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The ubiquitous API

One of the hallmarks of modern software is its potential for interoperability with other systems that you use within your business. This is largely due to the widespread availability of application programming interfaces (API's), which are essentially a software universal adapter that allows two applications to talk to each other.

Ask any salesperson if their product can integrate with another in your tech stack, and the default answer is "Yes we have an API which allows other software to talk to ours".

Now, leaving aside the fact that not all API's are the same in capability terms (that's for another day), the subtlety of the approach always puts the expectation on the other party software provider to do the necessary plumbing and visa versa.

So who actually does the work?, Often integrations talked about in the sales process never make it into production as the effort required is too high, the skills are not available, or the business case is not strong enough.

The advantage of API’s is that once an integration is written, it should survive incremental upgrades and be robust and efficient. However, these things are not simply plug and play, they require;

  • An understanding of the business processes the integration is supporting.

  • Mapping of the data that is being shared between the applications and the timing of when that needs to be called (transferred) as part of the business process.

  • Managing of scenarios when one solution is cloud based but the other still on premise, This adds an additional layer of challenges as API’s don’t necessarily play well between the two environments and there are significant security issues to consider.

  • Analysis of potential GDPR and reporting issues arising from data existing in multiple locations.

  • The technical skills to plumb the integration (this is still a programmer level function).

  • Testing, deployment, and ongoing support.

  • A budget (yes there will be a cost)

So, when considering business processes automation and improving the flow of information between your systems, it's important not to simply accept the "we have an API" response, but to properly consider what this means in project terms to achieve the required integration.

This work typically sits outside the standard professional services offering of software vendors, but there are specialist businesses out there that the software companies themselves often use, who can make these integration dreams a reality - you can find some here


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