True integration means more than CSV files and scraping

August 30, 2021 Neil Glover
Integrate-software

At AIRPA, we never tire of banging the drum for true, meaningful software integration. That means data sharing through native APIs, not ugly bodge-jobs based on scraping data or – even worse – the manual transfer of information through CSV files.

Sure, you might be able to get those two bits of software to just about work together – but how long will that hack last? If one of the applications updates, or a website you’re scraping is redesigned, the connection could break overnight.

There’s also a concern over security. Anytime you take data out of an app and put it into a document or unlocked file, you risk a leak of confidential client information. Equally, everytime you upload data from a file, you make your systems vulnerable to attack.

Finally, you have to ask, is it efficient? Of course it’s not. The time spent conceiving, implementing and maintaining these hacks and workarounds – and worrying about them! – could certainly be better spent.

APIs are the way forward

An application programming interface (API) allows computer systems and software packages to communicate with each other directly and securely.

Software developers love APIs because they offer an opportunity to collaborate or connect without giving away too much information about what’s going on in the back end of their product.

At the same time, they retain ownership of the master source of data. Another common problem from the days before APIs was that data supplied to third parties could easily drift out of date, or get mangled – a version control nightmare.

They’re used to drive for all sorts of purposes, from apps that track shipping on the high seas to websites that use UK Government data to help people find out what’s going on in their neighbourhood.

Perhaps the most topical example of API technology in action is open banking. The open banking implementation entity (OBIE) provides specifications for APIs that allow financial software to communicate directly with banks, using individuals’ banking data to produce a new generation of apps.

Closer to home for many accountants, there are the APIs that power add-ons for, and integrations with, cloud accounting apps such as Xero and Sage.

How do APIs work?

APIs specify what’s on offer – which data can be supplied by the app, or written to it – and then manage the traffic of data in and out.

A common analogy is to think of the API as a waiter presenting a menu, communicating customer orders to the kitchen and then delivering finished dishes back to the table.

But what makes APIs powerful, arguably, is that you don’t really need to understand what they do, or how they work. They’re about simplifying communication between software and machines, doing away with the need to type complex queries into command line windows like some stereotype of a 1990s hacker.

How AIRPA uses APIs

At AIRPA, as a point of principle, we only work with partners which offer full integration via APIs.

From our point of view, the provision of an API is a sort of due diligence test – a sign of professionalism and permanence. And in 2021, there aren’t many serious software providers which don’t offer APIs.

From Google Docs to AccountancyManager to Xero, our platform makes it easy to move data from one app to another within a single, secure environment.

And that true, next-level integration in turn powers true, next-level automation, saving you time and making your accounting firm more profitable.

It also powers our active data sync functionality, aligning data across all your systems from one master source. That means a single login, a single user interface and, most importantly, a single point of truth.

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