This article was originally published in the Nashville Business Journal on Dec. 12, 2014.
The Digital Age is making a power play for the health care industry's top position when it comes to the use of acronyms. ERP, IOS, CMS, SAP, ALM, DES, FTP, POP, IPS — the list goes on and on and is literally in perpetual growth mode with the frequency of online innovations.
It used to be that all this shortcut talk was relegated to the IT department. But as the delineations between marketing and technology have blurred, the new digital speak is a blended vocabulary that addresses functionality as well as sales and marketability.
An Application Programming Interface, or API, provides programming instructions and standards that access other Web-based software and application tools. For the non-IT-readers, this means that your software system can speak with outside software systems with more efficiency and clarity. And for large enterprise organizations, this ultimately means a better customer experience and increased opportunities for profitability.
For example, let's say you're Google and you have this fantastic mapping software, but it's only as good as its usability. To gain interaction from all of those companies out there who want to be seen on Google Maps, you create an API and share it with software developers so they can seamlessly link to your mapping software.
From the user and customer side, you are none the wiser to this process. If you sell ads for Google or are the marketing director trying to drive traffic to your customers in locations across the country, you've got a two-way-communication channel that is marketable and enhances the customer experience.
What else can APIs do for business?
APIs can open new revenue channels by expanding your digital footprint to software developers who are looking for easier access to your products. Walgreens provides a good example of an organization that has effectively utilized API channels to drive traditional retail store traffic. Through its QuickPrints API, developers are able to create applications that allow customers to seamlessly print digital photos in 8,200 retails stores around the country. This provides both a convenient service for the customer and creates foot traffic for Walgreens.
APIs can significantly control digital development costs. Remember, APIs allow software applications to speak with one another. If you are trying to reach customers online, and your systems do not speak the same language, then you are looking at downtime and repetitive integration costs which can really add up and will not address the larger problem.
Finally, APIs expedite a product's time to market. Online marketing has changed the entire dynamic when it comes to being first to market. If you are rolling out a new product or service, you have one chance to launch it successfully. If your internal teams are struggling with how they are going to create an easy passage for people to access the new offering, then there's a good chance that you'll get beat before you leave the starting block.
APIs are an important part of the new digital frontier. They open so many doors for a comprehensive online presence and they significantly contribute to the overall digital experience for both your organization and the people with whom you are trying to connect.