APIs have enormous potential for automating administrative processes and simplifying internal management
Automating administrative processes becomes easier as APIs evolve and allow more and more integration both internally (private API) and externally (public). What can an API do for internal management? Can it eliminate some of the bureaucracy?
Companies cannot function without their administrative tasks– all those non-productive activities (often called ‘support activities’) but which form a vital foundation for everything to work. Here is how APIs will help these duties.
What are APIs related to the administrative process management?
APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are programming interfaces that allow two systems to talk to each other. They are digital tools that connect various processes, including sales and administrative processes, for example. When a loan API, such as Auto Loan Calculator, offers the customer a personalized offer and the customer accepts it, the system creates a record.
Administrative processes are all those stages with the ultimate purpose of achieving business objectives efficiently, including planning, organization, management and control. It dates back to 1916, when Henry Fayol published ‘Administration Industrielle et Générale‘ (Industrial and General Administration, 1930).
When APIs are used within administrative process management, they take on a more important role in the planning and control phase:
- Scheduling the tasks to be performed, including how and when.
- Control. In this phase, the metrics that streamline and optimize the system are evaluated.
What are the purpose of APIs in these environments?
APIs facilitate integration between systems on all fronts, automating processes, minimizing errors and allowing the customer or user to combine certain tasks within their environment. In administrative process management, APIs mainly relieve staff of a huge workload and encourage new opportunities.
By automating this management, APIs facilitate the most routine and repetitive tasks, freeing up those hours for teams to produce more creative, human work. Machines take care of operations and people can focus on innovating or engaging with each other.
Types of APIs depending on the business model
In general, APIs can be divided into two large blocks: APIs as a ‘final’ products, a consumable good that can be used by a customer directly; and APIs as an ‘internal’ tool that allows communication with several departments. It is the latter that is more closely linked to administrative process management.
However, often both are connected in some way to management, since the purpose of APIs is precisely to integrate systems to make them work together, and it is often complex to determine how an API is cataloged. This cataloging system is in fact very recent and is likely to be developed over time.
Programming interfaces that are products
This type of API is usually an ad hoc solution for a customer, who uses it by connecting to their system. They usually include three subtypes:
- Business model API. Through this model, companies distribute their value through an API. This is the case of payment gateways, for example, or BBVA’s PayStats, which is open to third parties and offers aggregated and anonymized purchase data.
- API as a data interface. These APIs connect multiple systems to simplify complex interfaces. For instance, enterprise resource planning systems or ERG in the case of Business Accounts. This API connects banks to the ERG under the AEB43 standard.
- Customer-oriented APIs. They are usually APIs that make life easier for the end user or customer, and optimize conversion funnels or boost brand engagement. The BBVA Customers API, for example, allows data sharing with one click of the mouse.
Programming interfaces as tools
When the focus is on administrative process management, automating administrative processes or streamlining administrative processes, APIs are arguably one of the solutions with the biggest potential.
These work by providing an internal service to different departments, front-end application developers, external partners with creation of products and services and internal service APIs. They are usually ‘behind the doors’ and consist of:
- Backend APIs. These are gateways that connect services with servers, for example a mobile application that connects via API to a hard drive that stores user information. One of the most common architectural styles is API REST.
- Partner API. The purpose of these interfaces is to give partners access to data, which is essential in B2B models. All technology companies have some sort of API in their Partner Center to connect tasks.
- API for internal (private) use. They are the most interesting from the point of view of administrative process management, by using a virtual bridge to connect several of a company’s work environments. An example is linking the Purchasing department with Billing.
Private APIs- sorting out the inside wiring of a business
A company relies heavily on interdepartmental communication, especially when a company becomes a certain size or when the different people responsible for the departments do not share a physical space. APIs can help shape and standardize a company’s data flow by coordinating the ERG with different departments.
This is where things become blurry. Is an internal API one that collects customer information (provided by that customer), converts it into a business offer, allows them to sign online and sends the data to sales and accounting departments at the same time when closing a sale independently? Auto Loan Calculator operates in this way, and consists of one external and public-facing part, and an internal part containing private processes.
Most of the APIs that are customer-facing also take root in the servers of the hosting, developing or hiring company, transporting data from the outside to the inside and vice versa, thereby creating a fluid (and automated) communication that would not exist without APIs.
Different business models, different APIs
Like when choosing hardware and software, APIs must be chosen based on the type of business, the brand’s needs and the technological capacity to implement these solutions. On the last point, technological requirements are becoming less strict as it becomes simpler to deploy APIs every year.
Due to increased competition, companies are increasingly interested in making use of APIs in their respective sectors, partly because it gives them an important competitive edge against rival companies. Those that are the quickest to adopt this technology have a better chance of growing or stabilizing.
Finally, all sectors are embracing this technology as their digital ecosystems grow. APIs evolve, and with this their penetration in different markets. For quite some time they have not just been a tool used by large companies, and more and more SMEs make use of them.