How Enterprise Companies are Using APIs
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have become fundamental tools in the infrastructure of contemporary digital applications and business strategies. To explain what they are, let’s make it as simple as possible: APIs help businesses break free from their own system limitations, allowing one application or website to interact with another.
Thanks to an enterprise API, businesses can effectively integrate a variety of services or functionalities, thus augmenting their efficiency without the need to change their existing platforms or invest in restructuring software. Metaphorically speaking, APIs unlock opportunities to develop new products, services, or experiences to offer to their customers. They act as catalysts for new business strategies and models, aiding corporate growth in today’s digital-centric business landscape.
APIs in the enterprise
APIs are commonly divided in public and private APIs and an enterprise may use a range of both.
- Private APIs are developed and implemented within a business's internal ecosystem, with the aim of facilitating communication between different in-house software platforms. This is important to share information and coordinate it across the entire organization.
- Public APIs are created to support external or third-party interactions. They allow other software to have access to a business's data and services.
Why enterprise companies use APIs
Streamlining internal operations
Imagine APIs like an invisible network that links isolated functionalities, much like a highway that interconnects various points of interest. This interconnectedness is vital for a modern business, as it drives operational efficiency and unlocks opportunities for new partnerships, as well as the creation of innovative solutions.
In fact, APIs can be combined to suit specific business needs or operations; their agility and adaptability enables them to be created, updated and used more quickly than physical products. These specific features allow businesses to respond promptly to ever-changing market needs and to create an environment where different departments interact more efficiently. This leads to enhanced internal collaboration and, ultimately, to streamlined operations.
Integrating diverse systems and data sources
As mentioned above, APIs are versatile tools, employed to develop powerful business intelligence and microservices without the need to re-design software, something that would be impossible with traditional proprietary software development. This is because APIs facilitate the integration of a wide set of functions, from extracting or inserting data to offering real-time information, as well as specific reports, or tracking performance metrics.
Automating repetitive tasks and processes
APIs are often used by businesses to automate specific tasks, with the objective of performing manual operations faster and more accurately, as well as eliminating the potential risk of human error. In fact, automation has become an ally in improving overall workflow, unlocking more efficient processes.
The most common applications of automation via API are real-time data exchange across different platforms and the so-called event-triggering. The latter is, for example, when an email is automatically sent, or an offer generated when a customer signs up on a website for the first time.
Most repetitive tasks can be automated via API, like sending notifications, generating reports or updates, leading to overall improved performance.
Enhancing collaboration across departments
APIs also enhance collaboration across different areas of a business. In the logistics field for example, integrated shipping solutions that leverage APIs like ShippyPro are designed to help businesses facilitate the collaboration and seamless flow of information across different departments, from shipping to the sales and customer service areas.
In this way, operations become more cohesive and efficient; ShippyPro’s APIs instantly communicate with different carrier services, allowing users to view real-time shipping rates, track shipments, facilitate returns and even automatically create shipping labels. This interconnectedness allows businesses to build a data-driven, integrated working environment, where operations are facilitated by automated processes and real-time information access, for both customers and teams.
Improving data accuracy and integrity
APIs can also be used to collect information from different sources and analyse it more thoroughly. By integrating an API into their data analysis and reporting process, businesses can have a more accurate overview of their performance or of areas that need strategic intervention.
For example, to collect data on users of their ecommerce website, businesses can integrate an analytics API to automatically collect information in real-time. This not only eliminates the need to hire costly specialists but also gives a better picture of customer behaviour, product sales performance and other key metrics.
Enhancing customer experience
APIs are the backbone of modern customer experience strategies. Their ability to seamlessly incorporate different features enables businesses to deliver tailored, real-time, and multi-channel experiences for their clients, without the need of large money investments. For instance, integrating with third-party applications such as payment gateways, businesses can offer a better service and provide an enhanced customer experience.
Furthermore, because APIs simplify data collection, retailers can understand consumer behaviour more easily and accurately, and consequently offer a targeted and superior shopping experience.
Driving business intelligence and analytics
As you may have understood, integrating APIs into a business strategy uncovers a multitude of advantages. However, one of the most critical benefits lies in their foundational role, namely the ability to make different systems interact. This translates into increased speed, collaboration, and scalability, thus eliminating redundancies and improving efficiency.
