Interviewed by Adam Burroughs | Smart Business Magazine | INSIGHTS Digital Transformation
Businesses should use data they collect to validate decisions, measure performance and find areas of improvement. To do that, data should be visible, consistently formatted and shareable. But it's typically not.
"Business data often needs to be formed into a better, more consumable shape," says Mehul Kenia, a product architect at EOX Vantage. "That's usually because it's stored in discrete systems, even when companies take a cloud-based approach to storage. That makes data hard to link for a clear, holistic picture."
Enter Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This data management solution can add value to data, offer real-time data and generally make things more efficient.
"At their core, APIs are really about getting apps and systems talking to each other and sharing data effectively," Kenia says.
Smart Business spoke with Kenia about APIs - what they are, how they're used and why companies should implement them in their organizations to improve how information is shared and utilized.
What Are APIs and How Can They Help A Company More Effectively Use its Data?
APIs are not new, but they've grown in popularity and use since at least the early 2000s. At its core, API is a software layer that acts as a bridge to help various software programs and systems exchange data with each other in a structured format.
Typically, organizations use different lists for inventory, orders, addresses, contacts and other business information. Some of these are stored in a CRM, some in isolated databases, some on paper and others on spreadsheets. Having data locked away in disparate sources where it can't be easily accessed and shared is an especially bad way to do business.
APIs easily connect with disparate apps and databases to create a customer application cluster ecosystem with a centralized data source. It means, in part, real-time access to data, enabling companies to publish accurate reports and updates.
How are APIs Implemented?
Companies that use APIs can utilize other data services without building their own, and they have a low implementation expense for integration. For example, companies that are building an application that has a mapping function don't need to store location data or try to capture satellite or street images. Instead, they could utilize Google's mapping service to do that.
It's not necessary to understand all the technical and business aspects of the domain, or know the details of how they are coded, to effectively use APIs. With real-time data access and updates, any change can be automatically pushed out even if the applications are in different formats or use different coding.
Why is this Something Companies Should Do Now?
APIs are in use within many companies and their prevalence is growing in most every industry. Many companies struggle to establish connected networks of systems or actionable data. API integration and personalization enable companies to gain otherwise unseen insights into users and how they interact with a company's apps and systems. They are a great solution toward creating integration and visibility, and they help companies leverage data and expand their customer base.
APIs help streamline operations by minimizing issues that require technical skills and leveraging the power of connectivity. As more employees work remote, APIs can improve data security and validation, which is important because storing shared information in multiple places can create exposures.
Companies that are building a new application should build an API-based architecture. User interfaces are evolving every day with all the new devices coming out. Having the business logic behind the API gives companies flexibility to support multiple user interfaces and quickly create or change a user interface.
Those companies that aren't already using APIs should connect with a service provider that can help them achieve operational efficiencies by tapping into the benefits of cutting-edge software. Creating a business workplace with improved technology can help any company stay ahead of the curve and focus on growth instead of concerns over sustainability.