What are APIs integrations and why use them?

Przemysław Urbaniak - Project Manager

APIs are a fundamental part of digital transformation and mass data processing. API integrations continue to grow in importance not only in big tech conglomerates. They can particularly benefit small and medium-sized enterprises that now struggle to stay competitive and optimize their systems.

Today we’re going to explain why and how to incorporate API integrations in your business strategy, followed by a real-world case study from our portfolio.

What is an API integration?

An API integration is a software intermediary that enables the communication between two or more applications via their APIs (application programming interfaces). It works as a messenger, delivering requests and responses from one app to another. Using APIs allows developers to access data from other software programs and use it for their purposes. From a user’s perspective, it means that we can log in to Netflix using our Facebook account. API integrations work behind the scenes, and every time we access our Netflix app, they use the Facebook Login API to check whether we’re already logged in to Facebook. If yes, we get access to our Netflix account. When not, the Netflix app provides us with a list of login options, with Log in with Facebook among them. Another good example of the use of API integrations are price comparison services for online shopping, such as Google Shopping or Skyscanner.

Why API integrations are so important today?

API integrations facilitate automation, seamless data sharing, communication, and integration of current applications used within an organization and outside by its business partners. Thanks to that, they take the capabilities of your software and business operations to the next level. They’re especially important for organizations handling numerous cloud-based apps and tools. Let’s go through the most important benefits of API integrations business-wise. Benefits of API integrations for your business:

  • Automation: API integrations can automate processes that used to be done manually by employees, such as updating client data in the CRM, managing the payroll, or managing your time-off tracker using Slack.
  • Efficiency: Automating manual tasks saves money, time, and effort. Knowing how easy it is to combine the power of different apps, encourages creativity in looking for process, sales, and marketing improvements.
  • Scalability: Integrations provide companies with an easy and cost-effective way of connecting tools and systems, which enables fast growth even with limited funding.
  • Reduced errors: Without the need for human interaction, API reduces errors related to manual input of information.
  • Low cost and fast time to market: Engineers can access some of the desired functionalities from other products using API integrations. It’s much more affordable and fast than building the whole application from scratch on your own.
  • Control: Integrating different platforms and technologies based on your needs, gives you control over the shape of your IT systems and enables customization. You don’t need to compromise because one of the tools you’re using provides limited functionalities in a certain area. If a feature is important to you, you can get it from somewhere else, without going through a full-scale migration.

How to choose and implement an API integration strategy?

1. Choose the best API integration tool

The number of tools supporting API integration has significantly increased over the last few years, which made the choice more complicated. Answering these two questions should help you set more precise criteria and narrow your options:

  • What are the goals and challenges of your application?
  • What business processes should be streamlined or automated?

Based on your answers, you can identify the capabilities that will be important in your case and make a well-informed decision.

2. Get system administrators and programmer analysts on board

Both planning and implementation require support from the right experts. Apart from software developers familiar with your software, it’s recommended to work with system administrators and programmer analysts.

3. Implementation

Once you have chosen the tools and formed a team, you can start implementation. Make sure your project team is aware of the business goals the integrations are aiming to achieve. It will not only ensure the API integrations are targeting the right needs, but also allow the developers, admins, and analysts to seek improvements that make a difference to your KPIs.

4. Testing

API integration testing is used to determine whether the integrations meet your expectations for functionality, performance, reliability, and security. They allow the team to find bugs at an early stage before they affect the GUI (graphical user interface) and become more costly to fix. At the same time, testing is an effective way to save time and money on quality assurance services.

API integration case study

Our client is a provider of a popular web and mobile app that helps its users find and book campsites. In order to increase the number of campgrounds in their offer, they started working with online service providers administering real estates’ databases (which included campgrounds). The app needed to download and update the list of campsites offered by those companies through the API and that’s where our team stepped into action. We implemented a synchronization that consisted of downloading the real estates’ data (titles, descriptions, pictures, lists of facilities, etc.) as well as updated information about their availability and prices. And reacting to any changes in the data through webhooks. We also added new functionality that allowed users to make bookings through the client-side app. While the API operations of each of the services seemed quite similar, their details were significantly different. The APIs differed in terms of data structures and the data formats used (json, XML). Because of that, the data required dedicated parsing and had to be transformed into a structure compatible with the client’s application.
On top of that, we used the following optimization techniques:

  • Caching requests that were often repeated, but whose data was rarely changed. This accelerated communication.
  • Background processing turned data processing into a separate process, that didn’t overload the main application process with additional operations.

Conclusion

API integrations are an indispensable part of any effective business in today’s world and their role will continue to increase. They enable uninterrupted and fast communication between various applications used by an organization and ensure workers get the benefits of various cloud-based apps. All the while enhancing product and/or service innovation.

If you feel like you’re not using API integrations’ full potential, drop us a line! Let’s check how they can help you achieve your goals.


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Author's Bio
Przemysław Urbaniak

Project Manager

Project Manager at iRonin. I am getting the best out of the people and projects that I oversee. I stick to the rule “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. Everyone who works with me should already know my jokes at daily meetings. A huge fan of Manchester United, PlayStation games and NBA.

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