14 Mar, 2017

API: What It Is and Why It Matters for Productivity

14 Mar, 2017
API_ What It Is and Why It Matters for Productivity

API stands for “application programming interface,” and it’s absolutely essential to software integration. It’s kind of like a “handshake” between two different software programs, bringing them together to exchange information. The key word here is “interface” — it joins two different software programs together.

APIs are central to software integration, Application Integration, a process that’s shown itself time and time again to improve productivity and efficiency for organizations.

You’re Using APIs Every Day

Believe it or not, you’re probably using APIs on a daily basis in your personal life. If you use a third party app for social media sites like Reddit or Twitter, those apps are made possible by the platforms’ APIs. Your smartphone’s operating system uses an API to interact with your phone’s GPS capabilities.

APIs are a specification that programmers follow when their program is bringing in information through another service. They describe what functionality is available, how it can be used, and what formats are acceptable as input or output.

One good non-technical analogy for an API is to think of it as a middleman between a software programmer and an software application developer. The programmer asks the API for something, and if the API approves the request, it passes it on to the application. The information then comes back through the API to the programmer.

APIs are really only of interest to software developers, so for most people, they’re essentially invisible. But behind the scenes, these segments of a program’s code are what allows different software applications with different functions to work together to further your organizational goals.

How Software Programs Integrate with API

Connecting two programs via an API is a bit more complicated than it looks at first glance. The two programs need to map correctly to one another. For example, if you’re integrating Salesforce with Quick books, you need to map Quick books’ “First Name” field to Salesforce’s “F Name” field.

As a quick example, let’s say you went to an office store and bought four file cabinets, an expense you need to enter into your book keeping software (Software A). You consult your printed receipt, and input the information into the appropriate fields.

Now, you want to transmit that information seamlessly from Software A to Software B. That way, staff doesn’t have to enter the information separately into both programs, which takes up time.

Software B, however, is developed by a totally different company. The probably don’t use the same field labels, or treat information in the same way.

To integrate the two, you need a way to pro-grammatically obtain data from either of the two programs, and send it to the other. This is what the API is for.

For example, let’s say Software A expects separate entries for a city, a state, and an address, but Software B combines this information into a single field. Assuming both software programs support one another’s APIs, you use the API of Software A to get the information, then the API of Software B to map the data into the different field.

Using APIs to integrate multiple software programs helps keep data in sync, eliminate the need for excessive manual data entry.

Why are APIs Important for Businesses?

This might not sound particularly relevant to you at first glance. If you’re not specifically a tech company such as software development company and enterprise integration company, you probably don’t work directly with APIs. But in reality, the software you’re using on a daily basis — in business as well as your private life — makes use of APIs to access accurate information.

Most businesses use a variety of software systems to handle different aspects of their organization. The programs’ APIs can be used to connect them, removing potentially inefficient “siloing” effects that can occur otherwise.

Software Silos

Most businesses deal with a variety of software applications and Software Development Services, most of which were acquired and installed at different points in time. This can leave the company with a confusing and complex software landscape that arises as the company grows. For example, a company might use Quick books or Fresh books for accounting from the very beginning. But as the business grows, they may add an inventory management system, fulfillment system, order management system, and more, with each function handled separately by different software.

Years later, this fragmented, siloed software ecosystem can leave companies with poorly planned architecture in place that isn’t ideal for long-term growth, or even for short-term tactical needs. Working with numerous siloed applications can have negative effects on the company as a whole.

  • Wasted productivity. As a company grows, each employee needs to be working at an optimal productivity level. Inefficient, disjointed software processes get in the way of this goal. Mission critical tasks may take longer to accomplish — for example, your staff may find themselves manually entering data into both an accounting system and an invoicing system. When orders are cancelled, they must deal with it manually again. These tedious processes eat up hours of precious time.
  • Lack of visibility. Un integrated software systems produce multiple databases, which may overlap in some places and differ in others. It must often be entered manually, and it may be difficult to accurately sync information between the different databases in a timely manner.

Ultimately, dealing with multiple disconnected software systems just isn’t efficient. Software integration uses APIs and other means to connect your systems together, allowing them to share and sync information in a timely manner.

Integrating your software systems provides a number of benefits that can ultimately work toward making your company more efficient and more profitable.

  • Better process efficiency. With integrated software systems, many necessary processes can actually be automated. For example, two programs can sync their data using the API protocols, removing the need for manual data entry to keep both systems accurate. By eliminating previously manual tasks, you free up your staff for tasks that are more valuable.
  • Real-time visibility. Software integration through APIs allows information to update automatically across different databases, and to be accessed from almost anywhere. Rather than having to wait for manual data entry, extract data, or try to make connections between different data sets by yourself, the information is already available in a consolidated location. This means that you and your employees can make informed decisions more quickly.

How Software Programs Integrate with API

Connecting two programs via an API is a bit more complicated than it looks at first glance. The two programs need to map correctly to one another. For example, if you’re integrating Salesforce with Quick books, you need to map Quick books’ “First Name” field to Salesforce’s “F Name” field.

As a quick example, let’s say you went to an office store and bought four file cabinets, an expense you need to enter into your bookkeeping software (Software A). You consult your printed receipt, and input the information into the appropriate fields.

Now, you want to transmit that information seamlessly from Software A to Software B. Software B, however, is developed by a totally different company. The probably don’t use the same field labels, or treat information in the same way.

To integrate the two, you need a way to pro-grammatically obtain data from either of the two programs, and send it to the other. This is what the API is for.

Legacy Software Integration with APIs

Different SaaS (software as a service) platforms can use APIs to communicate. However, you may also be able to integrate older legacy software, CRM Salesforce, Cloud Integration ,and Application Integration with newer SaaS tools. At Pulatech, we help companies compose and maintain APIs, as well as bring existing APIs up to speed. Many companies have a lot of value in IBM legacy applications, which can’t simply be refaced or replaced overnight. We use an incremental approach to consolidate different applications and update legacy programs with new, re-engineered components, making them better suited to the rapidly changing IT world of today.

Streamlining & Efficiency: Software Integration for Your Business

At Pulatech, we specialize in software integration services for businesses of all sizes, from SMBs to large enterprises. Using APIs, software oriented architecture, and other proven approaches to the integration process, we work with companies to improve process efficiency, real-time information access, and employee productivity.

We also focus on Salesforce integration. We’ve provided Salesforce consulting since 2008, and today, we’ve helped countless companies get the most out of their CRM. We offer Salesforce integration services, software customization, strategy consultation, and more.

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