Are Your APIs Intelligent Enough for Digital Transformation?

One significant challenge posed by digital transformation is the need for organizations to leverage existing technology investments, which often hold business and technical intellectual property built up over many years. The combination of integration and application programming interface ("API") is a powerful tool in making the connection between an enterprise's existing and future technology investments.

APIs have become the de facto way to integrate internal and external systems that have evolved from a purely technical, programmer-level code capability to an easy-to-create integration tool. McDonald's, for example, uses APIs to power its home delivery service via Uber Eats, while Expedia uses APIs to provide travelers with a choice of flights from multiple airlines. Today, before integrating an application or data source, IT teams are likely to first ask "does it have an API?".

Integration Driven, Intelligent APIs Change the Game.

Integration-driven APIs can be developed at high-speed, with visual/zero-code tools, to integrate multiple, disparate systems, driving a truly flexible, loosely coupled architecture. API management solutions, which are typically part of an enterprise integration platform as a service (EiPaaS), play an important role in enabling organizations to publish, promote, secure, and analyze the usage of Integration APIs.

However, it's the data management platform that ensures that the information (data) shared between API-connected applications is of high quality, trustworthy, and secure. A robust AI-driven data management empowered EiPaaS can turn an ordinary API into an intelligent API that uses metadata to understand the origin of data, the purposes for which it may be used, and rules around who may access it and for what purpose. In contrast, put a basic API in front of a data source without concern for how that API will be used and it could generate little value. At worst, it could expose a security flaw and wreak havoc for the business.

Intelligent APIs Deliver Best-in-Class Services for Grant Thornton

At Grant Thornton, the sixth-largest accounting, audit, tax, and financial advisory firm in the US, APIs are used to power its digital workspace for some 10,000 employees. The "one-stop-shop" portal includes a customized employee profile that allows users to establish their public virtual identities as well as manage a private dashboard showcasing their skills, resumes, benefits, travel itineraries, performance metrics, and more.

The data that populates the dashboard is drawn from multiple underlying systems and a mix of on-premises and cloud applications – Concur for travel and Chrome River/BMO for expenses – using APIs, such as Get_Worker, Get_Skills, Get_Resume, Get_Travel_Summary, to fetch, cleanse, transform, and feed this hybrid data into the employee portal.

Widespread employee use of the portal drives more than 100,000 API calls every day. Therefore, having the ability to track API calls, monitor error, and security reports, and get insights into API usage is critical to the portal's success. "Grant Thornton can synchronize data across traditional on-premises applications as well as newer cloud applications, and handle the challenges of data proliferation across the organization due to the high volume of data and growing numbers of data sources, and data-consuming products that require data in a variety of schedules and latencies," says Raj Khot, associate director of Enterprise Architecture at Grant Thornton.

Today, Grant Thornton no longer worries about API and integration separately. Instead of coding APIs -- developing, maintaining, and patching APIs and updating integrations processes -- the business can focus on using data analytics to offer some of the best services in its industry, as well as a digital window for each employee.

Intelligent APIs Create New Business Opportunities for Santa Fe

For Santa Fe Relocation, a global leader in international mobility, located in nearly 100 locations across 47 countries that has grown organically and through strategic acquisitions, multiple relocation systems and custom applications were making it difficult to establish a single view of the customer.

Without the single view, the business struggled to deliver the best and most timely customer service. "We needed a cloud integration solution that could easily plug into Salesforce and also connect to our legacy systems to provide the glue to hold everything together," says Tobias Nothdurft, group director of IT Strategy and Enterprise Architecture, at Santa Fe Relocation.

Santa Fe now uses cloud API integration to address its challenge. The APIs expose and connect their on-premises/legacy systems data with Salesforce, with over 300,000 API calls per week. With their customer information available in Salesforce, pertinent details that are critical for delivering a positive customer experience, are no longer trapped in emails and legacy applications.

The business now benefits from near real-time data updates and batch processes to load data from legacy platforms. Faster access to highly accurate, near-real-time data enables Santa Fe employees to respond quickly to customers, instead of waiting up to a day to respond, helping the company increase customer satisfaction. To address the security and compliance for managing personally identifiable information data, they use APIs to ensure proper authentication and authorization before customer data can be accessed by systems and employees.

Nothdurft says, "The data integration work that we've done has been a business enabler for us, opening up new market opportunities. We're able to serve some very large international companies that we would never have been able to manage before. We've won major new deals."

AI and APIs Converge in a Multi-Cloud, Hybrid World

Most enterprises will need a robust cloud-based integration platform (EiPaaS) for hybrid integration, macro process orchestration, legacy data access, and rationalizing inconsistencies between non-standard data structures. But the EiPaaS should combine enterprise-class data management and the ability to design intelligent APIs with zero code. By taking this approach, businesses can secure, manage, and monetize APIs that connect vast volumes of data from any source to any user at any speed, securely, across multi-cloud and hybrid environments.

Increasingly, AI is being used to optimize APIs, such as for discovering APIs at design time, analyzing API calls, and masking suspicious payload data at runtime, at scale far beyond what mere humans can manage. The powerful combination of iPaaS, APIs, and AI delivers a more seamless, connected, and smarter digital experience for employees, partners, and customers.

Intelligent Integration: APIs Enable Digital Transformation

There is little doubt that organizations' API inventory will continue to expand. The question is which organizations will adopt intelligent APIs – to tap into the right data, at the right time, at the right speed and volume, for the right user – and leverage them intelligently to provide the real-time business insights needed to thrive in the digital era.

Intelligent APIs enabling data and application integration are critical for digital transformation. Deloitte noted in its tech trends report that organizations increasingly appreciate the need for API strategy to be aligned with robust data management: "Globally, companies are recognizing that API ambitions go hand-in-hand with broader core modernization and data management efforts. Indeed, data management becomes particularly relevant in API projects, because data quality and control challenges may emerge when underlying technology assets become exposed."

According to Gartner's API Strategy Maturity Model, published: 21 October 2019 ID: G00451168[i], 73% of respondents said that their organizations are at the intermediate, advanced, or expert level of API maturity, having successfully built API-based integrations or applications which use APIs. The same report states that "by 2021, 90% of web-enabled applications will have more surface area for attack in the form of exposed APIs rather than the UI, up from 40% in 2019."


[i] Gartner, "Gartner's API Strategy Maturity Model," Saniye Alaybeyi, Mark O'Neill, 31, October 2019.

Be sure to read the next API Design article: How Smartable AI Built its COVID-19 Stats API

 

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