Tired of tech tools that disappoint? Look to APIs for salvation

Application Program Interfaces can help make technology work for you, solve problems and save time

Allie Magyar

Technology is great! It solves problems, saves time and makes our lives easier.
Or that’s the promise.

The reality looks more like a frustratingly impenetrable thicket of software platforms that don’t speak to each other and don’t work nearly as well as you’d hoped. You end up spending more time managing the solutions than you did working to solve the original problem, or so it seems. Whoever said, “under promise and over deliver” clearly did not work in tech.

So how do we make technology work for us, solve our problems, and save us time? APIs are the answer.

APIs, or Application Program Interface, specify how software components should interact. Or, in super-simplified plain English, APIs are how different technologies talk to and integrate with each other. Think of it like a waiter in a restaurant: the waiter takes down the specifics of your order, takes it to the kitchen and tells them what you’re looking for, and then brings back your order exactly as you specified. Except with an API, it’s data from your technology tools that’s being brought back.

Here’s a real-life example of how we rely on APIs to make our lives easier. At my company Hubb, our sales team uses Salesforce and our marketing team uses Hubspot. We’ve connected Salesforce and Hubspot using their APIs, so if a prospect comes to our website and views certain webpages, Hubspot tells Salesforce, which appends that data to a lead’s profile in Salesforce. If that lead downloads a whitepaper from our Hubspot-hosted website, that information is also passed along.

These two programs talking to each other with APIs save us time (we don’t have to move data between programs) and help make our sales team far more effective (they have a real-time history of a lead’s interactions with our company at their fingertips).

How can APIs help you and your business? Three major benefits stand out.

1. APIs allow you to pull in and blend data from all your software programs, giving you greater visibility across all your platforms. Hubb’s Hubspot account connects our website, social media profiles and email, so we can see how our potential customers are interacting with our brand. For example, if a lead likes one of our Tweets, Twitter records that interaction, sends it to Hubspot, which rolls it in with that lead’s overall history of interaction with our content across our website, email, and social media platforms. Hubspot aggregates and sends that data to Salesforce. All this happens automatically with APIs.

2. Connected technologies allow you to snap together best-in-breed tools to build custom technological solutions. Let me give you an example from my industry, events. Managing events is complicated and we rely on lots of technology. We use registration tools, mobile apps, analytics tools, digital signage, content management platforms and badge scanners, to list a few. There are several comprehensive event management platforms available that are expensive, difficult to use and are of inconsistent quality – using them doesn’t save you time, it only makes you frustrated! Instead, we rely on best-in-breed tools; we find the best badge scanner, the best mobile app program and so on, and connect them with APIs. This way, we get the tools we need (and none we don’t).

3. Connecting your technology saves you time. With connected tools, you spend less time hunting for a specific insight or data point and less time manually moving data between tools and programs. With more connections to other tools, software becomes more powerful and better lives up to its time-saving potential.

That Jetsons-like vision of technology seamlessly working together in service to us for our benefit may seem like a distant dream, especially when we’re dealing with a tangled mess of tools that were supposed to help us. But by connecting technology with APIs, we can make it a reality.

Allie Magyar is the CEO of Hubb, a Vancouver-based tech company specializing in event content management. She is also the owner of Dynamic Events.