Construction’s Digital Mortar: Application Programming Interface (API)

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Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are the nervous system of the tech world. They are digital building blocks that allow faster innovation, integrate data flow between systems, and create smoother workflows for everyone. APIs literally connect the world. 

Now, imagine a world without APIs in the construction industry. The weather app connected to your daily reports is now gone. You’ll have to download another app on the jobsite (hoping you have service), go into your daily reports, manually enter data, and hope for the best. How about online banking? No depositing checks or conveniently transferring funds on your phone, back to relying on open bank hours and available tellers. The inefficiencies would be detrimental. The cloud wouldn’t exist, collaboration would be dead, and ultimately so would your business. 

With accelerated tech adoption trending, integration and connectivity are on the forefront of every contractor’s (and developer’s) mind. So, what is an API? Let’s walk through the definition, types of API, examples in the construction industry, and the future of API. 

What Is an API?

An API is an interface that allows one application to communicate with another by a set of rules designed by programmers. It is the middleman in application-to-application communication, for use by a computer or app, not a human (aka lots of code!). 

Here’s how an API works: 

  1.  An application initiates an API “call” or request to receive information. The request is processed from app to a web server. 

  2.  After receiving the request, the web server makes another call to the other application using its API. 

  3.  The server sends a response to the calling application using the API to transfer the requested data. 

  4.  The initial application processes or presents the data to the user. 

APIs are digital carrier pigeons. They transfer data automatically through integration, reducing manual processes, and seamlessly connecting your systems.

4 Types of APIs

Private APIs

Private or internal APIs are only used within an enterprise for connecting systems and data. For example, a business may use a financial app like QuickBooks Online to connect their payroll to Paycom, an HR platform. 

Open APIs

Open to the public and either provided to everyone or specifically made available to partner programs. An enterprise will benefit from Public APIs by sharing data with other businesses. Any software, such as STACK, that has open API endpoints means if you have the development capabilities, you can build your own connections. For example, STACK provides an open API to its partners, for pushing project plans into our takeoff and estimating solution and pulling estimating data back out to share with other business systems.

Partner APIs

Only accessible by selected partners and authorized developers. Partner APIs are used to aid business-to-business activities. For example, Amazon’s API allows various online businesses to connect directly with Amazon.com, check the inventory, and find shipping options. 

Composite APIs

These combine two or more different APIs to craft a sequence of operations, batching requests into one “call.” They can have complex system requirements or behaviors. For example, if you use a CRM like Salesforce, your external applications can send new accounts that have an established relationship with contacts directly to the app. 

Examples of API in Construction

APIs are the digital mortar of the construction industry. They connect systems in all phases, from inventory and estimating to accounting and project management. 

  –  STACK’s robust, open API is a compilation of programmatic functions software developers can use for extracting data from STACK. Integration with SmartUse, Dodge Data & Analytics, TopBuilder, and Followup CRM are a few examples of our best-in-class partners using the STACK API. Alternatively, STACK uses Procore and Quickbooks Online’s API to move data into our platform. 

  –  Supply chain management relies on APIs to survive. Say you order 50 gallons of primer from your local supplier online. The button click “Complete Purchase” triggers an internal API, tells the supplier’s distribution center they’re low on that primer, and a restock order is automatically processed. 

  –  Daily Report apps use real-time feeds of weather to automatically update conditions multiple times a day. 

  –  Document management platforms like STACK allow you to upload plans and data directly from Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc. using their APIs. 

  –  Microsoft’s API allows STACK users to push takeoff data directly into Excel. 

  –  TopBuilder, a preconstruction CRM, uses an API to extract estimate data into their managed budget. 

The Future of APIs and Why They Are a Must for Business Survival

APIs have shaped the world as we know it, and with the acceleration of tech adoption, they will continue to be the key to survival in business growth, innovation, and ease of maintenance. Enterprise integration and connecting best-in-class systems will be a high priority for businesses. You’ll also need to focus on cybersecurity at every level of your technology stack. 

Why are they a must for business survival? Through integration, contractors can automate workflows and improve collaboration. APIs also offer flexibility, allowing businesses to access new markets with partners and driving digital transformation. They are a fantastic data management tool, with time savings from manual processes. If you have your own development team, use STACK’s open API to connect your systems on your own.

No programmers on your payroll? STACK is constantly partnering with other best-in-class tools to make these integrations for you. Try it now. 

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