API integration is critical to businesses operating in the digital economy. Customer expectations have changed, and enterprises are constantly in need of improving their customer journeys while at the same time exploring ways to reduce operational redundancies and expand their revenue streams.

By integrating their ecosystem of APIs, enterprises are more easily able to break down data silos and allow all stakeholders to access critical data information. Doing so helps streamline business processes while empowering the enterprise to respond effectively to specific customer problems.

Continue reading to learn more about API integration and how it can benefit enterprises in the modern digital economy.

What is API integration?

API integration is the use of an application programming interface (API) to connect two or more applications, systems, or IoT devices without constant human oversight. API integration enables one system to share data with a different application. Whether applications are internal to the enterprise or used between businesses and consumers, API integration is the engine that allows users to derive real value from them.

At its core, API integration allows different systems to exchange critical data in real-time, giving the API consumer an efficient, cost-effective experience while ensuring that the data shared between applications is current and accurate.

Why enterprises need API integration

The rapid development of technology and the emergence of the digital economy have caused industries to change drastically. Enterprises are able to collect more data about their customers, partners, and internal systems than ever before. Oftentimes, however, that data gets locked away in silos where it’s virtually inaccessible to different stakeholders within the business.

The prevalence of data silos cause systems and processes to slow down and function inefficiently, but it also means enterprises are unable to properly leverage that data to create an optimal customer experience for clients.

API integration enables enterprises to overcome these challenges. It helps break down silos, facilitating integration of data across the enterprise, so they’re deriving the maximum value from all stored information.

The COVID-19 pandemic radically changed consumer habits. Digital capabilities are no longer a luxury like they were before the outbreak of the virus — customers now expect to interact with businesses digitally, and they expect a quality service tailored to their specific needs. API integration ensures that enterprises can meet those new expectations and deploy their data in a way that is most useful for customers.

Here are some of the specific business benefits of API integration:

Automation

API integration enables enterprises to automate numerous different platforms and applications, facilitating omnichannel, self-service experiences, allowing users to easily and seamlessly transition between different programs. This can help cut down on the time users spend manually clicking in and out of different applications.

Boost innovation

APIs help enterprises stay ahead of the competition by powering innovation. They use APIs to develop and deploy new technologies while expending fewer resources, boosting their output while keeping costs down. One report from Cloud Elements found that 51% of enterprises experienced “increased innovation” when leveraging APIs.

New streams of revenue

Depending on the types of APIs being created, APIs can help enterprises locate additional sources of revenue. By understanding the needs of their customers, they can develop APIs that integrate with their current systems and help them solve specific problems, using that to monetize their API.

Simplify the business

API integration helps enterprises break down stringent data silos, streamline their systems and processes, and help key data information flow across the business. All of this makes their entire operation more efficient and allows them to cut out excessive redundancies.

Create customer value

API integration enables organizations to build and deploy cloud apps that solve pressing business challenges, giving them the capacity to respond to customer expectations quickly and bring new products and services to market. API integration ultimately strengthens customer relationships and drives long-term value.

How API integration works

APIs work by providing other systems and applications with the information they need to complete a command. When a user places a command on their device or application, the application communicates that information to another system — like a web server — via the API, instructing the other system how to complete a task. The server then retrieves the necessary data and communicates that information back to the application or device via the same API.

The above picture is a general overview of what API integration is and how it works. There are, however, numerous types of APIs, each with its own functions and purposes. Here are some of the most common (along with a few popular API protocols):

  • Open API: Also called a public API, an open API is a proprietary software available for consumption by a large market of web-based developers.
  • Internal API: Sometimes called a private API, this type is developed exclusively for the host organization’s specific purposes.
  • Partner API: Similar to open APIs, a partner API is deployed by the host organization and shared with other enterprises, who must obtain permissions to gain access.
  • REST API: Representation state transfer (REST) is a popular API protocol format that uses a stateless architecture to provide greater flexibility throughout development.
  • JSON-RPC and XML RPC API: Remote procedural call (RPC) protocols encode data to complete actionable requests instead of exchanging information between endpoints.
  • SOAP API: The simple object access protocol (SOAP) is used to create web APIs designed specifically for web servers and browsers.

What is required for API integration?

According to Akana, the right API management platform requires a number of functional and non-functional components to facilitate integration with other APIs. Functional requirements relate to the specific features and objectives of the API itself — that is, what it’s designed to do. While these functions can vary considerably between different APIs, some examples include:

  • Transmit banners to Google or other search engines.
  • Allow new businesses to connect to the host enterprise.
  • Be used in a mobile application.

Non-functional requirements, by contrast, include those qualities that aren’t directly related to the API’s operability but are required to ensure the smooth operation of the API. These might include:

  • Security.
  • Scalability.
  • Reliability.
  • Performance.
  • Usability.

Adopting an API integration platform

Organizations today have access to several thousand public APIs (and many more private APIs), meaning effective API integration is virtually impossible without a high-performing API integration platform tailored to specific business needs and objectives. An API platform gives users comprehensive oversight of their entire API ecosystem, automating the exchange of data between applications and giving them a central location to access and utilize both customer and enterprise data.

Choosing the right API integration tool

The market for API platforms is booming, which means there are numerous integration solutions currently available. Selecting the right one can be a daunting challenge. Here are some of the features and capabilities business leaders should consider before investing in an API integration platform.

  • Built for specific business challenges: Different API integration service providers specialize in different business functions, company sizes, industries, and verticals. It’s vital that organizations consider platforms that are specifically designed for their specific challenges and operations.
  • Maintenance and support: Open-source integration platforms are cheaper and give enterprises on a budget access to robust integration tools. However, they typically lack maintenance and support services, which are essential to the long-term viability of large-scale integration.
  • Seamless development and deployment: As business requirements change and IT teams begin building new APIs, the right API integration tool enables seamless development and deployment of every new cloud app. This allows organizations to easily adapt and scale according to changing market demands.
  • Security: As cloud application security has become top priority for many business executives, the best industry-leading integration tools build API security right into the platform. This enables organizations to better ensure compliance with all relevant regulations while securing their API ecosystem and setting access controls for both internal and external users.
  • Enable digital transformation: Digital transformation is defined by an enterprise’s ability to leverage digital capabilities to enhance performance and deliver more value to customers — fast. Businesses should choose an API integration tool that empowers them to extract actionable insights from their data to create a better customer experience.

Ultimately, selecting the right API management tool comes down to understanding and addressing specific business challenges. Executives should take care to include the perspectives of stakeholders across the organization to learn which platform features to prioritize in order to best realize the benefits of API integration.

Transforming your business with the right partner

API integration is no longer a luxury for enterprises in the digital economy — it’s now a necessary part of diversifying revenue streams and staying competitive. But it isn’t an easy (or straightforward) process, and it’s essential to have the right team of experts on your side to ensure that integration delivers for your enterprise.

Torry Harris Integration Solutions is at the forefront of data integration. As one of the most trusted solutions providers for leading enterprises worldwide, our mission is to help stakeholders across industries leverage the power of digital access through integration.

Contact us today to get started.

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