The dreaded acronym I thought I would never hear in a HR conversation – APIs (Application Programming Interface).
Having graduated with a HR degree, and now thrown into the world of (Software-as-a-Service) SaaS, I had to encounter my formidable foe: understanding what APIs are, and how they relate to my profession.
For the longest time, this had been a topic that I had actively sought to avoid. “My knowledge was best suited for the HR domain” I said, “APIs issues can be best left to my implementation consultants” and quipped. During a recent ATS project that I was closing, my client eventually touched on the issue of APIs and their hidden costs. Therefore, yours truly was forced (ever so reluctantly) to understand the issue of APIs, and its implication for customers as they consider the purchase of an HR software. It is in the purpose of this article that I will attempt to break down: 1. what APIs mean, 2. how they relate to a SaaS purchaser, and 3. what the hidden costs are.
I hope that this article might help simplify the issue of APIs and make it more digestible.
What are APIs?
APIs are used in each person’s everyday life. Information that we consume via the internet largely relies on APIs to draw data from certain sources and present it on the platform we are looking at.
Take for example, Google Weather Information. We gather our weather information when we access Google Weather. It gives detailed information such as precipitation, humidity, wind temperature, and predicted weather for the following week.
However, Google does not own any physical weather infrastructure that can help collect this data. Rather, Google sources this information from a third party. This is done through an API, which sends the latest weather details in a way that is easy for Google to reformat and present the relevant weather details on their platform.
In the enterprise software space, integrations between multiple software are important as companies look to make sure that no important information is lost when information is transferred between platforms.
For example, an enterprise might desire that the compensation data of a new hire recently recorded in their HR Recruitment module to be immediately transferred to their Payroll or HRIS. Therefore, an API needs to be programmed to ensure the accurate transfer of this compensation data.
What makes APIs stand out in recruitment (or in other HR SaaS)?
Recruiters use multiple tools (quite often from other third-party vendors) to simplify and make the recruitment process more productive.
From LinkedIn, to online assessment sites, and even WeChat, recruiters utilise a whole range of solutions that are normally not included in the basic ATS module. You can check out some of the most commonly enquired recruitment ATS features in my previous article.
However, to simplify the recruitment process, Recruiters desire to use the ATS as their one-stop platform. Therefore, all data and information relevant to the recruitment process needs to be located and accessible via the ATS.
*Having to access and switch between multiple platforms to gather recruitment data is normally one of the main pain points for recruiters.
Therefore, integrations between the recruitment ATS platform and these third-party services are hugely important.
Why do recruiters need to understand API integration?
Costs. More specifically, hidden costs.
In my experience, Recruiters who are tasked with sourcing an ATS will have the unenviable task of dealing with – the budget. The customer’s budget will always have to be pegged against the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a HR SaaS. While the software vendor will give a quote for the purchase of the ATS and various features, the creation and maintenance of APIs typically falls into the burden of the customer.
Building and maintaining APIs can sometimes be costly. There are many factors that can affect this cost. From my experience, if the HR personnel tasked with sourcing the ATS is dealing with the budget, they will often not have the experience in calculating API costs. In fact, there can be cases where the HR personnel is blindsided by this “hidden cost”, and be negatively surprised and questioned by bosses about the ballooning costs.
Clients have often asked me to provide them a ballpark figure on API costs. However, it is difficult to do so as it varies greatly upon certain factors:
1. Software vendor
– The type of code the software uses
– The amount of data the software transfers
– The number of patches the software releases (every patch requires the API to be rewritten)
– Whether the vendor releases information about the patch
– Vendor API documentation (whether the vendor has this documentation made public)
– Size of DevOps team
– How familiar they are with certain kinds of code and API
– Whether their main job is to build and maintain API integrations
These are just the basic factors that will affect the API costs. These API costs will also in turn affect the TCO of maintaining the SaaS.
A word of advice: the best way to find out how much the hidden costs are for maintaining API integration would be to – consult your DevOps team!
The Antidote (Conclusion)
Include your DevOps team in the decision making of purchasing an HR software! They would have valuable information as to how much additional costs a software would bear on your current infrastructure.
Would the current team be able to handle an extra set of APIs to build and maintain? Would we need to hire more staff to dedicate their time in API building and maintenance?
These conversations will best ascertain the hidden costs of API for your SaaS. Have them! (Alternatively, you could reach out to us. We would love to see how we could help.)