Remote work, along with the tools used to connect teams and apps, is on everyone’s mind these days. How do you know when it’s time to automate processes? How do you know when you need tools to connect teams? As usual, the big brains at Amazon are way ahead of us.
Consider this: The Guardian reports, “In the early days of Amazon, Jeff Bezos instituted a rule: every internal team should be small enough that it can be fed with two pizzas. The goal wasn’t to cut down on the catering bill. It was, like almost everything Amazon does, focused on two aims: efficiency and scalability.”
Small teams being more efficient, the two-pizza rule offered a straightforward measure of when a team was too big to be maximally effective. The effect of the two-pizza rule on Amazon’s second aim – scalability – was a bit more complex.
The Value of Automation
“Perhaps the best example of that approach in action is the birth and growth of AWS (previously called Amazon Web Services). It started, like so many things at Amazon, with an edict from the top. Every team, Bezos ordered, should begin to work with each other only in a structured, systematic way. If an advertising team needed some data on shoe sales to decide how best to spend their resources, they could not email analytics and ask for it; they needed to go to the analytics dashboard themselves and get it. If that dashboard didn’t exist, it needed to be created. And that approach needed to cover everything.”
How did they do it? APIs.
According to TechCrunch, “It began way back in the 2000 timeframe when the company wanted to launch an e-commerce service called Merchant.com to help third-party merchants like Target or Marks & Spencer build online shopping sites on top of Amazon’s e-commerce engine. It turned out to be a lot harder than they thought to build an external development platform, because, like many startups, when it launched in 1994, it didn’t really plan well for future requirements.”
“Instead of an organized development environment, they had unknowingly created a jumbled mess. That made it a huge challenge to separate the various services to make a centralized development platform that would be useful for third parties. At that point, the company took its first step toward building the AWS business by untangling that mess into a set of well-documented APIs.”
Though you may have heard it described using many differently apt metaphors, an API (or application programming interface) is simply a set of instructions for computers. You can imagine an API as a waiter who takes your order, communicates that information to the kitchen, and returns with the dish you requested.
As Amazon learned, with APIs you can:
- Automate key processes and reduce hours spent on non-billable work
- Avoid entering data manually to reduce the risk of errors
- Increase visibility of client needs with connected solutions
- Connect otherwise disconnected third-party systems
- Gain insights for analysis and decision support
Although APIs are enjoying a surge in popular understanding due to the new ways of working forced during the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve been around for a long time and are well understood, both in terms of security and implementation.
Considerations for evaluating an API
Thomson Reuters currently offers API integrations in Confirmation, Checkpoint, GoSystem Tax RS, GoFileRoom, FirmFlow, and ONESOURCE with more in the works. As you’re evaluating which product fits best with your current tech stack and workflow processes, here are a few things to consider.
- Lower environment testing
What is the quality of API documentation? – Look for robust developer documentation with examples in different programming languages. The documentation should cover the purpose of the API, the type of data being returned, parameters required for a successful request, and the API endpoints and http methods it supports. Thomson Reuters offers dedicated resourses to help your technical staff implement API tools and engage with third parties through the Thomson Reuters developer portal.
What data is returned from the API? – A “good” API will let developers pull additional info, through lots of variables and different ways of calling. Understanding the format and body of data being returned from an API BEFORE you invest time in creating an application around it is essential. Use an API testing application to send test requests and evaluate the data returned.
Check the authentication requirements for the API you’ve chose to work with. Does the product authentication use Basic Authentication (username and password), API Key (a unique key for access), OAuth or OAuth 2.0? Today OAuth 2.0 is highly considered as the best Authentication method when using APIs.
A connector is a user-friendly wrapper around an API that allows the underlying service to talk to applications. Connectors allow the implementation of APIs without the need for development resources or programming expertise. Thomson Reuters partnered with Microsoft to release a GoFileRoom connector within the Microsoft Power Automate ecosystem, enabling GoFileRoom users to automate over 45 (otherwise manual) GoFileRoom actions. You can combine these actions together to create automation within your firm processes.
5. Lower Environment Testing
Lower environment testing is a simple idea – does the software offer a non-production environment so you can test APIs without affecting the day-to-day operations of your staff?
Whether you’re feeding your team with two pizzas or ten, the value of automation remains. APIs allow firms to do more with less, reduce human error, connect teams and clients no matter where they are in the world, and allow your firm to make data-backed business decisions with built-in analytics.
Give your firm a competitive advantage, unlock endless ways to increase efficiency and better serve your clients with Thomson Reuters tax and accounting APIs – and this is just the beginning.