What is an API and what are the possibilities of APIs?
Have you used Twitter or Facebook apps, bought something online, changed your airplane seat, then you are already benefitting from APIs.
API is an Application Programming Interface, i.e. a protocol to communicate between applications.
APIs are here to stay in our digital age. Even though we do not see them, our Apps frequently use APIs ‘underwater’. APIs are thus the Harlem oil of Apps. APIs are also used in business applications. Those applications connect with each other or use external information sources. This is called integration. Also in this case the end user usually does not notice this.
Why are APIs necessary?
Because APIs help your company and employees with:
– Integrating content from partners to create cross-sell and upsell opportunities;
– Creating new lines of business and extending product offerings by leveraging corporate data in new ways;
– Strengthening the brand by providing a consistent, familiar, personalized experience across devices;
– Improving the end user experience of apps, especially business applications, because information is shown clearly in only one screen instead of two screens;
– Enabling reusability, which is very cost efficient, resulting in cheaper innovations and realisation in days instead of weeks or months.
APIs as a product
If you offer your own APIs to others, there are two ways: offer them to everyone to use (open APIs) or only to selected users (partner APIs). In all cases external APIs improve your connectivity with the outside world. Your business assets (functionalities and data) are easily accessible for your customers. They are the glue between your ICT environment and that from your customer. Because there are global standards, and most programmers know the technology, integration is easier and faster than before. External APIs thus provide a better customer experience and increased brand loyalty. Customers who continue to integrate with you, experience the convenience and will therefore be less inclined to give up that convenience.
The same API that you brings to your customer, also provides greater efficiency within your company. An external API can just as well be used internally. Also applies vice versa: an internal API could also be used externally. APIs are often seen as a Lego building block. Imagine that you have a range of building blocks with which you can easily create or adapt products or application screens.
The term used for this is 2-speed-IT. An IT with two different speeds: Apps and integrations change rapidly, but legacy systems remain unchanged. Complexity in IT is in general very expensive, and if and API simplifies the complexity, changes in your IT environment will be cheaper.
An example of 2-speed-IT are the (business) applications for Sales, Accounting and Customer Services. They all use the same, consistent customer data. And uses on tablets and mobile phones used by the employees on a daily basis. The underlying APIs are however the same and the source systems do not have to be adapted to provide everyone with the same consistent information.
Main profit point, in additions to this cost aspect is that your company can respond quickly to changes and it increases your innovation strength.
Companies that have a lot of data, such as Cargonaut, do not have to invent and create apps themselves. There are many creative people, inter alia by software developers, startups and universities who can use the date to create new mobile apps or websites. They can create apps with for example flight-, status- and process information. API examples from Cargonaut (see change agenda 2017) are the eCargo Receipt (eCR) API and the FWB/FHL Content checker.
In this way the internal and external innovation strength are combined. This method is not only reserved for startups. Many companies can benefit. We would like to get in touch if you have any ideas at such combinations. In our Digital Cargolab Schiphol we can, together with you, explore integrations and innovations that make the cargo chain as a whole more efficient and effective.