If you’ve worked with APIs before, you know how critical they can be to improving your business processes and increasing efficiencies. If you haven’t utilized them, entering the API world may seem like an abstract, daunting endeavor. Put simply, an API – Application Programming Interface – provides a way for two pieces of software to talk to each other and exchange information.
“In embracing the API imperative, companies are making a strategic choice. They are committing to evolve their expectations of technology investments to include the creation of reusable assets — and committing to build a lasting culture of reuse to inform future project planning.
Preparing, both strategically and culturally, to create and consume APIs is key to achieving business agility, unlocking new value in existing assets, and accelerating the process of delivering new ideas to the market.”
No matter what your experience with APIs may be, it’s important to evaluate the opportunity. I sat down with Dean Lalchun, an in-house iQmetrix API subject matter expert, and asked him what the top 4 questions to think about are when considering API integrations.
1. What business process do I want to automate?
Typically, when someone is considering APIs, they’re looking to automate something that would normally require repetitive, manual work – entering data from one system into a different system. To identify which processes would be best automated, consider asking yourself the following questions:
- What are the current pain points of my business?
By identifying the problem areas of your operations, pin-pointing where integrations would provide the most benefit will be easier.
- Could we streamline operations by integrating systems to automate work?
Many organizations struggle with double entry, which in addition to labor, results in increased room for error. Automating business processes removes the opportunity for mistakes and can free up employees’ schedule to spend more time with customers or on more strategic tasks.
- What additional changes would I need to make?
Integrating systems will streamline your business, however this automation will likely require updating additional processes throughout your organization and understanding how staff will fit into these new processes.
2. What system can solve my issue?There are often different ways your desired integration can be realized.
- What APIs are available?
Based on the systems you are looking to integrate, there might be one existing API built to connect the two. However, you may need to explore various APIs that pull the required information from one system and feed it to the other.
- How often do I need data?
If you want your two systems to be real-time mirrors of one another, keeping information live, many API calls may be required to make this happen. At the other end of the spectrum, if you just want batched information which would be available the following day, fewer API calls would likely be necessary. The differences in number of API calls could potentially translate into cost, as APIs are typically charged by usage.
3. How can I get there?Once you’ve pin-pointed the business process you’d like to automate and you have evaluated the APIs that can do the job, getting the it done is the next step.
- Do you have your own developers?
Most API integrations require some development work to connect the desired systems. If you do not have developers, it could be worth hiring or outsourcing a development company to do the work.
- Out-of-the-box vs. Custom?
With certain systems and integrations, pre-existing connectors may exist. Depending on your developer capacity, budget, and timelines, it’s important to evaluate whether an out-of-the-box or custom integration solution will best fit.
4. What is my budget?
APIs are most commonly charged by usage, meaning there is a per API or tier-based fee based on your number of API calls. While this is something you should definitely consider in your budget, there are other costs to take into account as you evaluate and create a budget for your project.
- Development or Middleware Connector Fees
If additional development work is required to integrate your system, you’ll need to be sure to understand these costs. This will vary depending on whether the work is done with an in-house development team or an external contractor. If development is not required and you are using an out-of-the-box connector, some access or upfront fees may still be required.
- Support and Maintenance Fees
Depending on the type of API you decide to use, support and maintenance work might be required by your development team or contractors. With an out-of-the-box API or middleware software, the maintenance costs are next to none.
Considering the above 4 questions and options should get you well on your way to making a strategic choice for your company, and establishing a great platform for the future.
Want to learn more about different types of integrations? Check out our recent vlog to get all the details.
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