The ongoing American labor shortage has led businesses in a multitude of different industries to seek out ways to optimize productivity and streamline processes that are traditionally labor-intensive. While several such technologies are available, one of the most powerful is intelligent document processing (IDP). 

Intelligent document processing applications facilitate end-to-end intelligent automation. These technologies accurately capture and extract data from documents and deliver it to a company’s various systems of record, databases or other downstream applications.

Although IDP represents the first step to automation and business productivity, these solutions cannot function as seamlessly without application programming interfaces (APIs).

In this exploration of APIs, we examine what application programming interfaces are, their benefits and their role in next-generation business optimization. 

What Are APIs?

An application programming interface can best be described as a “software intermediary.” In simple terms, APIs allow applications to communicate and share information. When you use applications on your phone, tablet, or desktop, these applications communicate with your device’s software via APIs.

There are a few different API protocols and architectures. These protocols include specific rules that outline which types of commands and data can be processed by the API. The most common API protocols include SOAP, JSON-RPC and REST. 

Another more generalized category of application programming interfaces is “Web APIs.” These APIs are accessible using the standard HTTP protocol. There are several sub-types of web APIs, which include:

  • Open APIs
  • Closed APIs
  • Internal APIs
  • Partner APIs
  • Composite APIs

Open APIs vs. Closed APIs

Let’s focus on Open and Closed APIs. Open APIs are the type of application programming interface used to facilitate communication between intelligent document processing solutions and other software. 

Open APIs are also referred to as public APIs or external APIs. These types of application programming interfaces are available to outside users and developers. Not only are open APIs available to third parties, but they minimally interfere with those entities’ ability to access the technology. 

Some APIs in this category are 100% open. This designation means that users can access them by simply downloading the API from the developer’s library. Other open APIs require users to register with the developer and obtain an API key. 

In addition to open APIs, there is a class of application programming interfaces that are considered “closed.” Closed application programming interfaces are internal APIs. These APIs are designed specifically for use within a company. Internal APIs allow various departments and teams to exchange information or share resources.

Why Are APIs Useful?

Application programming interfaces have become the preferred solution for developers who need to facilitate intercommunication between two pieces of software. Modern APIs offer a multitude of benefits when compared to traditional integrations or alternative interface solutions. Some of the most notable benefits include the following:

Preventing Data Silos

Data silos are one of the most significant barriers to data-driven decision-making. These silos are formed when organizations collect and store information using different software platforms that do not communicate and share data. 

This situation is pervasive in large businesses and enterprises, as each department may use a different suite of software solutions. APIs enable various applications to communicate and exchange data. In turn, this eliminates data silos and allows businesses to better use all the information they gather. 

Facilitating Inter-app Communication

The primary function of APIs is that they facilitate inter-app communication. Developers create APIs designed to bridge the gap between a specific piece of their software and another type of software so clients can work more efficiently.

Although a separate API will be needed to form each inter-app communication pathway, installing these application programming interfaces is still far more efficient than creating manual integrations. 

APIs make innovative technologies like intelligent document processing software more accessible to businesses that would otherwise be unable to leverage these solutions. Modern APIs also decrease the company’s time to value and allow them to achieve a return on investment much faster.

Simple APIs do not just make life easier for technology adopters but developers as well. During a recent survey of developers, 52% of respondents stated that APIs accelerate innovation, and another 36% indicated they believe that these technologies create business value. 

Offering Exceptional Functionality and Reliability

Application programming interfaces are incredibly reliable pieces of software that rarely experience breakages that are severe enough to cause long-term business disruptions. A survey published in February of 2022 revealed just how reliable APIs have been for major organizations. 

Some 60.4% of organizations using external APIs state that their application programming interfaces do not malfunction “frequently enough to matter.” Another 20.9% of respondents stated that their APIs only experienced one breakage monthly. 

APIs are critical to the function of various applications, including intelligent document processing solutions. Fortunately, the above figures demonstrate that external APIs have exceptional reliability. Cumulatively, 81.3% of respondents experience API breakages monthly or less frequently. 

APIs and IDP: What’s the Connection?  

Application programming interfaces facilitate seamless and reliable communication between an organization’s external applications and its intelligent document processing software. However, APIs not only enable these solutions to communicate, but they also allow for true, real-time integration. What does this mean exactly? 

Once an organization uses a developer’s APIs to integrate their applications with IDP software, businesses can obtain actionable data and easily use it with other systems. Ultimately, once end users can leverage their data, they can make faster, better decisions and help improve customer experiences. Additionally, real-time integration via APIs decreases an organization’s time to value and yields a better ROI. 

Tasks that employees can perform following an IDP and external application integrations include:

  • Data extraction
  • Data structuring and classification
  • Digitization of physical documents 
  • Complete OCR

However, a robust API, such as Ephesoft Transact’s Open API-Compliant web services, is required in order to achieve high-level reliability and real-time integrations. Schedule a free trial if you are eager to learn more about Ephesoft’s intelligent document processing technologies or how our Transact can connect with your existing systems.