Today you can choose from literally hundreds of cloud apps to plug into your cloud accounting program. But what happens if you can’t find the app that does exactly what you need?
One of the secrets about cloud apps is that you can make them do things they weren’t built to do.
- Want to take a list of materials from your CAD design software and add it automatically to a purchase order or quote?
- Does a large retailer send requests in a format (eg. EDI) that you want to push straight into Unleashed or Dear?
- Are you spending hours a week manually creating bills in Xero from customer tax invoices (RCTIs)?
No app can do this for you – and yet it is still possible to make it work. How? You modify it.
Few have realised the options available with cloud software; you can build just the feature you need or find someone to build it for you.
Businesses don’t have to be consumers of designed-for-the-masses automation offered by cloud applications. They can zero in on an area of inefficiency or a gap and come up with a solution to overcome it.
Conversations that used to revolve around limitations and what can’t be done, are now focused on ‘let’s see how it can be done’, and let’s make it happen.
More and more of our conversations with businesses these days revolve around APIs, integrations and custom software development. Suddenly, all business owners and accounting professional talk about APIs.
So let’s do a quick re-cap to make sure we all understand what it is.
What is an API?
The Application Programming Interface (API) is the part of a software application that ‘talks’ to or exchanges data with other applications. Take an accounting package for example.
Users click on buttons in the User Interface (UI) to create an invoice, display a contact, or retrieve a list of transactions. Software applications click on “virtual buttons” in the Application Programming Interface (API) to do the same thing.
So an expense automation application would use the API to create invoices in the accounting app; a reporting dashboard tool would use the “get list of transactions” API to obtain data for KPI analysis.
How do I get started?
You need a good developer for a start. Ideally you need to find someone who understands your business needs and can design a solution that will work well, tie in nicely with your overall systems architecture, and will not introduce new problems with it.
You also need to make sure that you are dealing with developers that will be around for a while and have the capacity to support you. The whole area of selecting a developer is a subject for another article.
For today, I hope I have convinced you that the API is another tool in your technology toolbox that will help your business grow.