Databases are such a topic in themselves. Although they are extremely important in the digital age, they enjoy a bad reputation. They are too complicated, completely confusing and can sometimes only be used via SQL. It is not uncommon for extremely important databases to be understood only by individual people in the company. Without the necessary knowledge, damage can quickly be done in such databases.
This is exactly what API integration does: transfer data from software to software and let tasks run automatically. All with the help of the Airtable API.
Excursus: What is an API
An API or Application Programming Interface is a programming interface that is made available by various software. This creates endpoints where data or information can be tapped and used further. In the case of Airtable, relevant master data from the database can be used in other places, for example in the CRM system. The corresponding API documentation specifies exactly which data can be transferred. In this way, a software can have a wide variety of API endpoints via which different information can be transferred.
What is Airtable?
You probably landed on this blog post because you already use Airtable or have already read up on the cloud tool. Here is the short version: Airtable is a cloud-based business solution that is a mixture of database and spreadsheet. Airtable impresses with its intuitive interface, which makes it very easy for you to create a new table, the so-called "base". As usual for a database, you can store a lot of information here. But Airtable is not satisfied with simply collecting data.
You can create links within Airtable so that tables and spreadsheets are synchronised or create a relational database. But you can also link Airtable with other programmes and thus map even more far-reaching tasks. This is exactly what the Airtable API is for. This allows you to use the master data in other applications. The keyword here is: automation. Because if you can automatically transfer and exchange data, you can also run the entire process independently.
This is exactly what Airtable is a true master of. The Airtable API is not only excellent but, in our eyes, unique in its comprehensive documentation. Any data can be transferred, controlled and used. This results in great possibilities for automations that make your life easier.
What makes the Airtable API special?
In short, the Airtable API is extremely good. APIs are provided by software manufacturers and vary greatly in quality. It is possible that only a fraction of the available data can be transferred to other software. Moreover, an API is not a matter of course. Especially outdated software or on-premise software often do not have an API. This is where Airtable scores points.
Using the Airtable API, it is possible to control each individual cell in a table. Control means to automatically extract or insert data.
Airtable API Integration
With native automation
Airtable already has numerous native automations via its own API, for example for Wordpress, Typeform, Twitter, Asana or emails. This makes it easy to automate small processes:
When you schedule your social media posts in Airtable, you can automatically post them to Twitter or Facebook. Choose a status as a trigger and Airtable will do the rest.
Stop looking at documents regularly yourself: get notified via Slack when a particular cell or table has been updated.
Connect Airtable to your Google Calendar and automatically update individual cells when a calendar event is created. For example, you can keep track of the status of your clients when they make an appointment.
You can also create your own automations, for example, when you receive responses in a Google Form, receive an email in Outlook or changes are made to another Airtable table.
Airtable's native automations are especially good if you have a small process that doesn't need a lot of complexity. Plus, it's really easy to create. You select a trigger, connect your account, such as Google or Office356, and then select the action to perform, such as sending an email.
Nevertheless: For really complex automations or a multitude of other applications, the native automations via the Airtable API quickly reach their limits. However, this is precisely why there are specialised automation platforms that support hundreds and thousands of apps.
With Make and Zapier
Make and Zapier are the names of two very similar automation platforms. The technology used is called iPaaS, Integration Platform as a Service. On the surface, hundreds and, in the case of Zapier, thousands of apps can be linked together to exchange data with each other (wondering what the difference is? We compared Make and Zapier here). What's the point of all this? Automation! Because standardised and recurring tasks are very easy to delegate - to bots. This becomes clearest with an example of how the Airtable API can be used.
Generate offers automatically with the help of Airtable
Only recently, we implemented this for a client: Based on a form, offers are automatically generated - with the help of the Airtable API.
We have built a form in Wordpress for this purpose. Here, the consultants of the company (together with the clients) can tick off which service modules they would like to book for the service. The service is very comprehensive, which is why there are also very individual offers. Some of the modules are obligatory, while many others are optional. This creates additional complexity.
If the form is filled out and submitted in Wordpress, all information is transferred via the Wordpress API. Using Make, we link Wordpress with Airtable. The corresponding text modules for the finished offer are stored here and matched with the various selection options from the Wordpress form. This means that if the advisors select option 1 "Creation of a social media campaign", this will result in a more detailed text module for the offer.
