How APIs Are Pivotal to Modernizing Infrastructure

Many company leaders find themselves in the challenging position of realizing that their organization’s IT infrastructure is too outdated to enable the kind of growth and modernization the business requires to stay competitive. Fortunately, application programming interface (API) practitioners play a significant role in helping companies get the tech upgrades they need. Here’s a closer look at why APIs are critical for making tech transformations happen.

1. Helping Businesses Respond to Challenging Situations

APIs can improve how company leaders react to unexpected circumstances. When an organization has the proper tech resources, its responses to forced changes are often more efficient and effective.

For example, the retail sector encountered numerous obstacles during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions often prevented stores from offering in-person shopping. However, pivoting to home delivery and curbside pickup helped many brands remain successful during hard times.

Research from Google showed that 52% of retailers viewed APIs as innovation accelerators. Another 36% of those polled said they were strategic assets that drove business value. APIs unlock new capabilities that could help retailers succeed even beyond the pandemic.

For example, they can help retailers provide personalized experiences. That might mean sending targeted offers to a shopper’s smartphone or suggesting things to purchase based on their history with the retailer.

APIs can also help retailers create or update apps that keep customers engaged. In one example, the German company Conrad Electronic relied on API management to build a tool that provided product, service, and warranty information on smartphones. More than 60% of its customers used it, so the app helped the company streamline its operations.

APIs also make it simpler to connect internal and external databases. Many people felt safer ordering products online and having them delivered during the pandemic. That meant many retailers suddenly fulfilled many more internet-based orders than usual, and some launched their first websites. An shipping API can make it easier for companies and customers to get data from external parcel delivery services. Then, all involved parties have the information they need to track the goods.

2. Updating Companies’ Cybersecurity Strategies

The modern cybersecurity landscape looks a lot different today than it did even a decade ago. Online criminals continually aim to orchestrate bigger and more destructive attacks. Sometimes, the perpetrators become cyber terrorists by disrupting critical infrastructure.

Internet security experts warn that businesses must adapt to the increasingly dangerous threats by adequately preparing for them. Additionally, the arrival of new regulations means companies must remain adaptive. Fortunately, APIs can be instrumental in spurring necessary infrastructure improvements.

Some security-based APIs center on traffic monitoring, helping company cybersecurity teams become aware of potential issues before disabling networks. Those are particularly beneficial for companies dealing with IT labor shortages.

Others relate to file management. They might screen emailed attachments before allowing a recipient to open them. However, APIs can also facilitate secure file sharing. Those options keep company productivity high without exposing the network to unnecessary risks.

Although APIs can strengthen and upgrade a company’s cybersecurity policies, they add potential risk sources. They might expose too much of an organization’s total data or fail to authenticate users appropriately. One study found that only 2% of respondents expressed complete confidence in their organization’s ability to decrease cybersecurity risks caused by APIs. However, 93% of respondents planned to improve by increasing the budget and other resources devoted to API development and security.

3. Making Infrastructure Upgrades More Accessible

Decision-makers often realize it’s time to update a company’s IT infrastructure but believe the task is too daunting. It seems there is too large a gap between a company’s current legacy infrastructure and modern solutions. Fortunately, using APIs means there’s no need to start from scratch.

APIs conceal outdated infrastructure by placing a more modern interface on top of it that connects to apps and databases. People can then build, maintain, and update newer upgrades without the investment and time that comes from doing a complete overhaul that involves replacing legacy systems.

Banking brand Emirates NBD Group relied heavily on APIs for a tech transformation that began in 2017. Many of the bank’s customers wanted digital, innovative offerings. Banking representatives had ideas for meeting those needs, but the company had maxed out its IT delivery capabilities. The company moved forward with heavy reliance on APIs.

Saud Al Dhawyani, the company’s chief technology officer, explained, “APIs were crucial for our transformation because they allowed us to modularize our IT estate and modernize some of our core IT platforms, such as our payments hub and trade-finance IT platform. We now have almost the same ‘code base’ for all entities and locations and can add new functionalities efficiently. This also makes us more flexible in our international markets, where our growth was historically limited by our technology capabilities.”

He gave a specific example, saying, “from a business perspective, APIs enabled several strategic business initiatives. In 2019, we launched WhatsApp Banking for our customers in a matter of weeks. Today, we have 100,000 subscribed users for Emirates NBD and 50,000 for Emirates Islamic, and we have seen around a million interactions in the past 12 months.”

4. Providing Better Visibility

APIs can also modernize a company’s infrastructure by making it easier to see data moving through its system. It’s one thing to gather information, but if employees can’t don’t have a unified view of that content, it’s challenging to use it for decision-making.

In one instance, a manufacturer with more than 12,000 employees operating in more than 100 countries wanted a better picture of its customers’ complete journeys. At the start, each app and service the company used worked independently, limiting reusability across multiple teams or with people with varying access levels.

The company also used multiple apps to serve particular customer needs. However, things became complicated as people from several teams typically made various contributions to certain interactions a customer had with the business.

However, once the organization integrated APIs across all those separate systems, the technology linked things together. The company finally had a holistic view of how customers moved throughout their processes and could view which services were most helpful. This change also reportedly shortened the time needed to build and launch apps.

APIs Enable Businesses to Stay Relevant

These examples illustrate how your work as an API practitioner can directly help an organization meet current and future needs. APIs allow companies to offer new services and improve processes, even with legacy systems.