In today’s business world, automation is no longer an option, but a necessity. As the digital transformation rapidly unfolds, companies across industries are increasingly looking for the best ways to automate their business processes in order to meet market requirements in a new era.
The majority of organizations are already utilizing automation for at least some of their processes. According to the State of Automation report by Kentik, 53% of companies were already using automation for network configuration and 40% — for automated policy management in 2019.
The tools and technologies organizations are using to automate their processes are changing, however. APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are increasingly gaining popularity as one of the most efficient, secure, affordable and reliable ways to enable business processes automation.
What is wrong with traditional approaches to business automation?
There are several more traditional approaches to the automation of business processes utilized by companies today, all of which have considerable disadvantages compared to APIs.
The following three traditional approaches to automation today are increasingly considered to be legacy.
- Custom code implementation.
Using custom code to customize an existing IT system and facilitate the automation of a certain business process. The downside of this method is low visibility into the customizations and thus, inability for the IT team to make updates and modifications.
- Standalone automation solution deployment.
The alternative to adding a custom code is implementing standalone solutions such as Business Process Management (BPM) applications.These tools are easier to utilize, but they typically provide limited automation capabilities that can’t be reused for other processes, and lack flexibility.
- Point-to-point integration.
Point-to-point integration involves using middleware to enable the communication of two systems. This approach also has a number of weaknesses, including high maintenance needs and security risks.
As you can see, the traditional approaches to business processes automation have multiple disadvantages.
Here are some of the most notable issues related to these methods of automation integration:
- They are time-consuming to implement,
- Require increased maintenance costs and effort,
- Create a lot of technical debt,
- Limit visibility into existing systems and code,
- Difficult to modify and lack flexibility.
Why are APIs the future of business processes automation?
Automating business processes through APIs integration is an alternative to the approaches described above. This method is now considered to be more beneficial due to several key advantages it can provide.
- Great scalability and reusability.
APIs serve as an intermediary, allowing different applications and system components to communicate with each other, exchanging data or services. It is easy to use APIs individually or in groups as part of complex business process automation modules. Built only once, APIs can be continuously reused to power various kinds of automations and system connections, making it much easier to scale solutions built with this technology.
- Increased productivity.
Thanks to high reusability and flexibility of APIs, this approach allows developer teams to increase their productivity, delivering automation projects 2-3 times faster compared to traditional methods.
- System transparency and stability.
Another big benefit of APIs is that using this technology makes it much easier for development teams to keep their IT systems transparent as the structure of API-enabled automations is usually much better organized.
- Flexibility and simple integration of new components.
Utilizing APIs allows organizations to build very flexible automation solutions that are easily modifiable and support simple integration of various other components without the need to make fundamental changes in the code base.
- Consistent and secure data management.
APIs enable organizations to access and utilize data from various IT systems and third-party sources. The data is processed and analyzed, providing businesses with new insights. The management of data can be centralized with visibility into how it is used and full control over this process.
- Legacy systems support.
The ability to utilize legacy systems that are difficult to integrate with modern tools and solutions is a big advantage of APIs as well. Using APIs, organizations can connect legacy applications to other parts of their IT infrastructure, enabling easy modernization of outdated components with new functions and the access to rich data sources.
How to utilize APIs for business process automation?
As you can see, APIs can be an indispensable technology for automation of business processes, modernization of legacy systems and implementation of digital transformation solutions.
Here are several examples of how organizations are using APIs to reap the benefits of automation and empower their products with innovative technologies.
- Third-party real-time data integration.
APIs can be utilized to integrate high-quality real-time data into your products in order to boost efficiency and ease the burden on the backend. There are various kinds of third-party data APIs available to businesses. Specifically, Apilayer, a suite of productivity-boosting web APIs and cloud-based microservice applications, provides developers and companies of any size with access to a handful of diverse APIs with all kinds of data, from currency conversion and weather forecasts to flight tracking and stock market updates.
As an example, Mediastack API, which is a part of Apilayer suite, is a free and simple to integrate into an app or a website scalable JSON API that delivers worldwide news, headlines and blog articles in real-time.
- Development operations automation.
APIs can be utilized to automate multiple parts of DevOps processes, such as increasing or decreasing available infrastructure (servers) and resources depending on the current load or automatically turning on development and testing environments at the start of business hours.
- Reporting automation.
Automated generation of reports based on various kinds of data collected by IT systems and apps is another potential application for APIs.
- Disaster recovery.
Regaining access to and functionality of IT infrastructure following an unforeseeable situation, such as hacker attack or natural disaster, is where APIs can be utilized with great benefits as well. API-enabled disaster recovery processes are more reliable and easier to manage compared to traditional methods.
- Online audience control and user verification.
Finally, the integration of APIs allows organizations to add to their websites and/or applications multiple powerful audience control and user verification features. The apilayer suite of APIs in particular offers a wide selection of APIs for easy IP address-based geolocation, user device detection, SMTP-based email address verification and international phone number validation API.