Back in Make, a Word document is created from this information and based on the Airtable API. This contains the selected text modules, which are numbered consecutively and provided with the corresponding hourly rate. If desired, the document is sent to the counsellors for checking or directly to the clients.
Although only three applications, Wordpress, Airtable and Microsoft Word, are used, this process is very complex: the appropriate text modules must be available for each selection option, consecutive numbering must be guaranteed even if individual modules are omitted and the associated customer information must also be transferred.
This example shows how many possibilities for automated process flows are made possible via the Airtable API. In almost every process, a database is needed at some point, even if it is only an intermediate step. This is exactly what Airtable is perfect for.
What are the benefits of the Airtable API?
But Airtable is also visually impressive. As a mixture of database and spreadsheet, Airtable brings a lot of clarity to existing data. Different views, for example as a Kanban Board or Gantt Chart, offer further possibilities for use. You can also create a form based on your Airtable Base. You can send this as a link or embed it on a website. All submitted answers are then automatically stored in the correct table field.
With its excellent API, Airtable achieves something extraordinary: almost infinite complexity without losing the overview. Through the extension with Zapier or Make, complex and yet clear integrations are created that are hardly realisable with any other tool.
In our eyes, Airtable is perfect for storing, sorting and visualising data. Isn't that the task of any database? Yes, one would think so. Yet there are far too many softwares that only create unnecessary complexity through their interface or are very limited in their functions.
We are happy to support you in the analysis and subsequent automation of business processes, explain possibilities and individually address the company processes.
Cloud Integration, iPaaS, SaaS, BPA… Ough, hard to keep track of all these terms. They are currently used frequently (and increasingly) in the context of automation, and it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction and distinction. We have already written blog posts on the terms iPaaS, SaaS and BPA, but we’ll take them up again here to make the difference.
But let’s start with cloud integration, because that’s the central umbrella term in which we embed all the other technologies in this blog post.
To illustrate these advantages, an example is suitable that we know well from our everyday work as an automation agency:
The central data to be used here is the data of a major customer. This can be the simplest information, such as the address. This address is required in numerous but completely different processes in the company: on the one hand, for correct invoicing in accounting. On the other hand, in the CRM system, where all the data of the large customer is also stored. But the address is also important in sales, for example, when employees go to the sales meeting on site.
Now the customer announces that the address of the company has changed after a move. This information will reach you by e-mail. There are now two options:
01. The e-mail is forwarded to all affected departments, accounting, sales, customer service, marketing… All persons open their corresponding program, CRM, accounting software, marketing tools (such as newsletter marketing) and change the data already stored there of the customer. This means that in multiple applications, different people do exactly the same thing: change one address. 02. But there is also an alternative: By connecting your applications, thus by integrizing them, the customer’s e-mail, or rather the information it contains about the address change, is automatically passed on to all affected applications: CRM, accounting, marketing, ERP. This does not require any clicks, because the cloud integration detects a trigger, i.e. address change, and thus automatically starts the process.
What sounds unimpressive in a single process becomes more effective when such a process occurs several times a day or weekly. Because there is a lot of data that is available in different applications and should always be correct. If these applications are cloud applications they are suitable for cloud integration.
But cloud integration doesn’t just happen. There are now a variety of applications that enable and implement this. Such tools usually allow us to link the relevant cloud applications on a central platform and define clear rules on when, how, where, how much data should be passed on and what happens to them.
IPaaS, SaaS, BPA, ABC – who can still see through it?
To realize cloud integration, there are various applications and technologies that are sometimes used interchangeably.
Cloud integration cannot be done without SaaS, iPaaS and BPA
Cloud integration is rather an umbrella term that includes numerous technologies, such as SaaS, iPaaS and BPA, and this is also absolutely necessary. Cloud integration is a concept that is made possible by appropriate technologies.
However, all terms share the commonality that they are cloud-based and thus offer enormous potential for growth and scaling. In addition, they are often cheaper to implement and maintain because changed requirements are easy to implement.
As an independent automation agency, we implement cloud integration according to your requirements. We use a variety of SaaS tools and iPaas (strictly speaking BPA) software. Together we find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable.