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What is an API and Why is it Important to Business Success?

Daniel Palmer
Daniel Palmer
March 28, 2018

APIs have been a key component of software development for decades, but it can be tricky to communicate API to clients and customers. I mean, what exactly is an API?

As SaaS applications are exploding, APIs are serving as the interconnected tissue that allows developers to integrate tools seamlessly with a cloud-based platform. Still don’t get it? Not to worry! Below, we’ll break down APIs and discuss just what makes APIs critical to the success of any business.

Think of APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, like orders in a restaurant — the customer (end user) selects a choice from the menu (app). The waiter (API) takes the order and communicates it to the chef (a cloud-based platform). The chef controls how the meal is made and plated, and the waiter (API) delivers that delicious meal back to the customer. Got all that? Put simply, an API lets one system communicate with another in a standardized, programmatic way. Consumer expectation for seamless connectivity and services is a product of APIs. 

So why does API matter to business success?

Anything that takes the heavy lifting out of comprehensive software development is good for business and ROI. As more and more companies embrace cloud-based apps and functionality, customers are demanding seamless integration of their user experience. Any website or app that fails to deliver this functionality is quickly tossed aside. Similarly, businesses want flexibility, ease of integration, and data as a service so that developers can focus on getting your products to market much more quickly.

Now that you’re starting to understand why APIs matter, let’s consider some examples: without YouTube’s API, those embedded videos on your website wouldn’t seamlessly display on desktop, mobile and in social media feeds. Imagine having to change every single embed code on your website because of a platform update. Instead, a good API can automatically take care of that for you. Without APIs to communicate between applications and assets, a travel website would have no way of querying which of 10,000 hotel rooms was available in real time. Chances are the site wouldn’t even be able to accept payments!

An API facilitates lightning-fast integration and seamless updates in order to meet customers' expectation for seamless connectivity and services. In other words, APIs are a big part of what keep users coming back, and developers focused on innovation and business outcomes.

Not all APIs are made equal

While cloud-based platforms are driving the development of APIs, platforms such as Microsoft Azure offer a highly configurable ideal not available on other platforms. As long as integrations have a well-defined API, Azure allows developers to set up new integrations very easily. You simply build the API and the system will easily integrate. A single API can also allow you to connect to multiple systems, reducing development time.

In comparison, other platforms require a plugin or module in order to configure integrations. These predefined ways of connecting systems may even require additional customization or the installation of multiple plugins to carry out a specific business process. Sounds labour-intensive, right? As a business, you should be weary of additional development time and costs related to inferior platforms, especially ones that provide very little flexibility and adaptability. Would you rather have a platform that places little emphasis on growth and evolution, or one that allows you to fully customize the functionality and integration of your website as business improve?

So how do I take advantage of all of this?

Thanks to APIs, online commerce is changing at lightning speed. Developers are able to build customized and targeted applications that lean on cloud-based platforms to do the heavy lifting. Because APIs provide a standard way of accessing any application, data or device, it means businesses can scale based on need, instead of investing in expensive in-house software.

A Hybrid Cloud CMS, like Agility, offer a suite of tools that allow businesses to take advantage of the latest innovation in API to drive their core business. Traditional, Headless, or Hybrid CMS: Which one is right for you?

To learn more, connect with us for a demo, today! 

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