TribeHR Brings Rich API Integration to the Human Resources Industry

Daniel Luxemburg
Apr. 07 2011, 08:00AM EDT

TribeHR, a software-as-a-service human resources solution, is bringing powerful API integration into the HR industry on multiple fronts. TribeHR co-founder Joseph Fung explained to us at SWSXi how APIs fit into the company's overall strategy:

As Fung notes, TribeHR doesn't just expose APIs for outside developers but also builds its own integrations with other service providers. This is a common feature of the companies that make up the association Fung mentions TribeHR being a member of, The Small Business Web (our coverage).

The Small Business Web is made up of companies that provide online services appropriate for smaller companies. Because the functions these services provide often overlap, there are many places where cross-service integration or data sharing can make products more valuable for end users. TribeHR is building connections to partners in diverse categories while also providing their own API:

TribeHR System and API Map

Tellingly, this API feature roadmap the company shared with us separates the TribeHR management console from the TribeHR application itself. The official interface is just one of many potential points of contact with the core application through its exposed API (though one that gets special access to aspects of the API that aren't open to outside developers). Many of the services flagged here are also part of the Small Business Web—FreshBooks and MailChimp were founding ones in fact. The frequent cross-linking of services through public APIs among these similar minded companies creates an extremely rich environment for companies and developers to innovate both in product offerings and technical integration possibilities.

In this respect, small business as a category has a great deal in common with the social web in terms of open API offerings and adoption. In both cases, there are complex many-to-many relationships between providers. In the small business context, services that expose an API cater as much to other companies that might build a mutually beneficial integration as to corporate customers that might be interested in putting together a custom integration with their existing IT environment. With social service APIs, the discussion is as frequently about interoperability between big players as it is about what independent developers might come up with.

This is contrast to, for instance, Salesforce.com which has a wide array of integrations, but is much more the center of many spokes than one node in a more complex network of similarly situated providers. For example, Salesforce is the only specific service to get its own mention in the TribeHR developer site's list of integration points—"Salesforce Single-Sign-On" is right between the Rest API and WebHooks. Unlike the one with its Small Business Web peers, TribeHR's relationship with Salesforce isn't entirely reciprocal.

But it is still only one of several ways to integrate with TribeHR and does nothing to prevent the company from offering other developer interfaces. This puts TribeHR and companies like it in a strong position to appeal to customers already plugged into a solution provider like Salesforce, ones already using comparable services that TribeHR has already or could easily integrate with, and ones signing up for their first SaaS product.

This widening of appeal is a key benefit provided by offering a comprehensive published API and ambitious integration with the APIs exposed by other services. It may be a key factor for TribeHR as it tries to bring a new approach to an established industry.

Daniel Luxemburg I'm Daniel and I'm a web developer and social media consultant based in Brooklyn with a particular interest in how open APIs are making it easier to innovate on the web. I started contributing to ProgrammableWeb in November '10.

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