How API Integrations Can Give Your Business One Source of Truth

By: Nick Dopkins | February 25, 2020

As an organization grows, so does its IT stack and the amount of applications it manages. If left unchecked, this can result in a multitude of disjointed programs that duplicate data, repeat logic, and know nothing about each other.

Implementing API integration to formulate one source of truth is an investment that will provide an organized, flexible, and expandable technology system for your business. Whether you are on-premises or in the cloud, have a development team or use 3rd party software, there is an API integration solution that can fit your needs.

However, understanding exactly what an API integration is and how it can help you can be ambiguous at times. But by the time you finish reading this blog, you will have a firm understanding of how API integrations can give you one source of truth.

What is an API?

An Application Program Interface (API) is a set of functions or procedures that provides programs access to a common data source. An API can be exposed publicly for anyone to use, or privately within a company or organization. In either case, this common interface can provide countless applications with a single source of truth.

What is API Integration?

API integration is the connection of two or more applications via an API to facilitate communication between the apps or to provide a common source of data for the apps to use. Integrating your systems improves efficiency, productivity, and agility as everything works together to achieve your business goals.

Creating a common backend, in which all new and existing systems integrate, vastly reduces duplicate efforts – making it much more straightforward to create new systems and keep your IT stack organized. If you find that it’s hard to keep track of which system manages which data, and you are using several different systems to accomplish a single goal, API integration might be a worthwhile investment.

3 Types of API Integration

1. On-Premises

An on-premises integration includes building a custom API that is deployed on your own servers, or in your own private cloud. This approach offers complete control over how the API operates, and what content is exchanged through it. On-premises is often chosen by enterprises that value this level of control, or possess very private data (healthcare, financial) that they don’t trust in the typical cloud.

However, having complete control over security is a double-edged sword. It is up to the business’ IT team and their security capabilities to keep it locked down. Additionally, an on-premises integration can be very developer-heavy since it often requires a custom solution.

If these factors are not a concern for your organization, the level of customization on-premises integration offers can be extremely appealing. The API can be shaped and molded to fit the exact needs of your company and offer a very accurate source of truth for your various systems.

2. SaaS

The SaaS (Software as a Service) integration approach involves utilizing existing data management tools that are often obtained via purchase or subscription services. This software is generally an “off the shelf” implementation where your entire API and data management functions are already built out and ready for use. As such, businesses can quickly go live with SaaS integrations and only require developers to connect custom solutions to the software’s API.

The downside to this, however, is the lack of control and customization that comes with an out-of-the-box solution. It may be difficult to find an existing solution that completely fits your business model, and it may not offer the flexibility needed to mold it into something that does fit. Overall, if there is a SaaS solution that fits your needs, it can be a very quick and light way to implement a single source of truth for your systems.

3. App to App

Application to application integration is the process of linking systems, APIs, and services together to create one cohesive workflow. This chain of applications can consist of both custom and third-party solutions. The benefit to this is the ability to automate each step of a workflow, which increases efficiency by eliminating the need for manual data entry.

Linking applications together and integrating them into one stream of processes allows for data to seamlessly pass through each task and come out the other side exactly as expected. This is the kind of integration that facilitates communication between many different applications and keeps a consistency within it that maintains your one source of truth.

Breaking up integrated apps, or not integrating at all, guarantees human error, inconsistency, and process duplication. When an organization has a large suite of applications that make up its IT stack, consistency and organization are key to a thriving and maintainable tech environment. Application to application integration is the best way to achieve this.

What is Integration Testing?

Integration testing involves identifying where individual components are connected, then testing the communication between those components. This should aid in exposing any issues or faults that exist between the individual units. It’s important to note that integration testing closely examines the communication between standalone modules. Test how the data looks coming out of one component and how it looks when it is received by another (if it is received at all). This doesn’t involve the functionality of the component itself; that should be covered by unit testing.

Why is Integration Testing Important?

Integration testing often deals with individual components or systems that were developed separately from one another (and likely by different developers). This leaves a very large opportunity for miscommunications or mismatching data. The differing development conditions, styles, and requirements means that integrating the two (or more) pieces will probably not work immediately on the first go around. It will take a lot of tweaking in data models, service calls, API endpoints, etc., before a perfect line of communication is achieved. When this line of communication is properly tested and everyone can be confident it is robust, the integrated system can achieve very powerful results.

3 Top Benefits of Integration

1. Increased Productivity

One of API integration’s most noticeable benefits is how much quicker new applications can go live. With an integrated system in place, the effort of standing up a new backend, handling data access, and applying appropriate business logic is already done. It is just a matter of having your new application talk to the API – making the return on investment of API integration very high.

2. Scalability

With an increased productivity rate, organizations can put more focus on expanding their IT stack and developing applications that add more value to achieving their goals. Without proper API integration, each system a business utilizes is very siloed – which facilitates disorganized workflows and duplicate efforts – amassing a large amount of technical debt. This would make it very difficult and time-consuming to scale outward. One centralized source of truth that all other applications communicate with sets an organized pattern for future efforts.

3. Accuracy

Integrated systems within an organization uphold the idea of “one source of truth”. One API, one gateway to data access. This concept ensures data accuracy across all systems and maintains complete consistency. A lack of integration means a multitude of data access layers and databases – which only leads to inaccurate, inconsistent, and duplicate data. API integration will create a clean and organized backend environment that instills confidence in your data being accurate and true.

One Source of Truth

Whether you are in the early stages of creating your organization’s technology stack, or already have a fully operational system, it is always a worthwhile investment to integrate an API behind the scenes. No matter what your business model looks like, implementing an API as your one source of truth will bring efficiency, expandability, and accuracy to even the most complex of systems.

Nick is a Software Developer with a passion for working in the information technology and services industry. He is skilled in the .NET Framework, Xamarin, Angular, Agile Methodologies, SQL, and working with a team.

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