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What’s an API?
The term API stands for Application Program Interface, a system that enables programs and systems to talk to each other and share data. An everyday example, which even people outside the world of IT are familiar with, is when a picture posted on Instagram also appears on the user’s Facebook account.
In the corporate world, however, APIs involve significantly larger amounts of data and the requests are for detailed information about customers, for example. Unlike manual data deliveries, which have historically been transferred between companies in a file format once a week, APIs enable real-time access.
“The larger the volumes and the greater the number of customers you have, the more automation you want. APIs enable that kind of automation,” says API expert Mohamed Beyan.
“APIs aren’t a trend, they’re a necessity”
Over the past five years, we’ve seen increasing demand for API services – even though API services have been around for at least two decades.
“Customers see APIs as a necessary tool for automation and digitalisation to generate growth. And in my world, this can’t be achieved without APIs.”
Mohamed stresses the value of investing heavily in APIs.
“Several of the world’s biggest companies wouldn’t have got to the size they are now without APIs and relevant data,” he says.
Information that is transferred in real time thanks to APIs helps companies stay up to date. If the flow of information is integrated with the sales department, there’s a better chance of catching those customers who are willing to make a purchase.
“In e-commerce, for example, a company must be relevant to its target group. It needs to know who its customers are and the stage of life they’re in if its website is to be relevant and show personalised offers. And this is where APIs help,” says Mohamed.
Automation with APIs gives an edge
Companies that adopted a data-driven approach early on, and saw that APIs were, in essence, vital for safeguarding their future survival, have an advantage over others. This is largely because they have already come up against challenges, which have enabled them to fine-tune things, Mohamed says.
“They already know what not to do,” he says.
At Dun & Bradstreet, we’ve seen a shift in customers’ purchase journeys in recent years, where decision-making has shifted from an orderer who doesn’t have in-depth technical knowledge – such as a company’s purchasing department or a department manager – to technicians who are being given a broader mandate. These technicians are also the ones who have the knowledge needed to analyse data.
“In those scenarios, it’s the technicians who are familiar with the functionality, who place orders, and who also evaluate the API,” says Mohamed.
“APIs are not just an IT or technology issue, they must be an organisational priority for generating growth. APIs benefit marketing, sales, and customer service. And if you understand that, it’s easier to get into the game.”
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