The role and value of APIs in modern business

Today, more data is in circulation than ever before and technological advancements have been significant in response to this. Nothing new to report there.

However, the results of our recent business report showed that more than a third of businesses now express concern over how they can navigate and innovate within this new complex data landscape. While businesses are focussing on data and analytics to improve business operations, less than a third have a strategy in place to deliver a consistent customer experience. How can you therefore invest in the best strategy to bring together data, innovation, technology and customer expectations?

More importantly, how can you do this in real-time – fast? The challenges have existed for some time now and only a problem-solving approach will guarantee long-term, future-proofed solutions. However with so many complex issues clouding the landscape, how do you know where to start?
The answer lies in technology.

Once upon a time businesses would buy in technology. Now, to stay ahead of the curve, it’s more common for businesses to build their own applications. This is not only driving the cost down, but helping with efficiencies too. It’s also helping to transform legacy systems into more agile, modern designs. New developments can be more flexible and create systems and processes aligned to the current business need.

But, while you can build an application with the functionality you require, you will invariably also need data to drive decisions. And you will need to connect systems together.

An API [Application Programme Interface] is essentially a way of connecting things, of plugging systems together. Once described as a shape sorter – the children’s toy. The API takes different shapes and enables them to fit into the box.

The neatness of an API means that some of the shapes within it are exposed. It’s this exposed area that enables a connection to happen. It means you can connect multiple technology components (software for example) in a way that is controlled and agile. In so doing it allows you to determine your inputs and outputs with the outside world. At Experian, we are using APIs within many of our solutions. They enable new connections that offer scalability, flexibility and agility.
APIs will likely be the pin for the future of technology. In many instances, they already are. They enable a new functionality that is accessible and agile.

An example of how Experian are using APIs is in business information

APIs allow you to integrate accurate business data from a wealth of sources into your own systems, workflows, websites and products. Fast – and in real-time. This can help you enhance and streamline your business processes and make confident, well-informed business decisions, improving the customer journey through integrated programmes that are connected for a purpose.

The API also allows you to pre-populate lengthy forms. This brings significant improvements in two critical areas of customer satisfaction in engaging with companies – ease and accuracy in dealing with personal data.

Another example of the benefits of API usage is in fraud.

The CrossCore platform was specifically developed to help you navigate the ever-changing and complex world of fraud prevention. It is an open platform that enables you to readily combine solutions from us, other providers and even your own solutions – so you can connect, access and orchestrate decisions across multiple systems.

Fraud affects you, your customers, and your bottom line. To stay ahead of fraudsters, systems have become more complex, more expensive and even more difficult to manage. Experian’s CrossCore is the industry’s first open fraud and identity platform. You’re in the driver’s seat to choose the services you want, when you want them. The API helps you to reduce the complexity and cost of your management of identity and fraud, while improving your fraud detection, increasing your efficiencies and delivering a friction-free customer journey. A top requirement for fraud teams, as indicated in our business report.

A further example of how APIs can improve efficiency and accuracy would be in candidate checking and recruitment.

Given that 8 out of 10 companies state that poor recruitment techniques have hindered their wider brand perception, it is another area ripe for improvement. Background checking APIs give you data at your fingertips which can support your candidate checks to enable faster, more efficient decision-making. This way you can be sure of recruiting the candidates you want for the role while also protecting your brand profile. That’s in addition to efficiencies, more robust checks and smoother processes.
From affordability assessments to credit based APIs, the opportunities are endless.

Whether you choose to use them for system integration or feed data through the API itself, you will see huge returns. In addition they are flexible and scalable to you. You can select ‘pots’ of data, you can categorise data based on the purpose of the feed and much more.

Open Banking is a good example of broader use APIs. APIs in this scenario are used under the PSD2 guidelines and open transactional data sharing. This aims to fuel competition and data sharing to offer the end customer a much more efficient and transparent transaction.

Many predict that the API economy will begin to operate in the very near future. What will be important is understanding how you will integrate APIs into your strategy and how you will derive your competitive advantage from using them.

With Google Wallet and other API innovations coming to the fore, it’s important to reap the rewards they offer. Like artificial intelligence (AI) [which has gradually become so commonplace in products such as Siri, connected cars and homes, and social media and customer services delivered via chatbots], APIs represent an easily accessible solution.

Like AI, APIs are just a logical set of protocols or tools. All of which enable programmers and developers easily to access internal feeds to improve data storage and use. The potential to modernise legacy systems, thereby bringing huge internal efficiencies and improvements, is immense. However the challenge will come with marrying old with new. Legacy vs. modern. Anything developed now needs to be flexible allowing you to innovate, whilst remaining secure and friction-free.

To conclude on APIs, I would say they resemble a recipe. The ingredients work together perfectly and combined make the end product powerful. If the recipe were a packaged product, ‘friction-free’ would be emblazoned across the packaging as a clear USP. APIs aren’t a revolution, they are an evolution. They are here, they are now. And they offer huge advantages for businesses to make quick updates and integrations that help move towards better customer outcomes too.