How API integration works and benefits your process automation strategy
You probably use several different software applications and websites to complete your processes at work. What if you could connect them, even add new automated capabilities and remove several steps? API integration can be the answer.
What is API integration?
API stands for Application Programming Interface, which is a software “bridge” that allows two applications to talk to each other. APIs are everywhere. Each time you use an app like Facebook, send an instant message, or check the weather on your phone, you're using an API.
Modern APIs use certain standards that are developer-friendly, easily accessible and understood broadly. You can think of them as pre-built digital micro-products that developers and technologists can plug-and-play into the things they’re building like websites, software applications, automations and more.
Integration Platforms as a Service (IPaaS) use APIs for simple connections and integration of tools. No-code, cloud-based process automation leverages them in workflows that usually have more steps and are logic based. These two types of platforms automate at the data level, which makes API integration easy. An automation method like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) however, automates at the surface or screen level and can’t usually leverage APIs.
APIs and workflow automation
APIs and workflow automation go hand-in-hand. While some process automation features like webforms, task routing, document generation, text analysis and data processing are built-in, others are enabled by APIs, usually when you’re automating a step that connects to another app like unlocking data from systems, embedding data into processes, or delivering a specific experience or service.
API integration within a workflow automation could look like Salesforce data being automatically pulled into an email or another tool. It could also automatically enter data from another source into a Vendor Management System (VMS) or connect something like an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to a Human Resources Information System (HRIS), then connect HRIS data to a company’s payroll software.
API integration to add new functionality
Don’t just think about your current software that needs to be integrated throughout your workflows. API-led connectivity could open the door to adding new embedded functionality to your processes without adding a whole new software product that you would actually have to use on screen.
For example, an API for address validation could be built into an automated workflow that works with delivery data at a logistics company, or with new employee contact information data in an HR onboarding process. The workflow could automatically verify and standardize new mailing addresses, then the automation could automatically send an alert to you or the customer to update the information when it’s not correct.
API integration benefits for process automation
Choosing a process automation platform that easily leverages API integration gives you a few key strategic advantages.
Quick implementation: Rather than building custom functionality or integrations from scratch to connect software, APIs can be a much faster option. For example, it is much easier for Uber to leverage Google Maps’ APIs rather than build its own GPS functionality.
With a good open API and solid documentation, leveraging API integrations can be very quick for developers.
Low maintenance: APIs also mean less upkeep than custom integrations. Going back to the example of Uber, the rideshare company doesn’t have to maintain the maps, location and GPS software itself. Google does that.
That doesn’t mean there is no maintenance required though. With software updates and changes to Google Maps, app developers still have to maintain the API occasionally, but it is significantly less work.
Scalable: Most modern APIs can handle high volumes and constant updates without much issue. API pricing models can differ based on usage, but they are technically very well suited to scale as your processes, data, teams and software products grow.
Open-ended: Since modern APIs are relatively universal and easy to implement, once your processes are able to work with API integration, adding, removing or swapping APIs can allow your workflows to be open-ended and flexible. Changes to your operations or tech stack don’t have to throw a huge wrench into your automations. With API integration, your workflows or apps can be updated with much more agility.