APIs: The most powerful tools you didn't know you had
Open, flexible APIs have potential to become your most powerful business tools.
When someone in sales looks at Salesforce's activity monitoring, pipeline tracking or contact database features, they see insightful information they can leverage to do their jobs more effectively.
But zoom out, and it becomes clear that an application's front-end utility is only the tip of a workflow's iceberg. Beneath the UI of your mission-critical applications is a reservoir of moving data that, when merged with other disparate data flows, has the potential to facilitate the workflow you need rather than just the workflow you have.
Unfortunately, much of that data is locked within a growing number of separate, cloud-based applications, never to see the light of day. In fact, 80 percent of the work that goes into data science is the acquisition and preparation of data. One of the most significant factors driving up that number, according to The Harvard Business Review, is data silos. This dilemma makes it difficult for management teams to optimize workflows without the expertise of developers, and the time and money needed to put them to task.
Or does it?
Back to square one: Better APIs make better workflows
For many enterprises, the answer to the data-silo problem is actually right under their noses. Specifically, organizations that have built their software empires on REST APIs (application programming interfaces) can take a cue from themselves by making APIs a core consideration during procurement of new applications. In other words, how flexible is the API of the new sales or marketing tool you're adding to your software stack? Does it even have an API?
To be fair, APIs have never been positioned as a value-add business tool. But vice presidents of sales or marketing divisions that want to extract greater value from their existing applications need to be asking the question. If the APIs for their existing applications are closed doors, business processes are at greater risk of becoming segmented and confined. The result is piecemeal workflow architecture that is generally inflexible and therefore limited in its pathways to new sources of value.
Conversely, an open API that strikes a balance between completeness and simplicity, and consistency and flexibility, provides a canvas of opportunities. While programmers will be interfacing with the API at a granular level – not like your sales and marketing teams – business decision-makers need to think about its business-process potential. That means knowing what new services can be enabled through the power of the API, rather than homing in on surface-level features. You can start exploring some of those possibilities, here.
'Connect data to action'
Andy Hattemer, Senior Growth Marketing Manager at DigitalOcean, concisely summed up the potential business value of APIs with four words: "Connect data to action."
For context, Hattemer and his team ran into a situation where they needed to integrate Segment and Marketo quickly, and without leveraging developer resources. The purpose of this integration was to pipe customer data from Segment into Marketo and subsequently drive smarter marketing campaigns. In effect, this would allow the two APIs to generate value that is greater than the sum of its parts. They succeeded in this endeavor in less than 30 days by leveraging Tray.io's integration platform.
Phase two of that process was to automate more of DigitalOcean's marketing stack, which they also managed to achieve through several ongoing API integrations, including but not limited to:
- Enriching Segment data with geo-location pulled from DigitalOcean's cloud platform.
- Connecting GetFeedback and Segment to send out surveys to more than 500,000 users.
- Creating Slack alerts based on changes made in Salesforce.
These and other benefits like them prompted Hattemer to make this comment:
"We're constantly finding new and interesting use cases for Tray within our organization. In terms of value from the platform, the only limit is in ideas about how to connect data to action, whereas before we were limited by technical capabilities or level of effort."
Long story short, APIs are the best business tools you didn't know you had – especially when you have a simple means for unlocking their potential. What workflow potential does your software have hidden beneath its UI?
The answers might surprise you.