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APIs: Your Company's Secret Weapon to Widen Your Competitive Advantage

Posted by Katy Schamberger on Nov 11, 2015 10:47:19 PM

APIs, once the sole domain of tech-savvy developers, are now moving into the boardroom. The use cases—and business benefits—are compelling, including helping companies learn more about their customers, adding robust functionality to existing software and mobile apps and improving their competitive advantage through better visibility, insight and performance. If you aren’t yet tapping into the full power of APIs, now’s the time to start.

What Is an API?

An API, or application-programming interface, “is a set of programming instructions and standards for accessing a Web-based software application or web tool. A software company releases its API to the public so that other software developers can design products that are powered by its service.”

For example, IFTTT.com uses APIs from several products and platforms like LinkedIn, Yammer, Etsy, Nest thermostat and Fitbit so that users can create connections, or recipes, between channels. Recipes are typically built around an “if/then” formula: if it rains tomorrow, send me an email. Or if you change your Facebook profile photo, then automatically update your Twitter profile photo. In essence, you’ve created a pathway and a new action using the existing functionality of these channels.

What Can APIs Do for Businesses?

A critical shift in the way APIs are viewed has not only introduced a new set of prospective use cases, but is also driving an increased awareness of the true potential of APIs.

“APIs have been elevated from a development technique to a business model driver and boardroom consideration,” according to Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2015 report. “An organization’s core assets can be reused, shared and monetized through APIs that can extend the reach of existing services or provide new revenue streams. APIs should be managed like a product—one built on top of a potentially complex technical footprint that includes legacy and third-party systems and data.”

What makes APIs so valuable to the business? In part, their versatility. APIs can be used to add features and functionality to products and services. And because they work to bridge the gap and enable connectivity between devices and software, APIs are widely considered to be important building blocks in a larger Internet of Things strategy.

When it comes to using APIs, they’re not unlike other types of technology in that a company needs to first define the business need that’s driving the API implementation. Once that strategic foundation is in place, companies can find the APIs—and, in many cases, the related solutions—that will deliver the best results.

APIs in Action: The DSI Platform

In many cases, APIs are used to help leverage data, whether it’s customer demographic information or real-time working conditions, to name two examples. Yet what happens to that data once it’s collected? To analyze and act on that data, you need to be able to put it in the context of your larger business data and processes by creating a seamless flow to your company’s back-end system. And that’s where the DSI platform can help.

One of the longtime attributes of our platform is enabling secure, seamless integrations to leading enterprise software systems, as well as other software solutions. We focus on getting you the information that you need, when you need it, regardless of the system from which it originates. As a result, someone could write a web or mobile app, then use our platform to integrate that app’s functionality into an ERP system, creating an uninterrupted flow of information between the two. That pathway works in reverse, too, if an app needs to make a particular function call to a back-end system, then deliver that information in the front-facing web app.

The DSI platform also includes a Web services connector, which supports SOAP and RESTful protocols to enhance the functionality of mobile apps with contextualized information like flight or weather tracking. One of DSI’s newer solutions, the DSI Product Locator App, incorporates mapping APIs to enable location mapping and leverage other geographical data. As a result, users have rich, contextual business information accessible in a robust user experience that could, for example, provide an inventory-aware map of product locations so that a customer could quickly and easily make a purchase This pertinent business data, including asset locations, product placement and job conditions, not only enables real-time visibility and execution regardless of location, but also provides the informational foundation for operational insights that can improve business performance and, as a result, sharpen a company’s competitive advantage.

Interested in learning more about APIs and how the DSI platform can help you better leverage the API economy for your own business? Contact us anytime.

 

Topics: Platform & Technology

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