September 11, 2019

Seriously. What is an API?

‘How can I automatically move data from one system into another?’ you ask, filled with concern it’s an impossible task and you’re doomed to an eternity of entering it all manually.

Your tech savvy colleague frowns at you and says ‘Err… We can just use an API.’

You nod vigorously and say ‘Of course, yeah, yeah… obvious now you’ve said it.’

There’s uncomfortable laughter… You immediately return to your desk and ask Google:

‘WHAT IS AN API?’

But all the articles thrown up by your search are written in gobbledegook.

You know an API is the answer, but what on earth is an API?

What is an API?

It’s an Application Programming Interface. Duh.

It does exactly what it says on the tin: some application, programming, interface stuff…

OK, yeah, that’s not helpful at all.

They should’ve called it a door. ‘Let’s just build a door’ says your tech savvy colleague.

Now that is terminology we can get on-board with.

An example

Let’s say you’ve got recruitment software. And you’ve got payroll software. Separate software, from different providers.

When you hire a candidate, you need to get their data – that’s already in the recruitment system – into your payroll system.

But doing that manually sounds like pointless admin, right? It’s already been entered once – why should you have to enter it again?

You want the systems to talk to each other directly, cutting out the need to enter the data twice, and reducing the risk of making mistakes… But how?

With an API, the movement of information from one system to another is simple. Because it’s just like building a door. Once you’ve got it, things can go through the door from one system to the other.

How does it work?

This ‘door’ has instructions written on it telling the data how to get through it.

It might say things like ‘you can’t get through without your passport, wallet, keys and a bobble hat’.

More likely, it will be instructions that govern what the data looks like; it’s format. So, in the example of your recruitment and payroll systems, is it ‘Full Name’ (one entry) or ‘First Name’ and ‘Last Name’ (two entries)?

Make sense?

Why is this useful?

It can save a lot of time. There’s no need for users to get involved and do anything – it’s all automated. You just need to build the door. Once built, that baby will run itself.

Your alternative to the API door is a bulk download from one system, followed by a bulk upload into the other.

But that requires time, effort and lots of fighting with Excel.

An API is quicker and much, much more efficient.

APIs and Payroll Software

You’ve potentially got lots of different systems that need to talk to your payroll software.

A recruitment system for talent management. A timesheets and expenses system. An HR system for performance reviews and absence management. The list might go on…

With Moorepay’s Next Generation payroll and HR software, we’re making it EASY to integrate with other systems.

We’ve got what’s called an open API layer. Yes, that’s a bit like an open door

Now don’t get us wrong, we’re not going to let anyone take anything through the door. That would be far too risky when dealing with payroll data.

But we’re making it easier for things to get through the door, providing it’s got the key and knows the secret code word to get past the bouncer.

With our open API door, our data fields are standard. Which is kinda like saying the instructions written on the door are in plain English. So, providing the other systems can speak that too, you’re golden.

In summary…

‘APIs are BRILLIANT DOORS!’

[Drops the mic]

To find out more about payroll and HR software that has an API – a.k.a a door – contact us to find out more.

Want a round-up of stories like this delivered to your inbox?

About the author

Amy Morrison

Digital Marketing Executive