De-siloing and opening up information systems using an API manager
- 22 Jun 2020
After the webinar on the subject of de-siloing and opening up information systems using an API manager, that was given on 11 June in partnership with WSO2, and with a testimonial from the French postal service, we had four questions we wanted to ask Simon Griffon, Senior Consultant at Smile.
What is the role of an information system in the company of today, and what challenges does it face?
Because of the rapid, rising digitization of every business activity, the information system is at the heart of company’s framework, regardless of its sector. It is the central point for exchanges between employees, entities and connected systems. It is used to collect, process, store and disseminate all of the information that is useful to the company’s business. Nowadays, we understand the need to control and share information. It’s a major strategic issue, within the company itself, but also with its partners, whosoever they may be, and with its customers, so that the company can offer them ever more services, quality and proximity.
What is an API? An API manager?
An API (application programming interface) allows software to provide a service to other software via a standardized set of functions and procedures. This way, an API can consume or share information or a service, that can then be reused by a different entity belonging to the company or by a partner.
As a consumer, an API can be act as a brick (or micro-service), used to build a new application. This makes it possible to reuse a service that is relevant to the end application or service, without having to worry about the brick’s operation.
As for an API manager, it allows the API to be exposed via an editing and publishing tool, and consumed via a platform, on which a user can register for the desired APIs.
The information is then transferred by means of a gateway ensuring the interoperability of the two parties’ information systems (publisher and subscriber).
Finally, API management also allows a publisher to monetize the publication of its API, based on usage, endowing it with a source of revenue.
Why should a company open up its information system?
A company’s data transit internally through all of its software and applications (ERP, CRM, EDM, HRIS, etc.) and, by their very nature, through a wide variety of ISs that are increasingly “siloed” and specific to each subsidiary or branch of the company.
This siloization and the impermeability of information systems is not conducive to the exchange and use of information between data producers and consumers. In fact, exchanges with applications outside the IS (with partners, for example) are very complicated to set up (and maintain over time), just like the use of data from third party sources (Internet, open data, etc.).
This impermeability has major repercussions: replications of actions already performed by another service or branch, lack of information or data from third parties, etc. It can also necessitate the replication of an application feature that could have been shared as part of a larger process.
That’s why it will be important for companies to open up their information systems in 2020.
What are the possible obstacles to opening up an information system? What role can an API manager play in this respect?
Up until recently, the practices which were used to establish these inter-system exchanges of information and services were extremely restrictive. The importance of adhering to the security standards necessitated by this opening, combined with the limited interoperability capacities of applications, required the signature of data exchange contracts. The purpose of those contracts was to define each party’s responsibilities, as well as the associated rules and protocols.
Nonetheless, their implementation was still time-consuming and painstaking… not to mention the maintenance challenges, particularly whenever a change was made on either end. Based on this observation, a simple, long term solution was found in the use of an API manager for the creation, exposure and utilization of APIs.