What is an API and why should you use them? | SwiftCase Productivity Podcast #19

Hello and welcome to the SwiftCase productivity podcast, my name is Adam Sykes, founder of SwiftCase, the professional productivity platform and today we’ve got a large group of us again from the SwiftCase team so everyone’s just going to go around
and introduce themselves. I’m Craig McCarthy, Development Manager of SwiftCase. I’m Alkis Petrou, Senior Developer of SwiftCase. I’m Phil Whitby, Developer at SwiftCase. And I’m Sam Eastwood, Senior Developer of SwiftCase. Okay great, so today we’re going to do an
episode about APIs, people might not know what they are, they’ve just got
their own business and they’ve been talking about transforming their
business and improving their digital offer and how they’re integrating
systems into their business processes and APIs are probably something they may have
come across, they’ve not really, they’ve heard the term they’ve heard the acronym but what’s it all about and how can it help them with their business is what we’re
going to sort of go through today isn’t it, you people a quick guide, everything
you need to know to make use of APIs. Okay so I think Alkis do you want to- ALKIS: Yeah,
so in basic terms, an API is essentially a set of functions whereby a function
which is something that you pass some data into and it processes it in one way
or another so you have this set of functions that essentially allow you to
talk or manipulate a piece of software so that’s the most basic form of what it is
and the most common use of APIs are web APIs which allow you to essentially
integrate one piece of software with another piece of software so allowing
for this communication between different software. ADAM: It gets two software applications to talk to each other and share information and
hopefully to streamline your process really, isn’t it. CRAIG: I mean, it’s a
way now isn’t it, if you have five different systems, you don’t have to
enter in the same information as five different systems, if they all integrate with together via APIs, then it means you only have put them in one place and it will talk to the others. And also people- you don’t have to
contact Twitter or Facebook or anything and ask them for data, where I think it’s that kind of getting data in a readable format isn’t it,
rather than in like an excel file that you then have to upload and do anything with because that’s traditionally because people will close systems, they’ll probably initiate- ADAM: There used to be an import export, export you did a CSV of users- MailChimp is probably a good example isn’t it, people use MailChimp to send out email campaigns to market their business and obviously
they need to give it a list of users and the email addresses that they want to
send out to so what people may have done in the past is maybe got a spreadsheet with everyone’s email address on or they’ve
got a CRM that can export a spreadsheet, a CSV file which is a spreadsheet,
uploaded to MailChimp and then once you’ve got it in MailChimp, manipulate your list and set up your email and send it and basically with an API, you could effectively have
a button in your CRM that just went “send all these to MailChimp” or even create a
campaign and send it to this list without actually ever exporting anything and re-importing it again it would all be a seamless process.
PHIL: So it’s like an agreement between applications to be civil
rather than wasting each other’s time, isn’t it? ADAM: Yeah, so that’s another key I suppose, it’s the security aspect of it and I think you’ve been doing some stuff
with like * recently and how Yeah. I’ve worked with a variety of different
APIs, some use newer forms of security compared to others but the whole idea of the API
communication is to enable for a secure exchange of information so like Adam said, nowadays we have things like OAuth which I believe Twitter use,
actually, Twitter uses OAuth 1, which is without getting into it is a bit
predated but yeah it’s essentially to actually just briefly explain, it’s
it’s like if I want to communicate with Phil here, I would first ask him
Hi, I’m Alkis, do you know me? I’m gonna have to communicate, he says no then I leave
otherwise then we can exchange information so that’s that’s the basics. ADAM: So I suppose you’ve got- because you know it’s secure,
if you, especially in the beta GDPR nowadays, people downloading a
spreadsheet or leaving that lying around that employee uses data ready to upload
somewhere else, it has a big risk whereas if you know it’s gone from one secure
system to another, it can go straight through. CRAIG: I suppose one of the big advantages of cloud software is that you can use it
anywhere and if you’ve got cloud software that can talk to each other, it
means that you don’t have to be stuck in an office in order to import, export this
data, I think in the past a lot of businesses used to just have this
either bespoke or you know off-the-shelf software that they did on their
machines but I think APIs have really, they’ve really sold cloud software into
the future because when you’ve got many pieces of software that do really good things, they
might be the best in their fields at each individual thing so it’s
MailChimp for example, a cracking mail software, it makes sense to use MailChimp
