Why Open APIs Are So Critical to Today’s Connected Business

Jon Roskill | July 31, 2019

Being a connected business is required if you want to succeed in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Why are open APIs critical in becoming that connected business? Jon Roskill, CEO of Acumatica cloud ERP, explains.

 

In a recent post I did on digital transformation, I explained that technology (cloud ERP specifically) is just a part of the transformation process, with people and processes making up the rest. I also said that the transformational goal for businesses in today’s marketplace should be to become a modern, connected business, which occurs when their leadership team and employees are aligned and all records, data sources, and systems are synchronized under a single pane of glass.

But how can this interoperability occur? It requires a critical component: open APIs.

From brittle to open APIs

Let’s take a quick step back in time. In the 90s, people dreamed of connecting best-of-breed applications and building best-in-class systems. A semblance of this occurred when they used an application programming interface or API. APIs were all about permitting access inside the product in order to interface with it. The problem, however, was that their data wasn’t connected as well, so it took 50+ IT guys to maintain their carefully-constructed-but-constantly-breaking system. They were dealing with what we now call brittle APIs.

Hold on to this idea of brittle APIs for a moment while I leap forward to the present.

Today, businesses are moving their applications to the cloud. While the word is singular, the idea is not. There are multiple clouds, and businesses are running multiple applications. They may use Microsoft Office 365 for email and collaboration and Salesforce.com for CRM, Workday for human resources, and Acumatica for ERP.

That’s four different cloud services (and monthly subscriptions) to run a single organization, and more cloud services will probably be added in the future. This may seem like an effective strategy, but it recreates the problems of the 90s…in the cloud. Once again, data from many applications is not synchronized. Fortunately, the new flexible APIs enable cloud-to-cloud integrations, whereas back in the 90s they were building integrations via hard-coded APIs that could break with the tiniest change.

Cloud-to-cloud integration with open APIs

Modern businesses function in a landscape where consumers expect fast, efficient service and instant gratification. Competition within every industry is high, and customer loyalty increasingly hard to earn.

Moving to the cloud is often the first step in meeting these customer expectations. However, if businesses are running multiple cloud services that do not seamlessly integrate, then they’re unable to provide their product and/or service quickly and efficiently.

Enter open API (also known as public APIs).

Open API combined with minimal developer effort produces easy communication and integration with other software programs. Open APIs use a universal language allowing unparalleled access to multiple software services and data. The data and information silos of both the past and the present no longer exist, and developer workloads are significantly decreased.

The benefits of using open API are clear, including enhanced efficiency, streamlined data, easy collaboration with customers, partners, and third-party applications and, of course, streamlined integrations.

You would think every cloud ERP provider would be on board with Open APIs, but you would be wrong.

Connect your business with the “open” cloud ERP vendor

There are two kinds of cloud ERP vendors: closed and open. Here’s a quick explanation of each one:

  • Closed: These vendors are intentionally closing their APIs, usually those in vertical apps, as they believe this gives them a lock in their market
  • Open: These vendors provide open interfaces and ensure seamless cloud-to-cloud integrations.

Acumatica falls within the open category. We wholeheartedly support an open world and eliminating the islands of automation. To quote Acumatica’s Ajoy Krishnamoorthy, VP, Platform Strategy, “We don’t think that data should live and die within the boundaries of ERP.”

He says this in his post, The Connected Cloud: How Acumatica’s API Supports a Multicloud World, which he wrote in 2017. In it, he explains how we’ve developed our flexible, customizable cloud xRP platform. He also details Acumatica’s API journey.

Starting with screen-based APIs (exposed as a SOAP or Simple Object Access Protocol interface), the API was easy to use but changes to the screens caused issues with existing API integrations. This resulted in Acumatica launching contract-based APIs and introducing the support for OData (open data protocol). Staying abreast of technology trends, we then became a REST-based system. Finally, in Acumatica 2017 R2, we expanded the coverage of the REST endpoints. We continue to add more RESTful endpoints with every release, unlike our competitors. (NetSuite just announced their “cutting-edge” edition of RESTful endpoints at their 2019 conference, two years after Acumatica.)

Throughout Acumatica’ s journey, the bottom line has been supporting our three core principles:

  1. Leading edge technology on a future-proof platform: Adaptable, open architecture; modernization; scalability; usability; mobility; and AI/ML
  2. Best-in-class business functionality: Module functionality & depth; industry editions; end-to-end workflows; integrated CRM; ISV solutions; and compliance
  3. Customer-friendly-business practices: Commitment to customer success; flexible deployment options; growth-friendly licensing; data ownership; dual layers of support; and free training

Out of the gate, Acumatica’s cloud-based ERP supported a service-oriented architecture enabled by our cloud xRP platform. The open functionality is used not only externally for third-party applications to connect with us, but also internally so that our modules and platform can easily communicate.

Several Acumatica customers can attest to the benefits of open APIs.

M3 Technology Group, a company that designs, builds, and installs audiovisual and videoconferencing systems for a myriad of industries, utilized Acumatica’s open API to add third party software. “We outsourced a firm to help us develop a solution that collects several silos of data from different applications, and they were very pleased with how easy and clean Acumatica’s API is to work with,” says Kelly Burns, ERP Developer and former COO, in the company’s success story. “They said they haven’t experienced that very often.”

Premier 1 Supplies, which provides electric fencing and netting, sheep and goat supplies, clippers and shearers, ear tags, poultry products, and expert advice, searched for a modern ERP solution, and chose Acumatica, partly due to our open APIs. Ben Rothe, General Manager and CEO, says in the company’s success story, “[Acumatica’s] open APIs would allow me to make customizations myself. With Acumatica’s open API framework, I can get data in and out quickly without having to hire outside developers.”

And Corey Winn, Information Technology Manager at Kelly Products, a premier agribusiness consisting of 13 businesses and multiple brands, says in the company’s success story that he was impressed with Acumatica’s open API framework, which allowed them to “integrate our own software into the system so we can now push inventory information through Acumatica.”

He also says, “We can invoice in real time, see invoice payment data, and see inventory levels with accuracy.”

Acumatica walks the talk

As you can see, we walk the talk. This includes joining the OpenAPI Initiative (OAI) created by industry experts who, according to the OAI website, “recognize the immense value of standardizing on how REST APIs are described.”

They also state that “APIs form the connecting glue between modern applications. Nearly every application uses APIs to connect with corporate data sources, third party data services or other applications. Creating an open description format for API services that is vendor neutral, portable, and open is critical to accelerating the vision of a truly connected world.”

Ultimately, a connected business is a successful business.

Contact our experts to learn how Acumatica and the Acumatica cloud xRP platform can help you and your business become seamlessly connected, allowing you to meet—and exceed—the needs of your customers today and in the future.

Learn More About Acumatica Cloud ERP

Jon Roskill

Chief Executive Officer at Acumatica. Passionate about sports, family, community and Cloud ERP with & thru the channel!

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