If your firm works in any capacity with the internet or tech, chances are good that you’ve probably come across the term API – or, to give the tech its full name, application programming interface.
In today’s digital business environment, APIs and API gateways are increasingly being used by developers to help streamline work processes, reduce development time and cost, and bring greater efficiency to firms of all sizes in all sectors – but just what is an API gateway and the underlying tech that supports it?
What is an API?
As a short definition, an API is essentially an interface that allows different software systems to communicate with each other. They underpin the modern internet, and perhaps even without knowing it, you likely use multiple APIs every day.
For example, if you’ve ever bought a holiday online from a travel website, an API will have been behind the majority of the processes, including populating the pages with dates when the property was vacant to passing your credit card details to your bank for processing.
In short, APIs are everywhere and cover a multitude of on and offline processes – indeed, they are so common that it would be impossible to detail them all here.
Why your company should be using APIs in your processes
No two companies are the same, and the benefits brought by API integration will vary from firm to firm. However, as a general guide, APIs can bring the following benefits:
Improving client/company communication: There are many different APIs available that could help streamline the purchasing process, so you should consult with your web developer to find out your options. For example, even just something simple like adding a chatbot to your site could greatly improve the visitor experience while also potentially driving more sales.
Improve your overall client service: As APIs are pre-made bundles of code, it’s possible to integrate them into your services very easily, thereby increasing the options open to your visiting clients. So, for example, if you run a site with weather reporting data, a client might be able to select only the information they wanted to see, and that was useful to them. This negates the rather outdated one-size-fits-all approach and will enhance the client experience.
Streamline your overhead: Although it’s quite common for companies to charge for the use of their APIs, there are still many free models available – and, even if you do pay to use an API, you can be pretty sure the cost to you will be considerably lower than if you were to hire a developer to build a similar, bespoke system from scratch.
Take advantage of greater automation: The last few years have seen tremendous advances in tech and web services – to the point that many industry analysts suggest we’re currently in the throes of a fourth industrial revolution – or so-called Industry 4.0. If you’re to take full advantage of this transformative time, you’ll need to start integrating APIs into your operations so that you can essentially outsource your existing processes to other software including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) systems.