Application programming interface vs. robotic process automation — what is the difference?
As I learn more about API and RPA, I think the main high-level difference is that one works inside your system as an integrated partner (API), while the other works outside your system as a guest user (RPA).
If you are using APIs, then you are integrated partners and working inside of a system — in our supply chain world it is transportation management systems (TMS) — both shipper and service provider systems. Typically, there is substantial financial investment developing the partnership and mapping the systems to communicate with one another.
Rather than logging on each time, there is an authentication key that allows constant open access and exchange of information. Most of the information we exchange with shippers’ TMS, is load and rate information — real-time rates. They provide the origin, destination, date and trailer type; we provide a rate. We repeat that exchange a lot.
Build vs. buy
So for us it’s definitely both build and buy. We are a better company that can handle higher volumes with more accuracy while simultaneously reaching out to our carrier partners more quickly as a result of designing these multistep automatic or repetitive solutions.