I was meeting a prospective client earlier this week and was early, so I stopped in to see friends who had recently moved their growing business from a shared office space to their own brick and mortar in the heart of downtown Plainfield. After the tour, we had a few minutes to talk about their growing business, and the conversation wound its way to technology and the myriad of tools it takes to serve our clients and run our businesses.
How many tech tools do you use on a daily basis? From email and calendars to FitBits and smartwatches, our days are filled with data points gathered by a wide variety of apps and databases. Some are for work, others for play, but at the end of the day, wouldn’t it be great if they could “talk together” better? How great is it when your voicemail at the office sends a notification to your smartwatch (during business hours only, of course) and when your nutrition tracker knows you worked out for an hour and increases your calorie needs for the day?
Say hello to the world of APIs. An API is a tool that facilitates the interaction between multiple technology services. API’s are tools such as those that allow you to connect your website to your mailing list or your customer database to your bookkeeping software. They’re everywhere, and we count on them more than we know.
You and I have little say in how one application talks to another, so why should we care? Let me give you two reasons, and I’d encourage you to consider how these tools affect business decisions you’re making this year.
First, consider how much trust are you placing in systems you know very little about. It’s one thing to trust a company like Google manage your email and calendar, but it’s something else to give away company secrets to a no-name cloud-based systems simply because it helps you connect the dots between two other obscure systems. Be careful when you sign up for cloud-based services; pay attention to how they’re using your data and ensure that you’re comfortable with the way it’s cared for.
Secondly, realize that a time may come when it’s worth it for you to build your own API. We’ve helped clients move from expensive enterprise systems that can “do it all” to a hand-crafted mix of solid tools that are well connected and thought out. These unique solutions can be custom tailored to your needs, and all it may require is some forethought, research, and a few hours alongside a techie to figure out how to get your tools “talking to each other.”
In today’s world, good information can propel a successful business forward, but if that data is siloed across multiple disconnected systems, you may never be able to piece together the puzzle that is the big picture you know you need to see.