From APIs to dashboards - The power of integration

22 July 2021

APIs to connect business systems

An increasingly critical need for businesses is to integrate & connect the various software systems used, to automate the retrieval and synchronisation of data in a timely and secure manner.

API (Application Programming Interface) technology provides a standardised way of achieving this aim, and to understand how it works from a software developer’s point of view I would make a comparison to hospitality. Think of an API as a restaurant menu. It provides the developer (consumer) with lists of different kinds of information (food) they can retrieve (order), additional parameters (sides), and deliver the required output (meal), all without the need to know how it is all prepared and delivered (cooked).

There are various types of APIs depending on protocols to assist developers with sets of defined rules such as Internal or Open APIs and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) or REST (Representational State Transfer) protocols. Many people interact with APIs without even knowing. Have you ever seen the “Pay with PayPal” function on ecommerce websites? That is made possible with APIs. Asking for directions on Google Maps? APIs.

AAB work with APIs within our payroll service to enable the secure retrieval of information from clients. If our client is using a HR, timesheet, finance, etc. system which is API capable, we ask them to set us up with access using appropriate security and data restrictions. Then, using our API integration toolkit, we can setup an integration process to receive and send information, allowing for improved collaboration, added security, and ensuring we always have access to up-to date information. Previously, much of this information within businesses would be sent in Excel or similar format and require manual interaction to share & translate this information. With APIs, we are empowered to automate what was previously a time-consuming process.

APIs with BI tools

APIs can also be used to facilitate reporting - information can be retrieved from multiple systems, and linked to BI (Business Intelligence) tools, such as Power BI, Tableau, Qliksense, etc. Using these tools, organisations can consolidate business-critical data and present via user-friendly interactive dashboards bringing visibility to stakeholders for improved decision making and understanding. Rather than working offline on spreadsheets or paper reports, these online platforms can provide direct access to sales, pipeline, profit & loss or balance sheets for month over month, year over year and actual vs budget comparison to get an understanding of business performance and health. Departments who previously lacked access to required data without contacting IT can now access this with little training.

APIs to automate processes

In addition to using APIs to provide clients with reports, AAB have developed processes to automate the splitting out and publishing of payslips, BACS payment uploads, data validations to highlight missing information, and generation of comparison summaries for payroll inputs approval. All of these are either fully automated or run with the push of a button, with APIs providing the all-important connectivity between the different tools.

As more and more business platforms move from legacy on-premise to API-enabled Cloud, new possibilities are emerging all the time to enable systems talk to each other and free users from manual extract, input & duplication of effort, and let them focus on what brings most value in their role. In other words – work smarter not harder.

By Jonathan Leiper, Systems & Software Senior Manager

For more information about our Systems & Software team, click here

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