Taking off from last month’s article about Takeaways from AUDC 2016, I wanted to provide some information about API (Application Programming Interface) and why it should be important to you. API is the Internet technology that allows integrating applications regardless of where they physically reside, whether on a local server or in the cloud. You can google API and come up with a plethora of information and get buried in the weeds very quickly. Here is one example I thought was pretty understandable.
As discussed in the Takeaways article, one of the key expectations of software users is to integrate applications. For example, the accounting manager expects transaction data from donations or from an outside payroll system to flow seamlessly into the accounting system without manual intervention. All major accounting software vendors, Abila included, have or are developing APIs for this purpose. Once the API is in place, other developers can write programs that directly and actively interact with the accounting application through the latter’s API, resulting in the two applications figuratively talking to each other.
Until relatively recently, integration of data has relied primarily on export from one system and import into another system, often requiring some manual intervention. A project that we participated in about a year ago was to integrate billing and payment data originating from a membership application with the MIP Accounts Receivable module. Because the Abila API did not yet include the functionality for AR, we had to use the export/import method as an interim solution. While working with the consultants, who have technical expertise with the membership application, we were able to design an integration that depended on three exports, customer additions and changes, invoices, and cash receipts. In turn, we wrote three MIP import definitions to bring the data into MIP as customer file changes, and invoice and payment unposted journals.
In contrast, when the Abila MIP API includes the AR functionality (late this year) the data can flow automatically. When a new customer – or member – record is created or changed in the originating system the customer file will be updated, leaving the same audit trail as if entered manually or imported. When invoices or payments are recorded in the membership system MIP will be updated with entries into an unposted journal.
As this API technology advances and evolves it will become a standard tool. Abila is building its API in relation to developing MIP Advance™. Presently, the API includes security, chart of accounts, journal vouchers, budget transactions and AP invoice entry. Though tied in its development to MIP Advance the API is available for the standard MIP version whether hosted on-premises, in the Abila Private Cloud or by a third-party. For more information, including technical specification about the Abila API for MIP, click here.
Please contact me if you have any questions or integration opportunities you would like to discuss.
Lee Bengston, CPA