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By Terri Roeslmeier, Ultra-Staff EDGE Staffing Software


We often hear discussions whereby the participants adamantly maintain that they “must have an “open API”.  When asked how they plan on using it, those that are the most unwavering, have no specific reason in mind. They simply contend that they need it for future needs that may come up.

“Open API” has become a buzzword of sorts that is echoed when stakeholders are assessing new technology for their firm.  Most software providers have the capability to exchange information with other solutions in the form of an “application information interface”, but the most useful options almost always require customization.

Let’s explore exactly what an “API” is.  Simply put, it is a way for two separate software applications to exchange information without manual intervention. A software provider can expose a few general fields of information for exchange, and beacon that they have an “open API”, and they do!  For example, they could make available name and address for read and write purposes.  The information is regularly passed to a website where it waits for another application to pick it up.  In addition, the providing application listens for new information that is populated from an outside application that is talking to the API and brings it in.

An open API does not mean that the database is completely open and any application can plug in and be useful. The term from that standpoint is a bit misleading. In order for applications to be able to communicate effectively to one another with true meaning and purpose, development work is required. Development teams at each end work together in order to decide what information should be shared and the triggers that launch the discussions between the two separate environments. Sometimes this information is already determined by one of the applications, and another environment may need to comply with the specifications in order to utilize the API.

Providers may make available a set of data that is most likely to be useful for a particular purpose such as background screening.  However, in order for the partner application to be able to take advantage of the data, more than likely some data and interaction must take place from the partner side.  Since the partner may be interacting with many different types of background services with multiple API formats, each integration will require some work and may even require the addition of fields to the database.

Another consideration is that an API integration is a partnership.  That being said, some software providers prefer to pick their partners in order to service their clients in the best possible light.  For example, what happens when key information is being passed and the API is not working properly?  How is the cause determined?  Who does the customer call?  Are both providers responsive? This is all important even to get the interface operational to begin with.

An open API is not a magical tunnel where things “just happen how they are supposed to.” Strong API’s take time and effort and planning. They are almost never a simple “plug in” as some custom requirements generally will come into play. When exploring an API environment, it is always advisable to ask specific questions about the availability of data and how specifically it interacts.  It’s also important to ask if the API is a 2-way or 1-way option. More detailed questions will help you understand exactly what is involved and help ensure that you are not disappointed.


Questions about what it means to have an open API? Contact Ultra-Staff EDGE Staffing Software today!

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