The term API stands for “application programming interface,” and that basically means software that enables two or more applications to exchange data (messages) with each other. You can think of an API as a sort of virtual interface, like a touch screen, that you can interact with to enter data, read data, or send/receive data. Web-based APIs can be conveniently accessed via the internet.
What is API Integration?
API integration refers to the system-to-system connection, via APIs, allowing those two systems to exchange data. APIs are designed so you can use a system remotely and connect systems, people, IoT devices, and more.
Two or more systems that have APIs can interoperate in real-time using those APIs, which saves time, money, and is far more reliable in terms of information currency and data accuracy.
For example, let us say your company has a TMS (transportation management system) and my company has an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, and these two systems need to exchange data.
In the old days, we might have faxed or emailed this information or discussed it on the phone.
With API integration, it happens digitally, without human interaction. API integration is what opens a channel that enables our companies to, quite literally, conduct business faster and more accurately.
By keeping data in sync in both systems, productivity is enhanced, so you can leverage that data to improve efficiency and drive more revenue.
4 Way to Use API Integration
In a prior blog, we presented in detail four ways companies can integrate using APIs. Because these methods fit nicely with the topic at hand, we’ve summarized them below, but you can also read more here.
APIs can be leveraged in many ways in integration use cases, and that’s why, from applications and data, all the way to business ecosystems, APIs are quickly becoming a mainstay in most enterprise integration strategies. Here are just four of the countless ways your business can start looking at APIs to facilitate integration.
# 1 – APIs for Configuration, Administration, and Monitoring of Products If you’ve ever heard people use the term “headless administration,” API integration is what they are talking about. It’s referring to doing any type of administration with your cloud that you can do through an administrative GUI – but without the GUI. Virtually all the data management functionality is available through REST APIs, a highly flexible design option very popular with today’s developers. #2 – APIs to Upload and Download Files When it comes to data movement, there are multiple protocols in use for file-based integration, such as FTP, SFTP, AS2, etc., or sometimes you need a secure portal for person-to-system file flows. You can use REST APIs to accomplish that, as well as supportive APIs that can be set to programmatically upload and download the files to and from the integration platform. These types of APIs are relevant to how a company can at once operate within the traditional data movement requirements and support versatile and flexible file-based integration scenarios in their environment.
#3 – Using Tools to Connect Other Systems Together Using Their APIs Some APIs are provided by other systems (i.e., not created in-house). An example of this might be Salesforce integrating with various CRM applications, or NetSuite with other ERPs. Salesforce and NetSuite present the APIs these other solutions need in an easy-to-consume way, so they can easily be modified however needed to ensure seamless interaction between systems.
#4 –Using Tools to Provide APIs for use by Other Systems Sometimes though, instead of “consuming,” your enterprise is going to need to present your own APIs for others to access, e.g., to enable them to order your products or check an order statement. To do this, you “present” an API to the world that others outside of your company can call and access, helping them to, for example, understand what is happening with their order right then.
Why Do You Need API Integration?
In Cleo’s 2021 State of Ecosystem and Application Integration Report, an annual survey, integration experts across industries called out some of the top integration challenges their companies are facing today. Here’s a snapshot:
API integration using a modern integration platform can help you to address each of these challenges and more. Here’s how:
Integrating legacy applications
More than half of companies struggle with integrating legacy applications, a problem that’s only growing more profound as cloud-based applications proliferate. Many businesses have invested heavily in their legacy applications, and they don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, yet they do want access to the cloud.
Fortunately, with today’s modern integration platforms companies can accelerate seamless end-to-end integrations between their multi-enterprise ecosystem and their internal systems. Plus, by introducing APIs to complement your EDI onboarding processes, you can automate them and take on new ecosystem trading partners faster. Modernization steps like these will upgrade your integration capabilities so you can activate B2B eCommerce more quickly and ensure the success of your business strategy.
Revenue loss due to integration issues
We all know time is money, and when companies cling to outdated, manual processes they can’t help but fall behind financially in today’s digital economy.
