Application programming interfaces (APIs) are no longer regarded as a tool solely used to plug functionality gaps in software applications, they have now become powerful components that can enhance business flexibility and agility.
Initially, APIs were designed to allow different applications to link and share data that could only be used within the walls of the data centre. However, their capabilities have increased to facilitate the secure exchange of data over the internet in a standard and controlled way.
APIs provide businesses with the opportunity to extend the reach and capabilities of their existing IT infrastructures, such as the installed ERP system. These complex applications often need to be updated to cope with changes in business practices and direction.
Specialist software developers focusing on niche areas are creating new innovative point solutions that can add significant value to businesses. Connecting these solutions via APIs to a business’s existing ERP system can improve everything from customer service levels to internal processes.
As ERP systems are an expensive investment and cannot be simply discarded and replaced regularly, adding specialised additional applications and connecting them using APIs can increase the value of the existing ERP system.
Some ways to include these additional capabilities to an ERP system include:
APIs can allow new devices to be quickly connected to the central ERP system to increase productivity. Mobile devices, such as phones, tablets and smartwatches can be used by staff to complete tasks that would have traditionally required a desktop. It also encourages employees to make use of the ERP system when away from the workplace enabling remote access.
Niche retailers may require a point-of-sale system that has very specific functionality. These systems can be readily connected to the ERP system using APIs to allow POS data to be captured and used in business processes.
Offline data collection
In some circumstances staff may need to collect data while not connected to a network, such as working in a remote location or in a building without a reliable wireless network. Applications that allow this can be installed on a device to store data and then links with the ERP system once a connection becomes available.