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What is API integration?

Digital transformation offers incredible benefits to organizations worldwide. However, it’s not without challenges. Going digital has led to more data, more applications and more systems than ever before. These all have to communicate seamlessly and securely if the benefits of digital transformation are to be achieved. API integration is a range of techniques and technologies that allow applications to talk together and share information.

In its recent report, Digital Business Demands Agile Integration, Forrester found that 80% of companies say the volume and variety of data has increased and 65% percent state the number of applications has spiked. The result is that organizations have to tackle integrating a rising number of applications and data sources. Failing to do so effectively could be catastrophic. According to Forrester, 93% of respondents believe the operational and technical challenges with their integration strategies result in serious business repercussions like revenue loss, losing customers to competitors. 

Application Programming Interface (API) provides a means to link one application to another. An API is a lightweight programming app that developers use to allow their software or application to talk to others. As the number of applications–even versions of applications–increases so does the number of APIs. It’s estimated that there are more than 16,500 APIs in existence today, with that figure reaching 50,000 in only a matter of years.

With so many APIs, using API based integration to create and manage point-to-point connections between applications is extremely difficult. API integration provides a solution to develop and deliver connections between all the applications and systems–both internal and external–that you need to connect with today.

A simple API Integration definition

In the past, application integration has been heavily manual establishing single connections between applications. New tools have enabled any-to-any integration. With the development of APIs, organizations have been given access to API integration solutions that take advantage of the application’s API to connect and share data with each other.

API integration services are also important as they automate workflows between applications that would otherwise have to be done manually. They enable the secure and accurate transfer of data. So far, so good. However, there are lots of different types of APIs for you to contend with:

Open APIs

  • Sometimes known as public APIs, an Open API is a publicly available API that gives access to a proprietary application or web service. The most common of these is the REST API. In fact, over 70% of all Open APIs are REST APIs. These APIs act as a standardized approach to integration. But, you guessed it, the REST API for one application is very unlikely to be identical to another.

Third Party APIs

  • Very much as the term would suggest, a third party API is one supplied by a third party API integration company. The provider delivers the API for a specific application–rather than it being provided by the software vendor. Third party API integration enables the third-party vendor to create APIs that extend the capabilities that an organization can gain from their IT infrastructure. Sometimes a business will release an API integration toolkit. The third party can use the API integration tools within the toolkit to develop specific APIs.

Custom APIs

  • A custom API describes where an organization either amends an existing API to meet its needs or create an entirely new API to connect systems. Digital transformation has seen a growing requirement for collaboration across the organization and with external customers, suppliers and partners. API integration software is vital to support this activity. Recent research shows that, today, 75% of organizations are developing internal and public-facing APIs. In addition, 78% of survey respondents said that they both develop and consume APIs. Custom API integration must enable smooth connectivity for these APIs but also ensure that they become an integral part of the company’s wider API integration architecture.
  • Essential for operations in both B2C and B2B API integration provides API development and integration in an any-to-any environment as well as managing your API integrations at an enterprise-level, meaning that new APIs can be added and existing ones amended as your business requires.

5 reasons you need API integration

API integration must be a core component of the IT strategy for every organization. When agility and collaboration drive innovation and business success, the speed with which you can connect disparate systems and allow the flow of information to everyone that needs it will distinguish the winners from the losers in digital business. Take a look at the five items of our short API integration checklist below.

API integration checklist

Centralized API management

  • API integration allows you to bring all your API activity together onto a central, enterprise-wide API integration platform. This gives you a single view of all the APIs used in your organization. It simplifies the development, management, security and deployment of your APIs. In addition, a central function can more easily identify the API integration patterns between different application APis to build quickly on the commonalities to streamline and improve the quality of your API integrations.

Improved data quality

  • One of the biggest API integration challenges revolves around data quality. One of the most well-known API integration examples in marketing is between Salesforce CRM and Marketo marketing automation where changes in a field in one application are automatically update in the same field in the other. This means you must be assured that the data is correct before the update as this could lead to the propagation of bad data. API data integration gives the ability to enhance data quality as it exposes where data duplicated, out-dated or redundant during the API integration process. Data validation should always be built in to API integration testing.

Automate tasks and workflows

  • API integration automates manual tasks–such as clicking between applications–that can occupy a disproportionate part of a user’s time. In addition, the API integration can call data from different systems to provide the user with the information needed at that point of their workflow. For example, within a bank API integration can allow a customer service representative to have immediate access to customer information as the API integration returns a pop-up on to the screen of the primary application with data from other back-end systems. This ability to automate tasks and workflows increases productivity and boost customer satisfaction.

Easing Digital Transformation

  • We hear a good deal about digital disruption. Digital transformation is driven not simply by the elimination of paper-based processes but by the effective utilization of new and emerging digital technologies. This means that organizations need fast and efficient ways to implement the latest digital tech as well as integration with the apps that their customers know and trust. Traditional integration approaches will struggle to accommodate the speed and scale of these changes. Building a solid API integration architecture means new applications can be easily brought on line and new technologies fully exploited.  To improve supply chain operations, some organization are looking towards Blockchain integration API development means Blockchain can be integrated with key systems to deliver secure visibility over transactions.

New product development

  • New product development benefits from API integration meaning that you have the ability to connect and link data to deliver new products in a more data-drive manner. In effect, we’re discussing strategic API integrations that can map information from a wide variety of systems to expose insights into what customer actually want and how products are really used. For example, using API integration tools, companies are combining apps with service-request interfaces to deliver new on-demand services such as Uber.

The importance of an API Integration platform

It should be clear that even a smaller organization can quickly rack up hundreds of API integrations. It is simply not effective to manage your API integration portfolio at an individual API level. Implementing an enterprise-wide API integration platform allows you to centralize API integration development and management.

For many organizations, API integration can be complex and time-consuming. To manage API integration costs and capabilities, companies are moving to managed services from API integration providers. Many providers deliver their own API integration frameworks and platforms that provide the levels of customization, performance and scalability required. In addition, some providers are beginning to offer API as-a-service.

So what should you look for in an API integration platform? We’ll cover that in our next blog!

To find out more about API Integration using OpenText solutions, visit our website.

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