web properties. Avalara also needed to integrate billing and subscription between Zuora and Salesforce Sales Cloud.
“We wanted integration between a REST API that we expose to pages and the shopping cart experience,” says Mike Brown, Avalara’s director of platform services. “Then, with each customer sale, we wanted to push that data into Salesforce and Zuora. Avalara also needed to record the transaction in the appropriate back-office systems for billing and renewals.”
At the time, Avalara didn’t have a web service to perform that process; it was using several different shopping cart systems that were unable to display the company’s entire product catalog.
To handle the integration and API management, Slalom recommended the Dell Boomi AtomSphere integration platform as a service (iPaaS). But Brown was initially skeptical that AtomSphere could provide the flexibility Avalara needed.
“My team and I were experienced in C# programming and traditional ASP, frontend type of work,” Brown says. “Dell Boomi seemed to promise a lot, but it was a paradigm shift from full-stack, middle-tier development.”
With the clock ticking, Slalom architected a solution that used an API to create subscriptions or accounts in the e-commerce channel. AtomSphere was also used to integrate Zuora and Salesforce Sales Cloud (CRM), as well as sell pages and shopping cart experiences. With each sale, a customer’s order information is pushed to both Salesforce and Zuora.
“Thanks to Dell Boomi, we were able to quickly make it happen,” says Rajeev Singh, Slalom’s practice area lead for Business Applications and Integration. “AtomSphere was a strategic IT solution that could be foundational for the growth of Avalara’s business.”
Today, AtomSphere allows Avalara to deliver integrations and solutions rapidly and at higher quality, with fewer moving parts, which means there are fewer places for bugs and problems to develop. “Before Dell Boomi, we didn’t have the resources to deliver what we delivered this year,” Brown says. “AtomSphere has given us the ability to accomplish a lot more.”
Avalara even elected to host its own Boomi Atom onsite, allowing the company to leverage its existing hosting, security and monitoring infrastructure. After the initial ramp-up, Brown says, “it was all very quick, very easy from an IT and hosting perspective.”
Extending integration throughout the enterprise
After the success of the e-commerce solution, Brown’s team focused on extending Slalom’s solution by adding more features and functionality, and extending the API. Avalara upgraded to the AtomSphere Enterprise Edition, and now runs two sets of atoms and 22 connectors.
With Dell Boomi AtomSphere, Avalara extended its use of AtomSphere to help the company manage the provisioning from Salesforce to Zuora for billing. They’ve even added billing for metered usage. Today, Avalara’s marketing team builds sell pages that call the REST APIs exposed through AtomSphere’s API Management solution.
These projects also allowed Brown’s team to ramp up its learning of AtomSphere. Despite being new AtomSphere users, “end-to-end delivery of that functionality was faster than with other, middle-tier providers,” Brown says. He also adds that the platform team’s QA engineer learned AtomSphere during the course of these projects, taking advantage of Dell Boomi’s crowdsourced best-practice features such as Boomi Suggest. “Ultimately, the delivery time was quicker than if we’d used some more traditional technologies,” Brown says. “Consequently, we want to continue to leverage and expand our use of Dell Boomi.”
The initial implementation of Avalara’s solution was about transformation; subsequently, Brown and his team have also added programming logic — another means to leverage Dell Boomi AtomSphere throughout Avalara.
“AtomSphere has revitalized our e-commerce channel — and it’s allowing us to go to market faster,” Brown says. “Dell Boomi is enabling our ability to sell our services online in a no-touch environment, an essential goal in our growth, and AtomSphere is key to our success.”
System Integration Partner
Slalom designs and builds strategies and systems to help its clients solve some of their most complex and interesting business challenges. With 3,200 consultants, Slalom delivers award-winning solutions in areas such as Business Applications and Integration, information management and analytics, sales and marketing, organizational effectiveness, CFO advisory, mobility, and cloud.
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