Summary: Web services help different applications communicate with each other–regardless of platform or technology. But, what does this mean from a business standpoint? Learn how web services can help your business increase efficiency, improve customer satisfaction, and much more!
Is your business capitalizing on the power of web APIs?
Of course, web APIs (also known as web services) are nothing new. They’ve been around for quite a while, yet many businesses aren’t taking advantage of them yet. Or, they’ve dabbled with web services but haven’t unlocked their true potential.
In this article, we’ll explore web services in more detail and outline a few benefits they provide.
But first, let’s define the term. What are web services?
Web services transmit data between web applications or systems. Think of a web service as a web application that has no user interface. If you were to open up a web service in a web browser, you’d see a bunch of data.
The big question: If a web service offers fewer features than a web application, why use them?
The big reason: They provide data in a machine-readable, standardized format like XML or JSON.
Why is that so important? It means that you don’t have to worry about proprietary languages when using web services. It means that applications written in different programming languages can communicate with each other using a standard language.
Suppose your business runs Java-based applications and one of your partners uses .NET. How can you make a bridge between these two systems and share data?
Without web services, you’ll need manual coding or a middleware service to transfer data between these disparate systems.
With web services, it’s a much easier task. Since web services communicate using standard languages and formats, different systems can communicate with each other. Once you make your data available as a web service, it can be consumed by any other web application–regardless of programming language.
Now that you understand what a web service is, let’s move forward. Why is it important? What advantages do web services provide? While the list could certainly be longer, here are a few big benefits of web services.
1. Integrate outside features
What if you could add new features to your business applications without building them yourself? That’s one of the biggest perks of web services.
With web services, you don’t need to be an expert in multiple technologies. You just need to know how to tie things together.
For example, here are a few ways other businesses integrate outside features using web services:
Online retailers use web services to calculate shipping costs in real-time. These sites rely on web services provided by the shipping company to calculate shipping rates based on the item weight and customer’s location.
Travel search sites rely on web services to find the best travel deals. They use web services to pull data from many travel sites, and then combine (and rank) that data for their users.
Email service providers (ESPs) use web services to integrate with other software. For instance, ESPs often provide web services that let users integrate email services with their existing CRM solution.
2. Enhance development efficiency
Since one web service can be accessed by any web application, it makes development more efficient. Rather than building out connections multiple times, a single web service works with anything. As explained below, this makes your developers more efficient.
“Web services allow various systems to share data and functionalities with one another,” says Dusan Stanar, Founder & CEO of VSS Monitoring. “They can save a tremendous amount of time in terms of development. Consider the case where you require a specific capability across multiple applications or systems. Developers can create it as a web service once rather than multiple times. They can then use different programs to call that web service.”
3. Improve the customer experience
How can web services give you happier customers?
Well, let me ask you a question: Do you store customer information? For instance, maybe you store data about customer purchases, support tickets, billing history, etc…
Another question: Would your customers benefit from having access to that data? For example, maybe they’d like to build reports over that data or build it into their internal applications.
You can make data available to your customers in the form of a web service. Just give them access to their data, and they have freedom to use it however they wish. That way, customers can build reports, dashboards, or general web applications over their data.
4. Improve adaptability
Because web services separate the UI from the data, they improve your ability to adapt. You’re free to choose your framework, development platform, programming language, etc….
For example, suppose you choose to adopt a new frontend framework a few years down the line. Since web services use a standard language, they’ll work with any framework. In other words, they won’t hold you back.
“In a nutshell, businesses can use web services to have more freedom to choose applications that suit them best, regardless of the language of design, because web services allow any application to communicate with others in a generic, universal language, XML,” says Stephen Twomey, Chief Technology Officer at Kennected.
5. Streamline processes and improve internal collaborationMany companies face a similar problem. They lack communication and integration across departments and software.
All too often, different departments act like different entities. They create their own departmental information silos. They use applications and systems that are incompatible with other departments.
The result: Employees waste time manually pulling data out of one system and entering it into another. This not only slows down business processes, it opens the door for data entry errors.
Web services provide a solution to this common problem. They let you connect many systems together–streamlining business processes. Now, instead of entering data manually, the applications communicate with each other.
But, it doesn’t stop there. What other advantages do you gain by connecting your systems and applications?
You gain the advantage of connected employees.
If you integrate your applications across departments, it will improve collaboration. Employees across departments can share project updates and monitor progress. They can easily communicate with other employees–even those in different physical locations.
I cannot overstate the value of improved collaboration. When you tie your systems together with web services, you also connect your employees.
6. Improve flexibility
Do you remember the days of monolithic applications? Every feature was built into the application itself. Not only were these applications difficult to build, they were maintenance nightmares.
Now, we live in a “services” world. Rather than build the features you need from scratch, you just “borrow” those features from another application using a web service. Considering all of the different types of web applications available today, web services create endless possibilities. As explained below, this approach greatly improves flexibility.
“This explores one’s capacity to adapt,” says Ben Richardson, Director of Development Academy. “When an enterprise’s IT infrastructure is broken down into services, adding new features to meet new business needs is as simple as putting together existing services. Of course, a few more programmes may be needed, but it is still preferable to re-building a new system from the ground up.”
7. Leverage existing skill sets
So, we’ve just explored quite a few benefits of using web services. Hopefully some of them can help your business.
The best part: Because they use a standard language, you can consume web services using your existing skills. If you have web developers on staff, you have the skills you need to use web services!
These are just a few benefits of web services, but I’m sure the list could be longer. Would you add anything to this list? Feel free to comment below!