How Finch Uses Assisted Integrations to Expand Data Coverage

April 18, 2024
0 min read
Finch uses assisted integrations to maximize coverage, providing a valuable alternative to manual data processing when APIs are unavailable or inaccessible.
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Learn how assisted integrations expand coverage and provide a secure, reliable alternative to manual data processing for systems with closed APIs.

At Finch, we categorize our B2B software integrations into two buckets: automated and assisted. Both are tools that allow software applications to share data directly. The difference between the two is the path the data takes to get from one system to another: while automated integrations facilitate automatic data flow from app to app, assisted integrations require a few additional steps behind the scenes.

Assisted integrations serve an important purpose. Fully automated integrations are the gold standard in software connectivity, but they only work when the underlying data provider has an accessible API. In the employment industry, where most systems of record either lack APIs or keep them under lock and key, assisted integrations empower employers to share their data to whatever application needs it automatically.

They aren’t suitable for every use case; but in many situations, assisted integrations are a valuable tool that significantly expands system coverage. Finch supports both automated and assisted integrations in order to provide access to as many HRIS and payroll systems as possible, furthering our goal of democratizing access to the infrastructure that underpins the employment ecosystem. 

What are assisted integrations?

Assisted integrations are secure connections between two software systems that offer many of the same benefits as automated integrations: data is shared between the two platforms in a standardized format. The difference is how the data gets there. Finch provides access to our assisted integrations through a feature called Finch Assist, which supports integrations with hundreds of HRIS and payroll systems.

Here’s how Finch Assist works: The end-user (the employer) adds Finch as a permissioned, third-party user to their HRIS or payroll system using Finch Connect. Finch’s Product Operations team then works behind the scenes, leveraging scripts that pull the relevant data, standardize its format, and make it available via the Finch API.

Like automated integrations, this data is standardized and made available by API request. Developers can also be notified when data has changed—like when a new employee joins or leaves. The most significant difference is that data is refreshed every 7 days (rather than daily).

While assisted integrations require an extra step, they’re a vast improvement over manual data entry, which is the only alternative when a system has a limited API or no API at all. Employers or HR admins aren’t downloading data as a flat file and uploading it to another system—technology is still retrieving and standardizing the data on their behalf. Day-to-day, there is no extra effort required of the system of record, third-party application, or the end-user; Finch handles the syncing process.

Automated vs. assisted integrations

Aside from their workflows, the biggest differences between assisted and automated integrations are the configuration period (how long it takes to activate the integration), how often the data is refreshed, and how many providers are supported through each. 

  • Automated integrations — These integrations are pre-built and fully automated, meaning there is no configuration period and data syncs automatically every 24 hours. Users can also run syncs on demand at more frequent intervals if needed. Finch currently supports automated integrations for more than 30 of the most popular providers (by market share).
  • Assisted integrations — The configuration period for assisted integrations is 1-2 weeks, and the data is refreshed weekly. Finch’s assisted integrations can support Organization data coverage from any HRIS or payroll system in the US market and double the Payroll data coverage of our automated integrations.

Both automated and assisted integrations are supported by connection monitoring, meaning you can monitor the status of an assisted integration just as you would an automated integration. Both types also allow users to set up webhooks.

Benefits of assisted integrations

Finch created assisted integrations in response to the number of retirement and benefits providers that were building manual data processing in-house—a cumbersome and inefficient workaround necessitated by the lack of open APIs in the employment ecosystem. By leveraging assisted integrations, Finch is able to offer the widest (and deepest) coverage of employment systems available—4x more than any other unified API on the market.

Expand coverage

Integrations are becoming increasingly table stakes for employers; but too few systems of record allow other applications to integrate directly. Since Finch was founded, we’ve found that 99% of payroll providers either have a gated API or no API at all. HR systems are generally more accessible, but the problem still persists here on a smaller scale. 

Relying solely on automated integrations puts thousands of HR and payroll systems out of reach. Some unified APIs don’t support assisted integrations, but this significantly reduces their data coverage, especially among niche or “long-tail” providers that have only a small market share. And it’s worth noting that in payroll, that’s no small number of exclusions—there are more than 5,700 payroll providers in the US alone, and the top 10 competitors only account for 54.8% of the entire market. In other words, using automated integrations alone leaves nearly half of the total addressable market on the table.

