Billions of dollars have been spent developing public APIs. I just checked and found one listing of over 15,000 public APIs, and I don’t even think that list is up to date. The top APIs are from Internet companies and social networks. Google has APIs for just about all of its services as do Yahoo and Bing. Facebook, Linkedin, and all their competitors, have long had APIs and several lead with their APIs. There are also lesser known APIs which can feed your bottom line.
If you aren’t familiar with modern APIs they provide a standardized means for services to communicate with all kinds of clients: web, iOS, Android, or even another server. Often the API is related to an application and the API is so complete one could actually build a new version of the application using the API.
Do you remember NCR paper? It allowed dinosaur hunters to make multiple copies of a document without carbon paper! If you can find an old NCR form you’ll see that each copy was a different color and was labeled as to where it went. The last copy seemed to always be pink and went to the customer. One copy might go to the warehouse, one to shipping, one to accounting and one stayed in sales. The form was written once. Sometimes multiple pages of the form were passed along with the workflow and when tasks were completed, a copy would be pulled for that department and the rest of the form moved along. NCR eliminated the need to create multiple documents for an order. Everybody who needed to know, got a copy and it was embedded in the work flow.
Obviously, the computer revolution resolved all workflow issues decades ago! Or did they? Today your business likely relies on a number of tools. You may use a relationship management system to track all of your contacts with your customers. An accounting system in the cloud makes sure your data is always safe and secure, and tracking software keep tabs on who is doing what on your various jobs.
Let’s look at the workflow. A billable deliverable is completed. The QA team is notified, and when they confirm it matches specifications, they mark it as done in the tracking software. A team leader or manager gets notified that it’s done. They then advise someone to bill or enter the approval in the accounting system. They also either advise the customer contact of the update, or enter it in the relationship management system. The company might have a system where the manager sends out one email to both accounting and the customer contact. That leaves others to enter the information into the system.
Now suppose you are either an auditor or a boss. Which record is accurate? The more successful you are the more entries need to be made.
The firm can improve the quality of its data, and reduce the time it spends on paperwork by employing APIs. Your solution can be found down either of two different paths:
A batch process program can make an API call to the tracking server looking for all updates since the last call. Each of the updates is evaluated and when one of the updates requires action by another system an API call is made to that system. In our example, if a successful QA report is found, it would notify the accounting and relationship management system. The update may result in a contact to the customer, an expense or revenue recognition and maybe an invoice.
Disk space is cheap, so the batch process can also record what it found, when it found it and what it requested of other systems. If the APIs provide positive confirmation, that can also be stored.
Another solution would be to build a small QA app. When a QA leader logs in, the app makes an API call to the tracking system to get a list of everything that needs approval. When they approve an item, the app makes API calls to the tracking, accounting and relationship management systems. Sort of like digital NCR paper. The data is integrated into the workflow.
Whether in an app or in a batch process, a whole lot of data entering is eliminated. Systems are kept in sync and this is possible while allowing the various department to select and use their preferred system. No department need suffer because another department demands a certain brand of software for its functions. As long as all the systems have functioning APIs.
APIs can also allow for closer management and better audit trails. A report can be developed that looks for the the last on an order or project within each system.
While your kid might be using APIs to map relationships by where everyone was when they sent a snapchat, you can use APIs to save money and improve your record keeping.