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APIs to Zs: A Primer on Application Programming Interfaces

APIs to Zs: A Primer on Application Programming Interfaces

Application Programming Interfaces or APIs are the backbone of many web applications and contribute to the digital transformation efforts of everyone from enterprises to SMBs. They are critical for businesses as they respond to changing market expectations and build more agility into their business processes. However, the value that APIs can add to a business goes beyond increased agility: integration, innovation and cost-savings are all part of the package of intelligent API usage.

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The ease with which APIs integrate into existing architecture is one of their strongest selling points. As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, industry standards and customer expectations can change quickly in response to a variety of external pressures. These rapid changes require agility from enterprises to engage with customers where and how they want and to keep up with the competition. APIs give businesses the chance to easily integrate new features into existing architecture as opposed to building a new application from scratch. This ease reduces the time to market for new solutions, allowing a company to provide new and improved services to customers quickly.

This ease of integration also fosters innovation within a business, allowing companies to introduce new internal processes that streamline the customer and employee experience. For example, when global school furniture manufacturer, the Resero Group, needed to pivot from paper to digital price quoting they opted to use an API to add this new feature. Implementing an eSignature and workflow automation tool, the company was quickly able to expedite the quotation process by digitizing the assets and automating communications and next steps. Innovative features like these provide more support to customers and salespeople alike, reducing manual labor and the potential for incomplete quote submissions which slow down processing. Ultimately, the Resero Group was able to process more quotes in less time with marked improvements in customer and employee experience according to feedback.

Understanding the ‘Build vs. Buy’ Debate

In the ‘build vs. buy’ debate, APIs offer a strong case for the ‘buy’ column. Since they are so easily integrated into existing architecture and have a relatively short turnaround time for deployment, enterprises can test market-ready applications and determine the value they add to the business without committing resources to build an internal tool. Additionally, since changes to APIs do not affect the system at large, they require less financial and skill resources to maintain.

When deciding which APIs to choose, business decision-makers must develop a strong understanding of the company’s needs across the organization. Organizations should treat API integrations as they would any external partnership and exercise the same rigor of research and selection. Consulting software review sites and sourcing testimonials from within the business network are highly recommended.

Ensuring compatibility with existing software and securing buy-in from all potential users is critical to maximizing the benefits of APIs.

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In addition to this research, standard security protocols should be implemented to secure API data and reduce potential vulnerabilities in the system stemming from the connection. Managing and securing APIs should be a pillar of an overall security strategy – not an afterthought.

APIs Will Become the Most Prominent Attack Vector for Cybercriminals

Gartner predicts that APIs will become the most prominent attack vector for cybercriminals in the year 2022 so securing these vulnerable touchpoints ensures the security of the business overall. Encryption and validation of API data guarantees that malicious data isn’t corrupting the validation process and overall system. Users should still be able to use older versions of a product without sacrificing data, functionality, or having to adjust on their end after an update so backward compatibility is a must.

Businesses can consistently expand their offerings, meet existing and new client needs across platforms and quickly adjust to disruption all thanks to the power of APIs. Their ability to enhance legacy infrastructure’s features improves the employee and customer experience by streamlining processes.  Having a clear understanding of how these benefits can differentiate and strengthen an organization makes it easier to implement the best API solution for your company.

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