You might have noticed that there’s a growing buzz around Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) amongst freight and logistics companies. Freight API integrations are becoming increasingly popular and can act as either an alternative for or an addition to the more traditional EDI model, enabling more efficient processes.
A quick primer: APIs are a set of functions and procedures that let you create applications that access data and features of other applications, services, or operating systems. APIs are building blocks that make developing new digital experiences and services easier and allow for better business insights.
APIs are being called “the next frontier” for the freight and logistics industry, and we will undoubtedly see more companies promoting them in the coming years. But how do you know if your organization needs them? And if you already have APIs, how can you measure their performance and value?
Here, we’ll look at how to determine if APIs are right for you, which to invest in, and API performance KPIs to track.
Do you need API integrations?
“API” is becoming a buzzword in the industry, but before jumping in, you should decide if they’re right for your business — don’t invest in APIs just for the sake of being able to say you have them.
Here’s a quick checklist to help determine if leveraging APIs makes sense for your organization:
- Do you have a diverse digital ecosystem with a lot of different platforms?
- Do your clients, partners, and/or vendors use many different platforms with which you need to interface?
- Is real-time data exchange critical for you?
- Do you require customized solutions that aren’t available with out-of-the-box software?
If you answered “yes” to many of these, consider the advantages of APIs, which include:
- Real-time connectivity: APIs allow for flexible communication by connecting quickly with partner and SaaS applications.
- Faster and more responsive: API exchanges aren’t done in batches like EDI; they move data between systems without time lags or delays.
- Rate quote streamlining: APIs allow for instant and accurate rate quotes.
Which API integrations should you invest in?
APIs aren’t one-size-fits-all. Based upon your business’ specific goals, you need to invest in the one(s) you need strategically.
Are you trying to solve a problem as quickly as possible or create more long-term value? What will solve your most pressing pain points and have the largest impact on efficiency? Make a comprehensive list of your priorities to determine what kind of API to invest in. For example, if your goal is to optimize communication with a partner organization, you will need an API as compatible with as many of their systems (and yours) as possible.
When APIs are implemented correctly, they can boost efficiency and profitability. When they’re not, however, they can become a drain on valuable resources — so it’s essential to choose wisely.
Why track KPIs for APIs?
Tracking API performance KPIs is vital for ensuring your API works as intended and drives value for your organization.
You can’t take a “set it and forget it” approach — doing so could cost you valuable time and money. If something isn’t going according to plan, you’ll want to course-correct before pouring additional resources into an API that won’t work.
As more companies dip their toes into API development, we’re seeing that even if they’re otherwise qualified, many developers don’t have the freight, transportation, and/or logistics experience required to truly understand an organization’s needs in the industry. So if you decide to dabble in API integration, it’s crucial to work with a development partner with extensive freight and logistics experience.
How do you know if your API is working?
To measure API performance, here are some KPIs you’ll need to track:
- User experience: Via user surveys, determine whether everyone using the API is happy with their experience. Ideally, an API should make your team’s jobs easier, not harder.
- Uptime: Have any outages impacted your service delivery? How quickly have they been resolved?
- Average time to complete a task: How quickly is your API collecting data from across your digital ecosystem? It should take less time to perform tasks like processing invoices.
- Days Sales Outstanding (DSO): Generally, APIs should speed up processes and lower DSO. If this number goes up after implementing a new API, adjustments likely need to be made.
In addition to these KPIs, a solid development partner will work with you to determine any additional relevant metrics to your particular API and associated business goals.
APIs are becoming increasingly popular, but you shouldn’t implement them just for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon. Here are three key points to remember as you consider your options:
- Not every organization needs APIs — it all depends on your specific goals and priorities.
- Working with a development partner with long-standing freight and logistics experience will be a key factor in implementing an API customized to your business’s unique needs.
- If you decide to invest in APIs, it’s imperative to track their success so you can make adjustments as necessary and ensure they continue to drive value for your organization.