What is API Integration?
We live in an era where APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) have become part and parcel of almost everything in the digital world. No matter the industry you are in, APIs are essential tools that ensure seamless operation and performance of applications and web systems. However, for optimal and automated functioning, business processes and systems need to have a means through which they can interact and share critical data. This is where API integration comes in. To help you understand what API integration is, let’s first try to understand APIs.
What are APIs?
An API is a collection of protocols, definitions, and tools that permit the interaction and communication between software components. It allows a user to communicate with a web-based web tool or application. With an API, clients can use an interface to request something from an app. Then, the application will pass the data to an API, which will interpret the information and provide a response. An API converts the returned data into something that the user can understand.
What is API Integration?
API integration can be defined as the process of creating a means for two or more APIs to share data and communicate with each other without human interruption. It involves the use of APIs to enable communication between two web tools or applications. It allows organizations to automate their systems, enhance the seamless sharing of data, and integrate current applications.
API integration has become pivotal in the modern world due to the explosion of cloud-based products and apps. As such, organizations need to create a connected system where data will be relayed flawlessly between various software tools without the need to do it manually. API integration has proved to be the much-needed solution as it allows the sharing of process and enterprise data among applications in a given ecosystem. It improves the flexibility of information and service delivery, as well as makes the embedding of content from different sites and apps easy. An API acts as the interface that permits the integration of two applications.
Examples of API integration
For order management systems to process orders, they need to access data on customers, products, and inventory levels. Therefore, there needs to be an ongoing data interchange, which integrates the online store to the shopping cart. This can be achieved through API integration.
Another example is the payment gateway integration on online stores. Although you don’t see the actual transaction when paying for a product online, there is data transfer for verification of your credit card/debit card details taking place. This is as a result of the payment gateway API integrating into the eCommerce website.
How API Integration is Achieved
Currently, there a few techniques to achieve API integration, and they significantly depend on the unique needs of your system or business.
This kind of integration involves the use of hand-written scrip from a software developer with expertise in the APIs you want to integrate. Although this technique was famous some years back, its popularity has plummeted due to the emergence of other straightforward integration methods.
These are applications that are designed to feature APIs that facilitate the integration between two renowned software platforms. They are mass-produced to be used by various enterprises.
API Integration Management Platforms
Usually SaaS applications, these platforms are dedicated to the development of API integrations that help join other SaaS applications and systems.
Unlike when you needed an expert developer to write you a script from scratch to help integrate your applications, today, you can build custom integration apps using robust tools that are available in the market. Some like RapidQL allows you to fetch and transform data into a form that your app can understand with just a single query. It permits you to make requests to different APIs as well as databases simultaneously.
API Integration Process
Regardless of the API integration tool you choose, you must follow a particular process that features three essential parts.
For starters, you need to evaluate your goals and all your business processes. You need to identify the pain points and identify how integrating two or more software platforms can help eradicate these problems. It is vitally essential to understand that the individuals who can help you determine how integration can benefit your enterprise are software analysts and system administrators.
When you have determined and spelled out your goals, you can now start the development process. Your developers can progress to build a custom application that will interact with the identified software platform APIs to establish new functionalities that help accomplish your goals.
Finally, you need to perform some tests on your system to ensure that the integration app is up to the task and is bug-free.
Benefits of API integration
API integration allows the handoff of information and data from one application to the next automatically, something that used to be done manually by an employee on the payroll.
The use of API integration allows businesses to grow since they don’t need to start from scratch when creating connected systems and applications.
3. Streamlined Visibility/Communication/Reporting
The use of API integration allows you to have end-to-end visibility of your systems and processes for improved communication and reporting. With a streamlined system, you can track and monitor data effectively, thereby creating robust reports that are based on thorough and comprehensive datasets.
4. Reduces Errors
API integration allows the transfer of complex and voluminous data with reduced errors and inadequacies. This is unlike human transfers that were marred by lots of mistakes, especially when it comes to large and complex datasets.
With the accelerated technological developments, there are no signs of API integration plummeting any time soon. Therefore, we should brace ourselves for more robust and more streamlined API integration tools. We should consider the current state of API integration as a starting point and anticipate that it is going to solve more elaborate challenges in the future.