Unlocking the benefits of API integration over point-to-point integration
Imagine your business is a building. There are rooms for many different jobs, from financial reporting to product design. In the past, you would send files between rooms through pipes, like the old pneumatic mail tubes. These were fragile, expensive, and difficult to replace. Now imagine replacing these with a telephone system — one you can expand and configure quickly and cost-effectively. This telephone system represents the benefits of API integration, in a nutshell.
The point-to-point integration disadvantages
If you’re a small business that uses only a few applications, you might be tempted to use point-to-point (P2P) integration. As in the mail tube analogy above, the P2P connections will work fine — until something changes. And in today’s economy, changes come fast. By the time you’ve re-engineered your integrations, an agile competitor might have seized the day.
Then as your business starts to expand, taking on hundreds or thousands of applications, the time, skill, and effort needed to maintain those P2P pipes grows exponentially. Developers who could be launching valuable new software will be wrangling with rusty tubes instead. This isn’t a sustainable use of those precious resources.
Why API integration is taking over from P2P
An application programming interface (API) is a way for one piece of software to request data from another. To give a real-life example, a sports website that wants to display live football scores might use an API to request that data from a server at FIFA.
There are thousands of public APIs for things like exchange rates, weather data, news headlines, and social media streams. And of course, companies can build their own APIs to request specific business data — both between internal systems and from partners, customers, or public sources of information.
Naturally, businesses wouldn’t care about APIs if they didn’t affect the bottom line. Perhaps the most famous example of a company that uses API-led integration to its advantage is Netflix. A large part of their success is down to an API strategy that means Netflix integrates easily with any device connected to a screen. This has helped the company form strong partnerships with device manufacturers and therefore bring its streaming services to a huge audience.
There are also companies that base their entire offering on APIs. Twilio, for example, started off with an API product aimed primarily at software developers. Eight years later, the company became the first to go public on the US stock market with an API-based product.
However, the benefits of API integration aren’t restricted to media or technology companies. From manufacturing to retail, education to the public sector, the API integration benefits are universal.
The technical advantages of API integration
So what is it about API technology that is so advantageous? The primary technical benefits of API-led integration are as follows:
- Reusability: Because APIs are like self-contained building blocks, you can reuse them in many different contexts. Thus when one developer builds an API, it can quickly add functionality to thousands of applications. This makes integration development faster and more cost-effective.
- Modularity: Rather than keeping data and capabilities in disparate applications, an API-led approach moves the burden of integration onto the APIs. And because APIs are modular, you can then reconfigure how your integration works quickly and easily. It’s just like taking apart a Lego model and rebuilding it into a different shape.
- Consistency: With the same APIs underlying your back-office processes and your customer-facing apps, you’re able to create a consistent customer experience. It’s easier to avoid customer frustration due to issues such as discrepancies between your website and your mobile app, for example.
Empowering businesses with API-led integration
As with any technological change, it’s vital to have clear goals in mind before embarking on an API-led integration project. In our experience as systems integrators, the most common goals for API-led integration are:
- Mobile: making data and services more accessible in order to drive a mobile-first business model.
- Omni-channel: adapting to changing customer relationships that include new devices and experiences.
- Partnerships: improving efficiency and freeing up resources to strengthen and expand partner integrations.
- Innovation: reducing technical barriers to the delivery of new software and enable innovative new services.
- Back-office: streamlining collaboration among internal teams through easier and more consistent data sharing.
- Revenue: using improved customer experiences to reduce customer churn and thus boost revenue.
Working with an integration platform
Each platform has advantages depending on the number of apps you want to integrate, your business model, and your development expertise. To find out which iPaaS is best suited to your business, see our article “Boomi vs MuleSoft vs Azure: comparing the iPaaS pros and cons”.
How our clients benefit from API integration
In our 30 years of experience, Influential Software has seen the benefits of API integration many times over. For a real-life example of our API-led integration solutions, read how we helped a manufacturer streamline its operations with the API integration capabilities of Microsoft Azure.