The Need to Communicate in a Digitized World
EFC’s Supply Chain Network Vice Chair Chris Moon, Ideal Supply, shares his thoughts on the importance of organizations embracing digital communication APIs.
We’ve all seen and heard the “future” of our industry over the past few years, with a heavy emphasis on the digitization of processes, eCommerce, and the transforming nature of our workforce. In many ways, our industry has moved at an unprecedented pace adapting to these changes against a backdrop of COVID-19, working from home, supply chain disruption, and prolonged inflation. In many other ways, our adoptions have been made of necessity and not necessarily wholly internalized as “the way to do things” in our operations. What we see as universally true, however, is that changes in our workplaces, like work-from-home, aren’t going away. The need to communicate quickly and accurately (dare I suggest, automatically in some cases) with all our partners up and down the supply chain is as important as it’s ever been, and the expectations here are growing.
The Internet has birthed some of the fastest innovations in the history of humanity and continues to be a platform for bespoke business solution design and communication. While the topic of today’s column was also established very early on in the history of the Internet, the emergence of the Web Application Programming Interface (WebAPI) is relatively recent, with this method of integrating software really becoming standardized in the early 2000s and gaining popularity throughout the late ’00s and into today. WebAPIs are now the standard method of communication between systems on any web-based technology. It is estimated that as of 2019, there were over 9 million unique APIs available publicly, processing billions of transactions A DAY.
Wikipedia defines a WebAPI as a way for two or more computer programs to communicate directly. The implication is that many software tasks are written for an end user to “do something” that can become automated and repeatable through a WebAPI. Imagine an API as an “intermediary,” taking a request from a system, finding the answers, and then giving them back the answer, all automatically and within a couple of milliseconds. In our industry alone, some low-lying fruit for API technology is in areas such as expediting, price checks, stock checks, basic user administration, and digital order entry.
Once an API has been developed and deployed for an organization, it also becomes scalable. This means the same API can be re-used numerous times to offer the same solution to other parties or integrated into novel ways to create new value for partners. As McKinsey has summarized, APIs can connect internal systems relatively simply, allowing access to data –even when buried deep within legacy IT systems—quickly and repeatedly. What’s being said here is that APIs matter to modern companies in modern markets because they allow for faster innovation through reliable and repeatable digital communications. This means that companies that focus on building an API-first mindset are able to develop solutions and provide value faster than their peers who do not.
Access to and doing something with that data is an expectation; APIs are the perfect communication technology for a digitized world. In an industry where we seek to lead the change in digitization to combat disruptive market entrants, APIs must become “how we do things.”
Sandra Pedro, VP Member Engagement and Corporate Sponsorships, EFC, leads the Supply Chain Network with chair Mark Djerrahian, ABB, and vice Chris Moon, Ideal Supply.
Members looking for more information are encouraged to reach out to Sandra at firstname.lastname@example.org