sometimes when the you know rather than an all-in-one system like – PHIL: Yeah, because you imagine the development time, it would eventually take everyone to go “I’m going to make the de facto all in one system,” it would just be ludicrous and out of control – CRAIG: Well it’s like the way, what we did quite early on but more
recently, actually is made a decision to make a configurable API in our software
so we could almost connect to anything because we recognize the likes of
MailChimp, to build MailChimp again is insane when they’re constantly adding
to it and it’s very much the best in field really, so it makes sense to just integrate with
that yeah I think. – You’re absolutely right yeah, we could even control it up to where that
functionality is now, they would’ve improved anyway, so it’s like pilgrim’s road. ADAM: I think Sam has been working on like getting the API, the data
in haven’t you, so like this configurable API. SAM: So you can take the data from anywhere, any type of API and to get it into your case and from the response, that’s, that makes
it a huge event initial to the client because you don’t have to go somewhere
else you don’t have to change screens to go and get the data, copy and paste it into another field, it just does it for you – ADAM: So you basically just map the response from one API into the
questions that the client has, the information the client has to store and
it’s just all configurable, you just go “I want to send my fees to
Zero or Sage and I want to get back the timestamp when it got
created or the ID that was created inside Zero, just store it in my question,” you
just do all that, effectively drag and drop and – SAM: Or maybe you want to pull
some data from a location somewhere or you want to get an image from somewhere
so you can plug it into that API and request that particular piece of data and import it in and you’ve then got a report to produce it’s just like as soon as you’ve typed yourself or
uploaded the image yourself and it’s there, in report yet you’ve not had to change screens,
you don’t have to go type in the postcode or whatever the question needs to make, to get the
data, it’s done it for you, so you’ve saved a lot of time – ALKIS: A good thing to add onto what you’ve just said is like you
can schedule things now so if you’re dealing with other countries with
different time zones, you can actually schedule what you just said, upload that
image at a set time, it’s really cool, I think it allows for a lot more integration with a
lot more different systems from other countries – CRAIG: And diversity, really. ADAM: Yeah, because you can
build it up as part of your whole process so there might be like
the API connection but then you build in that part of that API then connects to this
other API that connects to something else so you imagine like an invoice gets
created from Zero, that gets pulled in and it goes out via email for your
email API and then there’s some kind of text message systems that’s hooked up to give
people a reminder for when it’s due or something and it’s all like one
workflow but it’s used three, four different systems. SAM: Another example is maybe in your workflow, you need to send some information to a third party, maybe it’s an expert in their field and with
SiwftCase, you can just send it to to them via an API that the third party
has, they can do their work that they need to,
they receive it, they do the work, they send it back in to SwiftCase and you’ve not had to change screens, you don’t have to make make a phone call, or send an
email, it’s just all there immediately. ADAM: So basically using APIs will help you to reduce errors
because you’re not putting things into different systems, it streamlines
everything so it’s faster, it works together easily, it’s more secure because systems
are talking directly to each other rather than things coming out as an
export and then being imported, you can leverage different systems to do
different things and connect them together in one workflow so they’re good
for automation because you can do stuff across multiple systems without
actually having to, you know, actually interact with each one, it can be streamlined
that way and also you can do everything from one screen, you can see everything
in one place, you can get data dragged in from lots of different sources and put
them together and manipulate them so there’s five five ways that APIs can
help you to make your business more productive, if you’ve got any other ways
that you think that APIs have either helped your business or you’d like to see
whether APIs could help your business, pop comment below and we’ll try to
answer any questions you’ve got. CRAIG: And if you’ve got an API on your system that
integrates with twitter then don’t forget to send us
a tweet @SwiftCaseUK, we’re also on a number of other social media
channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, so check us out and also go to swiftcase.co.uk for more information on some of the stuff we do
and maybe some information on how we integrate with some of the APIs. PHIL: So don’t forget to subscribe and
click the bell to get notifications about any more videos we’ve got.
ADAM: That’s great, so I hope everyone enjoyed our podcast and APIs, my name is Adam Sykes,
founder of SwiftCase, the professional productivity platform and we hope to see
you next time. *scattered thanks*


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