API and ERP–What You Need to Know

March 22, 2017

If you’ve ever researched ERP software, you’ve encountered the acronym API. You may have read that APIs are essential to external data access. This is certainly a true statement. However, if you have questions as to why this is true, let’s begin by asking the following:

What is API and what does it mean to ERP?

An Application Program Interface (API) defines the way software and external programs interact. In Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), APIs are necessary to ensuring that the ERP application data is accessible to other programs.

To put it another way, an API is the middleman between ERP and a program requesting data. The API receives the request and returns the specific data so long as the request has the appropriate permissions. The API also controls what data can be requested and how it is received.

APIs are not a new invention. No matter what computing device you use, APIs make it possible to move information between programs. Moving data from Word to Excel, signing into apps and websites using a Facebook ID, storing your game’s progress to the Dropbox cloud, each of these is an example of an API at work. The reason APIs are so common is simple: an API allows a program’s internal functions to share data without revealing all of the source software’s code which saves time and reduces security risk.

In the realm of ERP software, APIs function exactly the same. APIs are utilized by a customer’s chosen third party vendors to provide expanded features using ERP data. Some examples of these types of API include:

  • Dashboard visualizations in Business Intelligence (BI)
  • Interface for E-commerce ordering and shipping
  • Connectivity to mobile applications

Because APIs exist “behind the scenes” in ERP, it’s easy to overlook their broad range of process capabilities:

  • Server Authorization
  • Dynamic Query Services (data read, write, create, update)
  • Item Services (check and batch restriction, quantity availability)
  • Item Pricing (fetch price, batch price, unit of measure, quantity break)
  • Image Services (fetch image or thumbnail, assign image)
  • Change Tracker
  • Secure Rest Service
  • Form Printing (document fetch, pick, pack, invoice, order)

It’s obvious that companies depend on their chosen ERP software for daily operations. For features not handled by ERP, it is sometimes necessary to expand functionality using third party software. Furthermore, APIs are one way for companies to squeeze further value out of their ERP investment. Of course, successful API development depends entirely on the third party vendor you choose.

If you’re considering a third party provider, ask questions about their API.

  • How much does creating a custom API cost?
  • Does your ERP vendor have any experience dealing with the company in question?
  • Has the third party provider already built a successful API to access your type of ERP software for another company?
  • Are they willing to give you references of other customers who use their API?

Your goal is to discover all you can about the reliability of the API and the vendor. You need the API to be as accurate as the data it’s accessing.

APIs are important to many customers of our innovative turnkey ERP-ONE software for E-commerce and business intelligence. Still have questions about how APIs talk to ERP? Talk to us—we’ll be happy to give you the answers you need. Reach us at 856.380.0629 or info@distone.com.

We also recommend checking out our article on the importance of EDI (Electronic Data Interchange).

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