What is an Open API and How Does it Benefit a Business Trying to Integrate Multiple Business Applications

Written by- Nicholas Price – Aircall

It’s not always possible to know the technology behind how software programs work. However, many of the software programs you use on a daily basis rely on open API technology. Why? In short, it’s because it simplifies the process of integrating multiple software programs. An open API is a valuable type of technology for developers. It provides standards for how software programs communicate with each other. With an open API, developers have to write less code to make different software programs work together seamlessly. That’s a great benefit because it gives them more time to build unique, functional software applications.

The software industry is highly competitive. You don’t need to be a developer to understand the basics of what an open API is, how it works, and how it brings value to your business. As with any type of technology, there are risks and benefits. It helps to have a familiarity with the security and maintenance of open APIs as well.

What Is an Open API?

Exactly what is an open API ? Let’s break the term apart a little bit.

API is an acronym that stands for application programming interface, and it’s an important part of technology for software developers. It’s also commonly referred to as a public API or open-source technology, however, open-source technology  and an open API are different. The interface component of an API is a system that allows two or more software programs to interact and understand each other without communication problems. You could think of it as a sort of intermediary that helps one software program share information with another one.

So, how is an open API I different from an API? A closed API refers to technology that can only be used by the developer or the company that created it. An open API is different in that any developer has free access to it without consequences of any kind. Developers can access an open API freely via the Internet. The value in an open APIs is that it gives universal access to software programs for companies. This is especially true for businesses that are looking to integrate the software tools they use every day. Developers use an open API to gain access to certain features of a software program that would be difficult to access without taking the time to develop a large amount of code.

How Do Open APIs Work?

To better understand how open APIs works in a practical sense, let’s take a look at how a sales call center might use an open API to deliver a better customer experience.

Sales call centers streamline the sales process and shorten the sales cycle to close sales faster and generate greater revenue. As an example of how an open API creates efficiency in a sales call center, let’s take a look at some of the steps that could be set up for a sales workflow.

API Sales Workflow

  1. A call center agent or marketer uses automation to send an ad to a large number of prospects within the CRM to gauge their interest in a product.
  2. Customers will reply that they’re interested or not.
  3. The CRM automatically creates a ticket and logs each prospect’s response.
  4. Sales agents working in a call center will get a digital alert telling them that a client is interested.
  5. The call agent clicks on the customer name in their CRM system and pulls up the account.
  6. Open APIs technology allows the call agent to also access a cloud-based phone system without having to exit the CRM system to make a call.
  7. Using a headset, the sales agent uses the click-to-dial or power dialing feature within the phone system to automatically dial the prospect or customer.
  8. If the prospect isn’t interested right away, the call agent can create a follow-up activity to contact the prospect again at the appropriate time and get an automated alert when it’s time to call them again, so they don’t miss an opportunity for a sale.
  9. If a sales agent makes a sale, they can use another software app to send out a link via chat, text, or email to the customer to pay for the product.
  10. Once the transaction is complete, the system automatically triggers a survey that gets sent to the customers and generates a report on their level of satisfaction.

Software integrations  work equally as well for customer service and customer support call centers. In this type of workflow, you’d have several software programs communicating with each other to facilitate every step of the sales process and follow-up.

The Benefits of an Open API

The internet gives us access to lots of data. With open APIs, software programs are able to capture data and make it meaningful. As an example of the benefits of an open API, a McKinsey  report tells how one bank created a library of standard APIs for its software developers to use, as needed, to address the company’s desire to access data. As a result, they decreased their product development IT costs by 41% and their innovation led to an increase in new releases by 12-fold.

Here are some of the many valuable benefits of an open API:

  • Low cost
  • Easy to implement
  • Allows for greater functionality
  • Cloud-based, can use anywhere a user has access to the internet
  • Easily set up virtual call centers, remote teams, or distributed teams
  • Use with any device anywhere in the world
  • Enhances productivity and performance for sales, service, or support
  • Truly integrated workflows
  • Adjusts workflows to enhance the customer experience
  • Gives visibility to specific activities, such as those that happen inside a call center

Companies that develop their own apps can use an open API so that other companies can also use them. This type of arrangement offers a win-win situation for both companies. The developing company generates revenue from other companies that use their app, and the company using the app gets greater efficiency, which generates revenue for them as well.

How to Maintain an Open API

Maintaining an open API demands a certain level of governance. Swagger recognizes the growth of open APIs for companies that are built internally and by third parties. Also, Swagger emphasizes the importance of consistency in using an open API which will prevent problems with duplicate code, take up coupling between components, lack of reliability, and too many services.

As an expert in API technology, Swagger developed the following list of 9 best practices for API governance:

  • Centralization: Create a central point to create and enforce API policies.
  • API contract: Establish a contract to ensure that APIs are reusable and consistent.
  • Style Guidelines: Establish and enforce style guidelines for all APIs to ensure consistency.
  • Reusability: Incorporate reusable components into designs.
  • Automation: Automate the processes for API contracts, documentation, and tracking.
  • Versioning: Use versioning to deprecate an old version of an API when you create a new version. Content negotiation helps to keep track of all versions of an API.
  • Deprecation policy: Establish a deprecation policy to guide developers and keep control of various versions of an API.
  • Tracking: Keep track of where your APIs are being used, who is using them, and how they’re using them.
  • API discovery: Provide the means to easily search for and discover APIs that are deployed and the tooling that’s currently being used.

The proper API governance ensures consistency across APIs and allows the components to be reused. Standards and guidelines for APIs help to form best practices for building, implementing, and buying APIs, and best practices are for everyone’s benefit.

What Risks Are Involved with an Open API?

There aren’t many risks involved with using an open API, but it’s wise to be aware of the potential risks and drawbacks of any type of software.

Perhaps the most significant drawback for open APIs is that the developer is in control of decisions about the API, which is somewhat limiting for third parties. Developers can change their terms of use or fees at any time.

Another potential problem is that an open API may contain bugs, flaws, or security issues. Such a problem reflects badly on the developer and the company providing the app. By implementing the right security measures, you can ensure that your data is well-protected.

Type of Security Needed

In recent years, API development has grown significantly , causing an increased emphasis on security. Because of the potential for exposure to sensitive data and systems, it’s beneficial to take a comprehensive approach to security and compliance. The best way to go is to take a continuous approach to API security that transcends API development and the delivery cycle and builds security measures directly into the API.

Developers need to be aware that they can expose security risks directly or indirectly and they could be responsible in either case. Having noted that, security is less of a concern for consumers.

The security measure to protect APIs include:

  • API Inventorying
  • Eliminate HTTP basic authentication
  • API access control
  • Monitoring and analytics across API silos
  • API threat detection
  • Auditing and incident response
  • API security testing
  • Use SSL and enforce TLS 1.2 (deprecate older versions of TLS)

It’s crucial to check security protocols across your entire technology infrastructure.

Summary

When selecting business applications for your company, the benefits of an Open API far outweigh the risks of not and suggest that be an important part of your buying criteria. For more information about this topic, we’re happy to assist – Click here.

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About TimeLinx
TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.

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