All APIs Are Not Created Equal1 September 2023
Key considerations when evaluating software that can lead to a better long-term experience.
The pursuit of digital transformation has spanned decades, yet its realization remains a partially fulfilled dream. On one hand, business software solutions are increasingly powerful, with interfaces that dazzle and performance that is far better than that of its predecessors. The wide adoption of customer relationship management (CRM) software has to some extent transformed customer-facing roles as functionality and connectivity with email, communications and billing platforms have improved. It’s just one example of a core business technology that has become a source of truth within organizations. On the other hand, any well-designed software application will be limited in functional scope, meaning that inevitably, organizations typically have an entire ecosystem of solutions addressing various needs.
The Quest for an Integrated Software Ecosystem: Challenges Between Software Ecosystems and Seamless Integration
Given the predictability of this ecosystem phenomenon, and the length of time “digital transformation” has been on the minds of IT and business professionals, it is somewhat surprising how disconnected this universe often is. Silos of information needing manual synchronization with trusted source systems are more the norm than the exception.
While some vendors tout plug-and-play connector strategies with other software, these often carry caveats that lead to a disappointing reality. The unsurprising reality is that organizations use a plethora of solutions within a single business. Within a category of software solutions, an abundance of applications with significant market share typically exists. Coupled with the reality that software changes frequently, requiring that connectors be updated, the limitations of the out-of-the-box connector approach become apparent.
The prevailing industry trend steers clear of widgets and favors the development of software that has both end-user and code-based interfaces. The preferred approach for the latter is the application programming interface (API). A means of talking to a system in computer code, APIs allow two systems to communicate through the medium of a custom application. Such an application orchestrates the flow and transformation of information and does so under the precise business conditions most relevant to an organization’s needs. Buying mission-critical software that doesn’t have an API and can’t be “integrated” is likely a bad business decision that may condemn teams to manual upkeep of data in different systems — a low-value human effort with a high risk of error.
Navigating API Complexity
Naturally, all APIs are not created equal. Historically, more internal software projects fail or go nowhere than are adopted, due in part to the challenges of working with APIs ill-suited to the task to which they are put. Here are some considerations when evaluating software that can lead you to a better integration experience:
- APIs should be easy to understand, written in the language of the business the application supports, and support the actions end users accomplish with the application. This characteristic reduces the friction associated with translating business requirements into code — and lets developers “speak” the language of the business in their custom application.
- APIs need to be well-documented. Interactive documentation portals that fully describe the inputs, outputs, parameters and response criteria — such as Swagger-enabled — are a must. Documentation should reveal best, and not just necessary, practices for using the particular methods of relevance in a project. The API portal should allow developers to test the APIs without writing code, and in so doing, evaluate their usefulness before investing the time and effort to attempt integration.
- APIs should be well-supported by the vendor. Both in responding to unexpected errors that may represent a systems issue, and in providing consultation around their best, most efficient usage, software vendors need to help their clients get the most out of their APIs during design and after deployment.
Empowering Seamless Integration
InvestorVision™ APIs continue the long history of support for automated interaction with SS&C Intralinks solutions. Tailored to support investor reporting, InvestorVision APIs reflect the business workflows the web UI supports and add powerful abstraction layers to drive code efficiencies.
Backed by an award-winning support team and guided by consultancy from a professional services group with deep experience with Intralinks APIs, our clients can efficiently bring API-based solutions to market quickly by doing it right, the first time.
Senior Solutions Consultant
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