Integrations are essential to guaranteeing that customer data remains synced between your various software applications. These integrations come in many forms, with their own merits and drawbacks – what are the differences between these?
Within the ecosystem of cloud-based and in-house software applications powering your subscription business, how you integrate each system plays a crucial role in the development and execution of your business processes.
These integrations free your staff from the humdrum task of manually updating systems and exporting/importing data by automating routine jobs, whittling down the complex service architectures into simplified workflows. Products with clearly defined and open interfaces are far easier for businesses to integrate, with extended use potential and greater portability.
With the range of options available for knitting together the different elements of your subscription ecosystem, it can be hard to understand each approach and what operations each is best suited to. Here are three of the most popular integration methods, and how they work.
An API – that’s Application Programming Interface – is the most common of integration options.
We all use APIs on a daily basis, without even realising; from weather widgets, to signing into websites with a social media account, to payment gateways while online shopping – all employ APIs behind-the-scenes to seamlessly integrate separate datasets into their operations. According to ProgrammableWeb’s directory, there are over 22,000 open-source APIs available, with thousands more being added every year.
APIs simplify and facilitate integration and interaction between two discrete software applications, allowing one system to request data from or update another. Put simply, APIs are the “interpreter” used by applications that want to talk to one another.
For example, a user employing Cerillion Skyline as their billing platform and Salesforce as their CRM might need the two platforms to interact whenever customer or product data is altered in one of the systems. If a customer’s address is updated in Salesforce, then this would need to be reflected in Skyline ready for billing: how does that happen?
Rather than getting salespeople or IT staff to manually update every record – a time-consuming process subject to human error, especially when facing potentially thousands of updates a day – an API can be used to automate the action. So, in the above example, Salesforce calls the applicable Skyline API to update the customer’s billing address with no human intervention required. Alternatively, if Salesforce needs to get customer or product information from Skyline, it can pull the required data using the corresponding API.
It is the software vendor, however, who is responsible for creating the APIs, so customers are reliant on them providing sufficient APIs to cover a wide range of use cases and integration scenarios. Typically, many legacy systems built using older technology were not designed for ease of integration, and as such don’t have any APIs.
Skyline comes with a comprehensive set of around 50 REST APIs for clients to effortlessly integrate their applications. Documentation for all APIs is provided in Swagger
, an open-source API development toolkit.
Different from a standard API which works on a request / response basis, webhooks (sometimes referred to as callouts) are effectively ‘push APIs’, that send data from one system to another but do not expect a response. It is down to the receiving system or process to decide what action to take on the information it receives.
Skyline can automatically trigger webhooks to any endpoint on a LAN/WAN or the Internet to notify of any customer-related events in real-time. For example, a new sign-up or a failed payment.
When an event occurs, Skyline sends a webhook over HTTPS with all the relevant details about the event to one or more endpoint URLs. With Skyline, 20 different lifecycle events can be activated individually, enabling the system to trigger distinct actions based on subscriptions, accounts, inventory and payment events.
Rather than acting as an interpreter
for the entire application, webhooks work for only a specific operation between two systems, but their architecture is flexible enough to apply to a vast set of functions and use cases.
For “API as a Service”, platforms such as Zapier
are online automation tools that bundle the functionalities of APIs and webhooks, allowing users to easily integrate two or more systems without the need to build and code a corresponding application to carry out these tasks.
The key thing about these platforms is that by building your connection once, you can then automatically connect to thousands of other apps that also connect to these platforms. This can dramatically speed up and simplify the integration with many other systems, all through one interface to the integration platform.
Get in touch to learn more about how Cerillion Skyline can seamlessly integrate with and augment your software ecosystem.