API integrations are an increasingly essential element of business strategy. If you're not using them, there's a good chance you're wasting time and money on inefficient processes. But what are API integrations, and how can you use them to improve your business?
API integration sounds complex, but it's simply the process of connecting two or more applications via their application programming interfaces (APIs). Each API helps one application communicate with the others. Learn more about how API works and how to use integrations to streamline time-consuming business processes.
What is the importance of API integrations?
Think about how your job was performed 10 or 15 years ago. Even if there were automated tools, there was likely no way to make them work together. You had to switch from one application to another, making tasks more time-intensive and creating more opportunities for error. For example, if you wanted to email a prospect, you had to transfer their email address from your contact software to your email program.
API integrations allow applications to communicate without human intervention. For example, instead of transferring contacts by hand, you can use API integration to connect your customer relationship management (CRM) software with your email program. Integration automates many activities, leaving you more time to focus on generating revenue and strengthening customer relationships.
How do API integrations work?
Many applications have API layers, which allow them to communicate with other tools. When you integrate two or more apps, they use their API layers to "talk" to each other. This communication is usually bidirectional, which means data flows both ways. Changes in one tool trigger automatic updates in the other tool.
For a real-world example of this process, let’s look to Salesforce. Salesforce is one of the most popular CRM solutions on the market, due in part to its ability to integrate with LinkedIn, Slack, Google Suite, DocuSign, QuickBooks, and other tools.
If you integrate Salesforce with your email provider, you can pull contact information from the CRM and use it to send emails to your customers. Every time you send a message, the email application sends data to Salesforce, triggering automatic updates of your customer contact records. There's more to how API works, but this is all the information you need to understand why API integration is so important.
3 reasons to build an API
Before we dive into API benefits, it's helpful to understand how APIs can benefit your business. Here are three popular uses:
1. File management
With API integration, file management is easier than ever. You don't have to worry about putting large files on a flash drive or emailing attachments to customers and colleagues. Instead, you just need an API configured to automatically upload and download files. For example, you can use REST API (aka RESTful API) for file uploads.
What is REST API?
REST API is a programming interface that uses REpresentational State Transfer architecture to help computer applications communicate with each other. REST separates the client and the server. This improves communication and enhances flexibility, as you can change the code on one side without affecting the other side of the exchange.
REST APIs also let you reduce the workload associated with monitoring computer applications. Once they’re set up, you can monitor applications without human intervention, leaving your IT team more time to troubleshoot software issues, install new equipment, and assist users with technical problems.
3. Connecting multiple systems
API integrations also allow you to connect multiple systems, maximizing productivity and eliminating time-consuming manual processes. For example, you can integrate an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with an electronic data interchange (EDI) system, streamlining the exchange of electronic documents with your trading partners.
Benefits of API integration
Specific API benefits depend on your company’s size, your industry, and other factors. However, any company can benefit from the following aspects of API integration:
Manual data transmission increases the risk of errors. For example, if you need to transfer an email address from Salesforce into Outlook, there's a chance you'll make a typo and send the message to the wrong person. If you don’t immediately notice your mistake, the delay in communications could damage the relationship and your company’s reputation.
API integrations allow computer applications to communicate without human intervention, reducing the risk of typos and other errors. With fewer errors, you have more time to bring in revenue and increase awareness of your brand.
It's tough to keep track when you have multiple applications to handle relationships with customers, vendors, and employees. With bidirectional communication, you don't have to worry about checking each application and making updates individually. Instead, a change in one application triggers automatic updates in the others. If you use API integration to connect Salesforce with QuickBooks, Salesforce will receive an update every time a customer pays a QuickBooks invoice.
One of API’s top benefits is its ability to automate inefficient processes, allowing you to accomplish more work in less time. Companies of all sizes use API integrations to increase output without wasting resources. With the proper integrations, you can even limit the size of your workforce or reassign employees to more productive roles.
Manual processes make scaling your business difficult, especially during periods of rapid growth. If your applications aren’t connected, there's a limit to your productivity. API integrations allow you to automate many functions and quickly scale your business.
The cost of API integration
API costs depend on several factors, including how many systems you need to integrate, the complexity of those systems, and the customizations you require. A relatively simple API integration can cost up to $10,000, including developer costs. The total could be higher if your project is exceedingly complex. Here are some of the expenses you should consider:
- Development: If your IT team doesn't have the required expertise to build an integration, you must outsource the work to a third-party development team. Some developers charge by the hour, whereas others charge a flat fee for each project.
- Platform fees: Depending on which systems you want to connect, you may have to purchase an integration platform. These platforms, known as middleware, help applications work together. Some projects require on-premises solutions; others employ affordable, cloud-based options.
- Maintenance: With API integration, you can't just set it and forget it. You must maintain the integration to ensure it continues working. This increases the price tag of using APIs to grow your business.
- Support: You’ll need technical support to address problems with the integration. This may require an outside consultant if your in-house IT team can’t handle the task.
- Testing: Before you roll out an API integration, you must test it extensively to ensure it works as intended.
Improve your business with Orderful's EDI and API integrations
Market conditions are constantly changing, so your company needs to maintain flexibility. API integrations save time and reduce waste, making them essential for increasing productivity and growing your business. Orderful offers a cloud-based EDI system with modern APIs, so it’s easy to connect with trading partners and adapt to dynamic market conditions.