Application Programming Interface, otherwise known as API, is a protocol for allowing one software program to communicate with another. Importantly, APIs allow programs to share information and influence each other’s behavior. APIs allow credit unions to take advantage of new products and features that are developed outside their core software. Credit union APIs are becoming increasingly important as credit union core providers do not have the resources or support business plans that aid development through vendor integrations. As technology rapidly develops, new companies are popping up with products that can give your credit union a boost in product offerings or operations. The best credit union software providers realize this, and embrace it, by developing the ability to integrate other services into their offering through a robust API.
Certainly, you’ve heard that APIs allow credit union core software to do more. You may even consider your vendor API the reason you have selected or will select their system, while at the same time your understanding of APIs may feel limited. Truthfully, whether you are versed in API nomenclature or not, you know more about APIs than you think. Google Maps is the best mapping tool for a reason. Google’s dominance in maps can be directly attributed to their willingness to provide APIs for virtually every platform (Android, iOS, Web and HTTP Web Services). The Google Maps API allows your favorite apps to incorporate the power of maps, consider Runtastic, which allows you to map your runs and track your fitness goals using GPS. Runtastic was not required to build a mapping utility, they simply connected their software to Google Maps, which provided an out-of-the-box solution. Google Maps is helping many credit unions that build location enabled websites or use Google web services to provide better member service. Many credit union app providers, including FLEX, have incorporated Google Maps into their app for ATM or branch location services. APIs if done correctly, can significantly benefit you credit union product and services offerings.
Here are a few of the ABCs of APIs:
- Data: Data is the center of an API. Vendors create APIs to give other developers the opportunity to interface with their data to broaden their audience.
- Documentation: Because APIs have no user interface, documentation is key. If a vendor doesn’t have API documentation, they don’t have an API.
- Presentation: Vendors that develop APIs typically are not worried about how the data is presented; this is the concern of the software provider that uses the data with their front-end systems.
- Request and Response: APIs use a ‘request and response’ method for conversation. This means APIs function much like a conversation between two people. However, there are defined rules for communication, which include greetings, request for information and responses providing information.
- SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol): An API protocol that is XML (Extensible Markup Language) based. XML is a common web services application that often uses HTTP.
- REST (Representational State Transfer): An API protocol that relies on a URL to make a request. REST does not rely on XML responses.
- Schema: Also known as XSD (XML Schema Definition). Schema describes what an XML document can contain, the structure of the XML document and the rules for data content.
- Elements: The main building blocks of all XML documents, containing the data and determining the structure of the instance document. Elements are defined within the Schema.
- Attributes: Provide extra information within an element. Attributes have name and type properties and are defined within the Schema.
Why should you care about APIs? Because APIs speed development and allow credit unions to enable vendor integrations to enhance member service and product offerings. Many vendors are using APIs to reach a wider audience with their products. A best-in-class core system should allow you to support your members, protect their data, and provide your credit union the ability to grow through technology. It should have a strong central foundation that is stable yet scalable. Once you have partnered with a core processor that provides these benefits, investigate the core’s ability to integrate with 3rd parties. A core processor should recognize they can’t offer the ‘best of breed’ in every ancillary product and should allow for simple integration with fintech companies who specialize in the niches of the financial services industry.
This article was originally featured on CUInsight.com by Preston Packer, Director of Marketing and Sales at FLEX.