Complex Integration: Using APIs
We have completed several integration projects with SouthWare ERP with extenal system over the past few years. I will have several posts on this topic to share some insights gained. Clients have come to us with various needs to have the SouthWare ERP system integrate with their stategic partners and with the result being deep value and market advantage. The decision integrate live systems can be a business strategic step and not just an IT excersize in efficiency. I will cover some of those efficies in a later post. There are opportunities that have the potetial to alter how your business is positioned in the market, how you offer you products and services. I'll let you re-read that last sensence. Example: One of our clients in the automotive collision parts distribution intergated their system with the CCC True program - The results are that now insurance estimators and body shops Quote and Submit Orders without picking up the phone. The impact that with a push of a button at a body shop a pick ticket at the correct warehouse prints, along with barcode labels and product is schedule for next delivery run. This is more than just order processing efficiency - it is about being a relevant player in the marketspace - giving client options - attracting new partners. We will cover more about use cases on other posts.
How to know there is a potentialy transformational oportunity? By spending some time doing discovery of what systems your suppliers, clients and internal departments are using, also in disruptor startups offering services, not only to you, but your clients and vendors, there may be a potential for integration and shifting how you aproach the market. In the 90's and early 2000's EDI interfaces were pretty much the extent of integration. There is still a lot of EDI going on, and that will continue to grow and have it's place in the sun, but API's offer a whole different world of possibilities - Google, Salesforce.com, Basecamp.com, Avalara.com and almost any new platform offers an API. There is untold potential to transform offerings, access new markets, add feafures to what you are doing now.
Some API's offer simple features and are easy to integrate (pass me 2 addresses and I give back the distance in miles) however It can get complex - down in the woods here: An API (Application Programing Interface) is like a language that the platform can speak. Now that the systems can speak the same language, executing the integration is about writting the conversation script. I know this sounds simple, but it is just a complex as two individuals having a conversation - there are times that what I mean by a word is different than what you interpret - thus some of the complexity starts to be evident. If I use the word "will" do I men "will power", " Last will and testament", "will do something", etc.. THis occurs between API's where many times a translation has to occur between systems. Your customer number 1234 is my account number ABCD - somewhere, on side or both, there will have to be a way to keep up with the "translation" in order to make sure we are refering to the same "thing". The API many times has this translate capability built in, but sometimes it does not.
I hope this initial article provided some initial insights. Till next time...