With data becoming a key market differentiator and source of competitive advantage for businesses, application programmer interfaces (APIs) have taken on an importance far beyond their initial role as the source of mashup web services in the early days of the internet. APIs now is the central arteries that connect on-premise and cloud systems and enable a complete utilization of company data both internally and externally.
“Most business sectors are benefiting from the adoption of APIs, and actually treating APIs as a product and managing the API according. “APIs reduce the development cost of innovation and market entry, supporting the rapid execution of ideas to business outcomes. They allow organizations to connect consumers, employees, partners, apps, and devices to the data they require any time and anywhere.”
ERP APIs are at the center of this for most businesses, of course, since a company’s ERP system is where much of its business data lives. So creative API use with ERP systems can deliver considerable business value, both operationally and as a source of untapped revenue.
While no list of creative ERP API uses can scratch the surface of the possible, here are five use cases to jumpstart your creativity and get you thinking.
Much has been written about how internet-of-things devices deliver added data for businesses and can serve as a source of real-time reporting. With ERP APIs, though, businesses also can send data the other way: IoT devices can adjust based on data coming from an ERP system, whether this is stored data or real-time information coming from other systems.
The combinations are effectively endless, such as controlling consumer IoT devices based on customer input via a chatbot, or automatically upgrading a product via a software update after the ERP system has logged a specific customer purchase.
“APIs are driving new and innovative ways to engage channels, from traditional web and mobile, to emerging channels such as IoT and chatbots,” One example says ERP APIs combined with IoT sensors are modernizing the management and optimization of daily rail operations.
Almost no business is fully utilizing its data. Even with artificial intelligence and machine learning, today much of the value of enterprise data goes unrealized.
One way you can draw a little more value from that data, albeit still not realize its full potential, is through better dashboarding with creative mixing of data with ERP APIs.
“A huge benefit of APIs in the context of ERP is the potential for dashboard visualizations in business intelligence
A third way you can use ERP APIs is for simplifying commonly used and commonly confused workflows such as invoicing.
You can develop the workflows on the backend, then set them up for employee consumption via ERP APIs. This can help you standardize procedures and shield less technical employees from needing in-depth knowledge of your ERP system on the backend. Instead you can set the workflows up with APIs and feed them to employees through a simple graphical user interface with much of the work done programmatically on the backend.
Entering data into an ERP system is getting easier, especially with the cloud, but there still are many legacy business processes or paper-based workflows that resist automation. With ERP APIs and optical character recognition, however, you can automate the data entry of even some of these processes.
“One creative use is using OCR and image recognition for accounts payable and invoice processing, and inputting that data into ERP Accounts module
This can be done by using APIs to input scanned documents or images that contain data, connecting these images to OCR via API, then having it pass directly to the appropriate ERP module.
Legacy ERP systems and business processes that rely on outdated systems are a business reality at many companies. Obviously, modern ERP solutions would be nice, but that’s not always feasible.
A workaround that can modernize these systems and get them engaged better with the cloud and other new technologies is by creating interfaces to these legacy systems with ERP APIs.
By building access to these systems via API, you can upgrade and connect these older systems to new technologies without having to rip and replace your underlying ERP system.
You also can use this same concept for building all of your business processes on an abstraction layer, shielding you from many of the challenges of upgrading or replacing IT infrastructure. With ERP APIs, you can keep a separation between systems of record and systems of engagement.
APIs are building blocks. Get creative and use the technology for taking your ERP data and using it in new ways. There’s no limit to the combinations.