by Luke Marshall
• June 23, 2020
History is full of dynamic duos like peanut butter and jelly or Batman and Robin—but is it time to add APIs and ERPs to the mix?
According to a 2019 study by Cloud Elements, APIs and ERPs are essential to modern business strategy. 55 percent of respondents believe that API integrations are “critical” to their operations. What’s more, the survey’s participants say that ERPs are one of their top three business use cases for API integrations.
But what are APIs and ERPs exactly, and what makes APIs and ERPs the perfect match?
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An API (application programming interface) is one of the building blocks of modern web and software applications. APIs are interfaces that define protocols, tools, and routines for how different applications interact with each other.
One extremely common API use case is integration with web mapping services such as Google Maps. Many third-party applications allow users to share geographical locations with each other, from messaging apps like Facebook Messenger to business review websites like Yelp.
Rather than implementing their own mapping service, which would be highly costly and time-consuming, these applications simply use an API to pull information from Google Maps. The Google Maps API informs users exactly how to request different types of information from the Google Maps service, such as route directions or Google Street View images.
Perhaps the best analogy for an API is the menu in a restaurant:
ERP (enterprise resource planning) software is the term for applications and systems that help enterprises integrate their business processes across various operations. Today’s modern organizations perform many different functions, both external and internal: sales and marketing, inventory, human resources, finance, customer support, and much more. ERP software fills in the gaps between different functions, helping you connect and streamline your business processes to improve your productivity and efficiency.
E-commerce websites are just one use case that demonstrates how ERP software can be priceless for your business. Operating an e-commerce website at scale requires a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes. You need to run sales and marketing campaigns, keep track of the items in stock, effectively manage customer relationships, coordinate shipping and logistics, and more.
When customers on your website prepare to check out, for example, you need to check that the items in their shopping carts are in stock, auto-fill their shipping addresses and billing information, and begin the fulfillment process. ERP software helps these disparate business functions interact with each other, and exchange the data they need to keep everything running smoothly.
Despite their multipurpose nature, ERPs aren’t the only technology that organizations rely on. For example, you may use highly specialized internal applications for particular business functions (e.g. accounting and order fulfillment). You may also require external integrations to assist you with smarter, data-driven decision-making (e.g. weather and traffic information for delivery vehicles).
When implemented correctly, ERP software and systems can be a smashing success for your organization. However, many businesses have traditionally struggled to make effective use of their ERPs, faced with the growing technical complexity of their IT environments—including the need for more and more internal and external integrations. Most ERPs are designed only for general business purposes, which means they’re not
Due to these challenges, analysts estimate that the failure rate for ERP projects is shockingly high: up to 75 percent. The most common issues with ERP implementation include time and budget overruns and trying to bite off more than you can chew. So how can organizations use APIs to beat the odds and deliver a winning ERP system for their enterprise?
As with any other software or service, APIs can greatly enhance your business use of ERP software. APIs ensure that the ERP is easily accessible to other applications and systems, and vice versa. To do so, the API acts as a middleman between the ERP and any third parties with which it interacts—for example, a user requesting information, or an external data source.
For example, APIs can help export the data in your ERP software to a third-party data visualization service. Cutting-edge dashboards, graphics, and reports can make it easier for analysts and key stakeholders to find hidden insights and chart the course of the business.
In many cases, organizations already have a legacy ERP system in place, but they’re unable or unwilling to upgrade it due to the complexity and cost that such a migration would entail. Again, APIs can come to the rescue: APIs are also highly useful for integrating legacy on-premises ERP systems with cloud-based software and infrastructure.
Whether you’re using a cutting-edge ERP or one that’s decades old, APIs are incredibly valuable to enhance your use of an ERP system. But there’s one important issue: building all these APIs takes time—unless, of course, you have a solution that can automatically generate clean, secure, fully documented APIs at a moment’s notice.
For many enterprise customers, that API management solution is DreamFactory. Click here to read how one of DreamFactory’s clients, the IT consultancy firm TECHeGO, built a rich ERP platform with APIs that allowed employees to quickly and easily connect their business applications. Thanks to the pre-built API endpoints in the DreamFactory platform, TECHeGO was able to dramatically shorten the ERP development cycle by 10 months.
APIs and ERPs are the perfect match for each other. Today’s modern ERP software requires integrations with an ever-increasing number of systems and services. By using a API management solution, you can build an ERP capable of keeping up with this spiraling complexity—one that will continue to serve your business well, now and into the future.
DreamFactory is a powerful, feature-rich REST API management platform that includes pre-built integrations with ERP software such as QAD, Infor, and Deltek Costpoint. Want to learn how the DreamFactory platform can fit your business needs and objectives? Contact the DreamFactory team today for a free trial of the platform.
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