In fact, data collection processes become prompt and accurate, allowing for solid decision making and strategic planning. Also, APIs are flexible tools, meaning they can be connected to a wide range of sources, enabling businesses to perform cross-platform analysis to gain a holistic view of their operations, performance, customer behaviour for marketing strategies, and even useful insights for product development.
APIs have become an asset for businesses since they facilitate the integration and application of new features and functionalities without forcing retailers to invest in additional hardware or software. This translates into an ability to respond proactively to growth of operations and market needs.
Because APIs are easier to update or modify than completely developed applications, businesses can easily adapt to customer needs at reduced costs. This happens because APIs can be used to upgrade services or functionalities without the need to invest in software re-architecture. While this alone is a huge cost saver, APIs also improve operations and efficiency of the departments they are linked to. This means saving time and money on the long-term, namely unlocking capital to invest strategically.
Empowering decision making
Let’s consider the real-world application of API development and API management in the context of an ecommerce business. APIs can seamlessly integrate multiple platforms, facilitate data sharing to give real-time information and analytics, and streamline all business operations. How does this happen?
For example, ShippyPro API can integrate your system with hundreds of carriers worldwide and automate tasks such as shipment and order management, tracking, pickup bookings, automate returns and even generate shipping documents in a few clicks.
This enables real-time flow of transport and shipping data, thus facilitating enterprise decisions, eliminating risk of human error, and ensuring that every strategy is founded on real-time, reliable data. Thanks to the unification of information from various sources through APIs, ecommerce businesses can forecast trends, and even anticipate demand, thus avoiding potential operational setbacks. Data-driven insights are fundamental to always be one step ahead, respond to change flexibly, and foster customer satisfaction.
Tracking and measuring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Since today’s businesses rely on APIs to drive growth and streamline operations, measuring the performance of these tools is a priority for all industries. By doing so they can improve user experience and reliability.
The most important metrics that can help businesses track the success of their API integrations are the following:
API Request Volume
The total number of API requests made during a specific period which is useful to gain understanding on how popular the specific API is.
API Error Rate
How many API requests result in errors expressed in percentage. This is useful to evaluate the API’s reliability and identify problems that may hinder its performance.
API Response Time
The average time taken by the API to give a response after a request. A low response percentage is an indicator of better performance and, ultimately, superior user experience.
The time the API is available to users expressed as a percentage. High availability is fundamental to obtain a seamless user experience.
The number of successful API requests processed per unit of time. It is usually measured in requests per second and is useful to gain valuable insights on the API’s capability to handle workload.
Ensuring security and compliance
API management and security is vital to preserve business continuity and customer trust, especially because APIs expose businesses to other applications and web browsers. This entails vulnerability to potential attacks and malicious activity. A weak API security can become a doorway to sensitive data breaches, causing significant reputational damage and financial loss. Therefore, building a robust cybersecurity strategy is imperative and must be tailored to the specific industry needs.
First of all, a strong API security strategy should include authorization and authentication mechanisms, which involve identity confirmation of all API users.
Secondly, it is important to analyse all your API security challenges and vulnerabilities, alongside with the different implications of potential breaches. Having a comprehensive view of your APIs and their vulnerabilities is useful to map out a strong security strategy.
Moreover, all sensitive data should be encrypted, and all APIs must be regularly monitored and tested. Regularly monitoring APIs provides important information on the way they are being used and how they perform; it helps identify potential attacks and suspicious activity. In fact, multiple failed login attempts might signify an impending attack.
It goes without saying then, that by constantly monitoring API activity, threats can be identified and addressed promptly, before they can translate into greater damage.
The most API important methodologies developers must include for enhanced security are the following:
- Open Authorization (OAuth)
- Multifactor authentication (MFA) and Transport Layer Security (TLS)
- Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML)
In today’s contemporary digital landscape, it is difficult to imagine a business operating online without APIs, especially because these tools facilitate rapid innovation, the evolution, and the development of superior services at reduced costs.
APIs have become indispensable to allow businesses stand out from competitors, to meet consumer needs and expand their reach with targeted, data-driven strategies. In fact, the role of APIs is not confined only to interconnecting systems: they have become the foundation of modern business strategies and an asset for whoever operates in the digital age.