In previous articles, we discussed the differences between EDI and API systems and their respective benefits and shortcomings. As a follow-up to those posts, we’ll discuss some of the issues involved with API Integration and ways to get around them. API brings with it a plethora of technological advances promising to boost productivity and shred costs. However, many enterprises have found that the integration process comes with its own sets of challenges. Companies poorly prepared for API Integration may face barriers that drive up costs and only deliver incremental results, at best. In this article, we’ll discuss the 5 most common barriers of API Integration and provide insight on overcoming these obstacles to harness API’s potential.
API Integration can come with many issues, but its complexity is possibly the most common, yet not so trivial. Adopting API technology means an overhaul of not only internal systems but procedures and KPIs, data management and integrity, security, standards of communication, and governance. This is not an exhaustive list. Its difficulty cannot be overstated. Companies should begin with creating business cases for each department affected by API Integration. When discussing API rollout, every department and stakeholder should be present to go over their departments’ challenges. By taking into consideration every player early on, there’s less of a chance of incompatibility among systems or miscommunication about responsibilities. The key is to cover every base here. Shippers, manufacturers, suppliers, warehousing, sales, finance, customs clearance, import, export, leave no stone unturned. Develop task forces to take ownership of communicating to their team what’s needed for API integration, and what potential problems can be tackled beforehand. Current case studies for specific system integrations may provide more insight. Redwood reduces the risk and costs when it comes to API integration, read how here.
In 2019, nearly 4,000 data breaches took place in the U.S., exposing over 4 billion records within the financial, government, healthcare, and education sectors. Data breaches have been on the rise since 2016. As technology advances, hackers are becoming more sophisticated and gaining access to larger databases. This is one of the most potentially threatening API challenges for new users. Since API technology is reliant on web-based programs, companies become exposed to breaches if not carefully protected. Hackers also gain access to customer information, further adding insult to injury by affecting your company’s reputation. API Integration projects should keep security as a top priority from inception and onwards. Hiring a security system or team of experts at the inception of integration can be one way to prevent data breaches. It’s equally important to keep security a priority as your company begins to scale its API operations. Security protocols should be reviewed and kept up-to-date as needed. Don’t want to burden your IT teams? Reach out to Redwood to help.
Employee Reluctance to Integrate
Like many new technologies, employees may not be on board unless they understand APIs’ effect on their daily tasks. Some employees may cling to what they know and hold off learning something new. This is understandable but it may spread quickly among the workforce if not handled early. When starting an API project, it’s crucial to have a team of experts that understand the complexities of API technology. It’s also equally important to digest this knowledge with the rest of the company. Consider hiring trainers and developers who can break down the intricacies of API in palpable modules. It’s important to give employees access to training at all times, so online modules are solid options. Also, consider giving every department a Team Lead role and train them on the protocol and API challenges they may encounter so they can divest this information to their respective departments. For some employees, it’s less intimidating learning from a colleague than a group of experts.
Cost and Time Consumption
API technologies are an investment for the future and can become quite expensive in the beginning. Besides the programs themselves, the cost of hiring professional developers and training staff may quickly exceed your budget. Maintenance and upgrades may also drive up costs over time. There are ways to keep costs at a minimum. One solution, particularly for startups, can be to hire an API developer or expert as a partner of your company instead of only for a set time. This ensures they will understand your business and determine which APIs make more sense to adopt. Another option can be to focus on the most crucial areas in your company for API integration. Develop a strategy for API rollout, beginning with the areas that may benefit the most. This can smooth out expenses over time as opposed to a gargantuan effort with many moving parts.
While API can connect two systems, system integrations are not one-size-fits-all. Each connection may come with its challenges that will quickly exacerbate the development team if it spirals out of control. Some systems may take longer to connect than others depending on their technological compatibility. Again, strategizing API rollout can ease the complexities of connecting several systems simultaneously. Focus on the most integral systems that will benefit the most. Before integration, work with developers to estimate whether certain systems may need more time than others. Consider making business cases to calculate the potential loss of revenue during integration periods. This will help to figure out the best mix of keeping old systems and integrating API.
API Integration can be a huge task to take on at once, and poor preparation could deliver incremental gains and exponential costs. However, with ample research, a strong team, and a sound strategy, supply chains can reap the benefits of API and prepare for the future with a competitive advantage.
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