In April of 2021, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) became front-page news. In Google v. Oracle, the U. S. Supreme Court handed down a 6-2 decision recognizing that APIs are a fundamental and indispensable element of software development today. Microsoft gave a compelling explanation of why API usage is so critical in the modern software development process:
“Developers rely on sharing, modifying, and enhancing previously developed code to create new products and develop new functionality. Both a cause and effect of this collaborative development is the increased demand for seamless interoperability and compatibility—i.e., the ability of different products, devices, and applications to communicate and work together without effort from the consumer.”
This decision is being hailed by many technology experts. As having removed a looming threat to the very fabric of modern software development. But what does that really mean for companies like yours?
In essence, it reaffirms the fact that when it comes to creating the software applications almost any business requires for its day-to-day operations, there’s no reason for your company to reinvent wheels. Instead, APIs allow you to save time and money. Tapping into the innovations provided by others to extend the capabilities of your own applications without having to develop everything yourself.
Let’s see how it works.
What are APIs?
An API is basically a set of rules and protocols that allow software applications to communicate with one another. This allows one application to provide services to another without either of them knowing how the other is implemented internally. All the app requesting a service needs to know is how to ask the API for it. And all the app providing the service needs to know is what is expected of it when its API delivers that request to it.
A good example of how this works is Google Maps. Many websites have an embedded map to show, for instance, where all the retail sites for their business are located. Instead of having to develop their own mapping applications, developers simply use API calls to request that service from Google Maps.
The Role of APIs in Modern Software Development
To get a sense of the pervasive role APIs play in delivering software services today, let’s take a further look at the Google Maps example. To make those capabilities available, Google has had to essentially map the world down to the street address level. And then constantly update those mappings to keep them current with local changes.
This is obviously a very expensive undertaking, and Google doesn’t do it out of the goodness of its heart. Rather, by providing an API that allows other companies to pay a fee for the privilege of embedding maps into their websites or applications, Google turns its mapping service into a profit center. And the companies that pay to use the Google Maps API to access those services gain by being able to add sophisticated interactive map displays to their applications without the tremendous startup and maintenance costs of developing such capabilities on their own.
That same model is in use in almost every aspect of today’s digital technology. Take, for example, social media. When you use your smartphone or tablet to log in to your Facebook or Twitter account, you are actually interacting with a mobile app running on your device that uses the Facebook or Twitter API to present your access credentials and service requests. The social media platform then uses that same API to transfer information from your account back to the mobile app. This can then display it on your device.
Why Making Effective Use of APIs is Critical
Because of the pervasiveness of digital technology in all aspects of today’s business environment, companies are increasingly dependent on their everyday operations on the software they use for both internal and customer-facing functions. The ability to quickly create or update those apps to address ever-changing marketplace and operational imperatives is now an almost existential necessity.
Yet, developing, maintaining, and upgrading complex, full-scale software apps that deliver the level of service customers have come to expect is more difficult and expensive than ever.
Hiring and retaining a sufficient number of skilled software developers to carry out mission-critical projects is not easy. With more than 900,000 IT jobs currently unfilled in the US, staffing large-scale software development efforts can be extremely challenging. And the more a development team has to create on its own, the longer it will take. Extended software development cycles can be a real problem. In an age in which agility and nimbleness are required to enable a company to respond to rapidly evolving marketplace conditions.
You need to minimize the amount of new development your internal project teams are tasked with carrying out. And the simplest way to do that is to employ APIs as much as possible.
Why You Should Seek Out API-Enabled Technologies
New technologies and platforms are appearing literally every day. Some of them are big, wide-ranging systems. Others are very simple but very useful smaller-scale applications. Integrate your existing (or newly developed) suite of apps with these externally created resources. Your company will be able to significantly reduce the scope of the internal development efforts you must undertake to stay current in your marketplace.
But how can integration between disparate systems be accomplished most effectively? In particular, automation of workflows is required. This may involve web applications, databases, email notifications, cognitive services, invoicing, payments, and many other moving parts. But how do you bring it all together so you have harmony instead of chaos?
The answer, of course, is by using APIs.
According to ProgrammableWeb, which provides a web-based API search engine, there are currently almost 25,000 APIs on the market. With such a wide variety of API-enabled solutions from third-party suppliers available today, it makes little sense for your company to continue with a DIY software development approach. Something that is likely to be unnecessarily complex, expensive, time-consuming, and error-prone. Instead, one of your highest app-development priorities should be to identify and integrate with external software solutions. One that provides the services your apps require through a standardized, public API.
In particular, if your applications could benefit from integration with an easy-to-use form and workflow solution that can supply inspection, maintenance, and workforce management services through a simple yet powerful API, we can help. Please contact us.