Pause from reading this blog and think about a typical day in the office. Count the number of desktop applications and Web-based software solutions you use daily. Your list will likely include your email client, enterprise resource planning software, CRM tool, government website content management system, a mass notification tool… you get the point.
We live in a time when nearly every administrative responsibility can be optimized using digital solutions. However, the time-saving capabilities of such solutions are limited when each task is siloed by the need to utilize separate software systems that do not integrate with one another. The result is duplicative data entry, post-it-notes with a variety of different log-in credentials surrounding your keyboard, and staff members who sit only a few yards away reliant upon separate tools that do not share content or resources.
Now, imagine a world in which a citizen completes an application for a permit and pays the associated fee online, the form is routed directly to your clerk’s inbox, and the payment is noted immediately in your accounting software—all automatically. This is the type of world both you and your citizens want. It is a services-first approach to digital citizen engagement that allows citizens to self-service their needs at any time of the day or night from any device, and allows you to process their request using as few manual interventions siloed workflows as possible.
Is such convenience only a hope for the future? Believe it or not, the synchronization of the disparate systems you rely on today is possible, all thanks to application program interfaces (API).
What is an API?
APIs provide access to necessary business assets. From a technical perspective, an API enables programmatic access to data and application functionality. What this means to local governments with access to internal or outsourced technical expertise is that APIs can be leveraged to enhance existing software applications to fit their unique business processes either through creating custom experiences for end-users or integrating systems reducing the need for redundant tasks. In this way, APIs enable the sharing of data between separate software systems, facilitating interoperability, extending the power of existing software, and streamlining workflows.
How Can APIs Save Time for Local Government Employees?
APIs allow digital content managers to save time through the sharing of existing data. They amplify the power of existing solutions and leverage existing data and content. With APIs, administrators benefit from the convenience of single sign-on, shared data exchanges, and the ability to maximize the functionality of multiple leading software solutions. Citizens benefit from a local government that enables them to complete essential civic-related tasks, from filing permits, to signing up for events, to receiving breaking local news, without the need to make a phone call, drive to city hall, or lick a stamp.
As municipalities integrate their technologies using the power of APIs, they will discover new ways of working, collaborating, and sharing data that will change the way they engage with their citizens and serve them more efficiently and expeditiously.
For example, if you had a disabled employee who needed to make updates to your community calendar without the use of a keyboard, with an API built between your website’s CMS and Google’s personal home assistant, Alexa, he or she could add a new event using a voice command.
APIs allow you to add a budget meeting event to your Microsoft Outlook calendar and automatically publish the same item to the calendar integrated within your government content management system (CMS), so your citizens can also view it without the need to enter it into two separate software systems.
APIs allow you to create meeting minutes using your agenda and meeting management software that are automatically accessible from within your website’s content management system. They even let you create a boil water advisory message using CivicReady® and allow you to instantly post the message to CivicEngage’s Alert Center, while sharing it seamlessly to your integrated social media accounts or IoT devices—all with no additional manual steps.
How Can Our Local Government Get Started with APIs?
Existing connectors that leverage APIs already exist between commonly used applications, such as Google Sheets and the collaboration tool Trello, or Facebook and PayPal. A technical resource can help you integrate your accounts using existing API code.
Alternatively, solutions such as Zapier make it possible for non-technical content managers to incorporate over 800 existing API connections between popular systems into their accounts. Zapier integrates with such popular solutions as Facebook, Salesforce, Google Sheets, Trello. Zapier also includes connectors between popular software systems and CivicEngage. Existing connectors exist to connect to the CivicEngage Alert Center, Calendar, Citizen Request Tracker, Forms Center, and News Flash feature from existing software.
In addition to creating integrations, municipalities can create custom interfaces for their use-cases. With the help of a skilled technical resource, local governments can build custom user interfaces, leveraging APIs to fill specific business needs.
Looking to the Future
Not only do APIs allow you to expedite processes your community relies upon today, but API technology is also designed to future-proof systems. As the Internet of Things (IoT), or the interconnectivity of Internet-enabled devices, continues to grow and become even more impactful in how citizens engage in the world around them, APIs will continue to play an essential role in data sharing and asset management. While at their core, APIs are technical tools, they serve a critical business purpose far beyond connecting software systems.
For forward-thinking municipalities, APIs are capable of serving as the foundation of their digital engagement strategy. They allow budget and resource-strapped local governments to deliver on a services-first approach to civic engagement. It allows them to work more efficiently by connecting citizens to their civic leaders, to information, and to resources. For local governments that choose CivicPlus®, they can rely on our continuing investment in APIs and ongoing access to the latest API innovations to allow them to work better, faster.
Learn how the CivicPlus Platform is making API integrations seamless, and helping communities build meaningful citizen engagement opportunities.