Finch’s assisted integrations serve as a supplement to our automated integrations. With assisted integrations, we’re able to support 2x more payroll integrations and 7x more 360° integrations, which allow the two-way flow of data (read and write capabilities).

Write back to payroll systems

While payroll systems are behind the curve on API accessibility, it’s still a crucial source of truth for employment data—especially when it comes to employee benefits. Employer-sponsored benefits must be able to create and manage payroll deductions on behalf of enrolled participants, which requires writing changes to payroll systems.

As a result, benefits providers have been forced to use Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), manual file sharing, or even email to communicate those changes to either the employer or the payroll provider, who then must manually update the payroll system. 

Assisted integrations improve this workflow by allowing the benefits provider to automate deductions by pushing changes directly back to the payroll system via the Finch API—no involvement from the employer or payroll provider required. 

Eliminate manual data processing

Without an open API to build to, the only alternative to assisted integrations is manual data transfer. This poses several challenges: 

  1. It creates significant friction for the employer, elongating their onboarding process and delaying the point at which they begin realizing value from your solution. 
  2. It puts the onus of standardizing data on your operations team–or worse, the employer. 
  3. It introduces more opportunity for human error.

Assisted integrations take the work of your customer’s plate so they can start realizing the ROI of your solution faster. They also offer automated data standardization, and because the integration is powered by scripts—not manual downloads and uploads—there’s a reduced risk of inaccuracies or missed fields. 

Who should use assisted integrations?

Because the data is refreshed weekly, assisted integrations aren’t a fit for every use case. For time-sensitive tasks, like deprovisioning employee access upon termination, the weeklong period between data refreshes is too long. 

But for processes that require access to data that coincides with payroll cycles (like retirement deductions) or data that rarely changes (like employee birthday or anniversary rewards), assisted integrations can provide the same benefits as their automated counterparts.

Here are a few examples to give you an idea of the kind of use cases that can be powered by assisted integrations:

  • Employee engagement and recognition — Use organization data like start date, birthday, or title changes to engage and reward employees automatically when they reach milestones.
  • 401(k) retirement benefits — Automatically pull income and deferral rate each pay cycle, then write deductions changes back to the payroll system without involving the sponsor. 
  • Compensation/equity management — Pull all employee salary, benefits, and equity data automatically to create a holistic view for accounting and headcount management purposes. 
  • Professional development/training — Use employee directory data to assign trainings and professional development courses based on title, department, tenure, and so on.
  • People/HR analytics — Access the employer’s HRIS to provide a snapshot of company demographics and track KPIs like employee retention and mobility.

Are assisted integrations secure?

When supported by a reliable provider, assisted integrations are just as secure as API integrations. 

Finch is SOC 2, CCPA, GDPR, and HIPAA compliant—meaning we engage in annual audits and maintain strict internal protocols to safeguard the security of sensitive data. We also use data classification to control who is able to access what data and use encryption at rest, in transit, and on the application level to prevent data from being accessed by unauthorized users and bad actors. 

The data that flows through our assisted integrations is subject to strict access controls and monitored by audit logs so we’re always able to account for changes, track who accessed the system and when, and ensure personally identifiable information (PII) and other sensitive data is kept private. 

Why Finch supports assisted integrations

Our company mission is to democratize access to employment infrastructure in order to facilitate faster, more transformative innovation in employment tech. The way we see it, the more systems of record we can provide integrations to, the closer we are to realizing that goal. 

The truth is that assisted integrations aren’t the solution for every company and every use case; but when it’s a choice between assisted integrations and no API support at all, the choice is clear. Assisted integrations are secure and more efficient than manual processes, which put an administrative burden on the employer. 

Our goal is to eventually offer automated integrations to most, if not all, of the systems of record that underpin the infrastructure of employment tech, but with nearly 6,000 of these systems in the US alone, realizing that goal will take time. In the interim, assisted integrations provide a much-needed solution that is bridging the gap between systems of record with closed APIs and the third-party software applications that need access to the data they hold. 

Unlock access to hundreds of HRIS and payroll systems with Finch

Finch’s Unified Employment API powers connections to 200+ systems of record through a single integration, so you can spend less time building technical bridges and more time focused on product innovations. Schedule a call with our sales team to learn more, or try it yourself for free.

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