In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, organizations need to be increasingly flexible in order to drive value for their customers with every interaction. To make that happen, they need systems that can support delivering the best-possible performance.
Yet, we've learned that most organizations just aren’t set up to deliver the exceptional performance that’s critical to building a sustainable business. The problem? Many organizations use the industry’s latest and greatest digital platforms for relationship and account management, accounting and the like, but those systems often don’t speak effectively or efficiently with each other. The result: significant disconnects in the very processes that are meant to keep their customers happy and revenues flowing.
If you’re in this same boat and contemplating replacing various elements of your IT stack, consider this: There are far easier (and more cost-effective) ways to facilitate better integration across your various IT systems. Specifically, APIs and webhooks.
What are APIs and webhooks and how do they differ?
APIs (short for “Application Programming Interfaces”) get built into applications in order to send data back and forth, so different software solutions can communicate and share data with each other.
- How they work: Most APIs sit between the application and the web or mobile server. The user initiates an API call that tells the application to do something. The application then uses an API to ask the web server to do something else (though APIs are not limited to web services). In this way, the API is the intermediary between the application and web server and the API call is the message or request. The requested data is then populated in the user interface.
- More specifically: Whenever you use an app on your phone, log onto Twitter or Facebook, or use software to communicate with another software, you’re interacting with several different APIs behind the scenes.
- Common versions include:
- REST APIs (short for “Representation State Transfer”) offer fast performance, reliability and ability to scale, and make up over 70% of all public APIs.
- Browser APIs, which are capable of creating a wide variety of user experiences, depending on the functionality inherent in the browser instance.
- iOS/Android APIs, which facilitate diverse applications and user experiences for mobile devices.
Webhooks are a type of API that get coded into an application as a means to tell another application or platform when a specific action in the system takes place and allows it to respond accordingly.
- How they work: Webhooks send a message from one application to a unique URL that’s associated with the secondary application. This happens in real time, so the data is delivered immediately; this makes webhooks more efficient than traditional APIs.
Using APIs and webhooks to connect disparate IT systems
Webhooks are useful for accessing data between tools, systems or platforms, especially in the absence of out-of-the-box integration tools. Some of their far-reaching benefits:
- While APIs place calls even if there’s no data to update, webhooks wait to be called, which means your systems don’t have to process new data—which may not actually be new or updated. This saves processing power and can reduce latency issues.
- Webhooks are useful to prompt instant notifications, including SMS messaging, reminders of late payments, updates on accounts, etc.
- Webhooks deliver data immediately, in real time, so CRMs and other systems that employ webhooks for integration will generally stay more up to date than systems that rely solely on APIs.
- Because webhooks can be set up to respond to events or prompts, such as receiving a payment, they can facilitate better customer service delivery. (An idea: Set up a webhook to let you know when a customer has reached the nth percentage of their performance-driven services with you, so you’ll know when to contact them to re-up their package.)
Curious to learn more about how APIs and webhooks work? Read on for details about how one of our clients built a more flexible finance stack using our API technology.
Fresh Technology uses Ordway’s APIs and webhooks to build a finance stack that’s flexible enough to meet the business demands of tomorrow.
Fresh Technology is a data-driven development company that enables more profitable restaurant management through four unique divisions: Fresh Tools, which puts restaurant data to use to produce actionable insights; Fresh Managed IT, which delivers outsourced IT, VoIP phones, internet, co-location and cloud services; Fresh Admin, which offers skilled accounting, legal and financial management; and ToGo, leading-edge technology that enables online and mobile ordering.
Faced with an unwieldly and unscalable finance stack—combined with the need to quickly evolve their business to help customers stay afloat amid COVID disruption—Fresh Technology went in search of an infrastructure that would be flexible enough to meet both current and future accounting and IT demands.
After an extensive search, Fresh Technology ultimately chose Ordway’s API-first billing and revenue automation solution because of its ability to integrate sales data from multiple channels and handle the complex invoicing requirements of their multi-faceted roster of customers.
“As a developer, the detailed documentation for their RESTful API made me feel confident before I even spoke to anyone at Ordway. When I saw the demo it became really clear cut that the platform would accommodate our scenarios and provide us cushion as offerings evolve now and into the future.” —Aaron Coppock, VP, Software Development, Fresh Technology
In choosing to enlist an outsourced platform—instead of building a proprietary system in-house—Fresh Technology was able to take advantage of numerous benefits that come standard to the Ordway platform, including:
- Seamless usage-based pricing: Ordway’s RESTful API and webhooks enable the real-time feed of info into their platform, which allows Fresh Technology to accurately invoice customers and display relevant usage data on their statements.
- Value: Facilitates 5 products in a small set of plans vs. an estimated 10,000+ plans in Stripe (due to the way the Stripe API works).
- Streamlined workflow automation between CRM, billing and accounting platforms: Two-way sync between Salesforce and the Ordway platform, as well as turn-key integration with QuickBooks, means lower probability of human entry errors and more scalable invoicing, collections and revenue recognition.
- Value: Significantly reduces friction between sales and finance teams, and makes room for clientele that demand unique contract terms and discounts.
- Flexible roll-up invoicing: Ordway’s webhooks facilitate multi-location or -franchise invoicing.
- Value: Save the time of double-checking each invoice; with Ordway, the right invoice gets to the right customer each and every time.
- Future-proofed finance stack: APIs and webhooks make for easy integration with other systems and user-friendly documentation and updates make scaling a breeze.
- Value: By making investments in their infrastructure now, Fresh Technology is setting themselves up for financial success over the longer term.
Read more here about how Fresh Technology is using Ordway’s billing and revenue recognition platform to extend their finance function moving forward.
Forward-looking businesses need future-forward tools to deliver the best possible tech performance. And APIs and webhooks make it happen.
Whether it’s rules-based APIs that send calls on an automated basis or webhooks that respond to events or triggers—or more likely, a combination of both—you’ll get the most out of your IT infrastructure, and deliver better customer experiences in the process, if you make use of future-forward methodology to integrate all of its moving parts.
Watch this webinar to learn how webhooks can transform your accounting and revenue recognition process. And, if you’ve got questions, let us know in the comments below.