According to the 2021 survey, 66% of companies are losing up to $500,000 per year due to poor integration, with 10% losing more than $1 million annually.
Digitalization via API integration helps everything involved with your integrations move faster, and ultimately that means money moves faster too.
Integrating new applications
With a modern integration platform, your business can unlock any communication protocol whenever you need it, with no additional costs. Such a platform leverages proven pre-configured connectors and templates, allowing you to spin up fast and efficient application integrations. With API integration, for example, the information contained in an important database can be shared with your other internal systems, increasing the value of that data across multiple teams. Externally, your company could make its APIs available to your customers and partners, so selected, mutually beneficial data can be shared seamlessly and in real-time.
Poor application and system visibility
Increased visibility into data processes running across your entire ecosystem reduces exposure to risk. Next-generation integration tooling provides real-time visibility via customizable dashboards, and such technologies deliver real-time monitoring and reporting to alert stakeholders of any data challenges with their most important business relationships. With a modern integration platform that accommodates API integration, you know whether your new trading partner relationships are at risk.
All told, API integration is important for manufacturers, logistics companies, wholesale distributors, retailers, and others today because with it, existing applications can be preserved yet opened up to other systems and applications across your entire B2B ecosystem. Doing this speeds up your business's processes, delivering faster application integration and increased visibility across your end-to-end (external and internal) business processes, ultimately driving more revenue, better relationships, and higher performance.
Additional Benefits of API Integration
As you can see, API integration provides many valuable benefits for your overall business, but diving a bit deeper now, what more can API integration help with?
We mentioned better relationships above. And there’s probably nothing more important these days than consistently delivering a customer experience that is commensurate with what your customers and partners expect. In fact, customer experience precedes revenue in its importance, because only by being easy to do business with can you ensure yourself happy, repeat customers. They have many alternatives, and loyalty is often fleeting.
For decades integration has been one of the most complex, specialized, and frustrating tasks in all of IT. APIs help makes integration easy by making connections, data movement, and data transformation easy. By enabling different systems or applications to collaborate and seamlessly share information, all of your business processes become more fluid.
Further, with today’s plethora of largely pre-built solutions, you can accelerate delivery of custom API integrations and save on development costs -- or enjoy having your developers build applications that are core to your business instead of spending their time building complex API-based integrations themselves.
Performing tasks manually is cumbersome and time-consuming. Automation of routine tasks through API integration is a sure-fire way to make your life easier. With an API-first approach to cloud integration, you get built-in capabilities to resolve virtually all your integration needs, allowing for application integration that naturally works in conjunction with EDI/B2B integration.
How Leading Organizations are Accelerating API-based Integrations in 2021
What then is the real value of choosing a modern API-based integration platform? In kitchen-table-speak, it just makes life easier and better, both for your company and the customers and partners that comprise your business ecosystem. In tech-speak, it brings you three key capabilities no doubt your integration approach couldn’t benefit from before.
First, you get the ability to perform API and EDI integration using a single platform, eliminating the need for multiple disparate integration solutions. Second, it gives you direct control and visibility over your most revenue-critical end-to-end business processes, like Order to Cash, Procure to Pay or Load Tender to Invoice. Last, you get a choice of how such a platform would best be deployed in your unique circumstance – do you want a self-service model? A managed-services approach? Perhaps a blend of the two is best?
Cleo Integration Cloud is the only modern integration platform that can accomplish all three. Even better, you can start wherever you are and steadily mature your ecosystem enablement capabilities as your digital transformation initiatives progress. Plus, if you're using a solution like Cleo Integration Cloud, the API support for both presenting and consuming APIs is built right into the platform so you have everything you need to be able to integrate and use those APIs for your integration, gaining end-to-end visibility as a result.
As the world leader in ecosystem integration technology, Cleo is always listening to its customers and innovating new capabilities to enrich our platform. Cleo Integration Cloud also enables such common, essential API use cases as transforming batch processing to real-time, and provides API equivalency for EDI to deliver more agile interactions with members of your business ecosystem.
There’s much more to Cleo Integration Cloud than this, of course, and we invite you to learn more.