Hi there!

In this article I will write about APIs (Application Programming Interface).

In the past few years businesses have been using cloud services like Google Workspace and Salesforce, and APIs are essential for leveraging data from these cloud services.

If you are using multiple cloud services in your business, such as Google Workspace for groupware and Box for cloud storage, and you feel that it would be nice if they worked well together, you may want to learn more about APIs.

1 What is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Even if the abbreviation is explained though, it still might not make sense.

If you look up the word « Interface » in the dictionary, you will find the following:

interface
1. contact surface, interface
1a. 《computers》 interface (something that mediates the exchange of information between two parties; hardware [software, user] interface); 《physics》 interface (a surface where two phases meet)
2. common matter (between research fields, etc.)

As described in section 1a, APIs also mediate the exchange of information between two parties. The two parties to be mediated are software and software.

You should first have a rough understanding that APIs are designed to connect software to software.

2 So, are APIs good?

In the business world where various cloud services are used, there is a demand to utilize the data stored in them.

There are a variety of possible requirements, for example:

  • You may want to extract customer masters from kintone (database) and use them in SendGrid (email distribution).
  • You may want to make the history of responses to inquiries stored in Zendesk (Contact Management) available in Salesforce.
  • You may want to extract business partner information from Salesforce (sales force automation) on a daily basis and use it in Questetra BPM Suite (workflow).

There are many, many more besides these.

In order to meet these requirements each service has created its own API and made this information available to the public.

Thanks to the public API, it is possible to do the following:

  • Extract stored data
  • Add data
  • Execute a specific process (e.g. email delivery)

APIs are also used in the development of smart phone applications.

If the API is not public it is not possible to create software that can do the following.

  • Extract customer masters from kintone and make them available for SendGrid.

If you think about the following requirements

  • Download the kintone customer master manually and upload it to SendGrid manually
  • If you want to automate the process, you can build your own email distribution system that can be linked to kintone without using SendGrid

This will require a lot of time and money.

Each cloud service exposes its APIs to the public, which makes software development easier.

So APIs are pretty tasty!

3 What do APIs actually do?

The API format for cloud services is called Web API, and among the various methods REST is often used. Basically, HTTP communication is used, which is the same communication protocol as when viewing a website, but for now you don’t need to worry about what REST is.

  • API users: Sends HTTP requests
  • API provider: Returns an HTTP response

The API provider receives the request, checks the extraction conditions included in the request, and returns the extraction results in the response.

The API manual for each cloud service will tell you what kind of request you need to send in this basic form.

There are also other topics such as authentication and authorization to ensure secure communication, but that gets a bit more complicated so we will not discuss them at this time.

API and Workflow

At Questetra we provide a cloud-based Workflow « Questetra BPM Suite », and the compatibility between the Workflow and API is quite good. The reason is that there are so many usage scenarios, such as

  • When an order is approved, the order information is stored in salesforce.
  • When a seminar application is accepted, the reception information is stored in kintone.
  • Once the quote is approved, the quote PDF will be uploaded to Box.

There are many situations where you need to collaborate with other cloud services. Thanks to the APIs provided by each cloud service, it is easy to link with them from the workflow.

The following workflow diagram is from the article Add Customer Information to kintone Automatically with No Code, where the item to add a record to kintone is placed at the end of the flow.

Inside this item, a request is sent to the kintone API and a record is added. This process is packaged in such a way that the user of the item does not need to have detailed knowledge of the kintone API or how to process the response.

In addition to kintone, Questetra BPM Suite includes the items to access APIs of the following services as the standard:

  • Google Drive
  • Google Sheets
  • Google Calendar
  • Gmail
  • Google BigQuery
  • Microsoft OneDrive for Business
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Box
  • Slack

Also, more services will be available to access by using add-ons in the Professional Edition.

Add Automatic Processing Process (Addon)

If you would like to try these items, please use the [Questetra BPM Suite 60-day free trial].

5 Summary

APIs are delicious things!

Now that cloud services are being used by many organizations, APIs are essential to utilize the functions of each service and the data stored in them.

In this article I gave a very brief overview of what APIs are, but I would like to write an article on a hands-on API experience in the future.

That’s all for today!

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