In 2014, Massimo Pezzini of the Gartner group coined the term “citizen integrator” to describe business users who can create integrations between applications using development environments that the IT department provides. He commented:
IT leaders have no choice but to facilitate citizen integrators while putting in place guardrails to minimize risks and potential long-term debts.
As someone who considers himself a citizen integrator, I have documented here how I built an integration to access data from an API without coding, using the Flowgear platform.
Following on from the 2014 article, Gartner started discussing tools that citizen integrators could use which would increase their ability to build and automate simple integrations tasks. Then earlier this year (2017), Gartner published another article in which they recommended that as the digital transformation of business increases, IT leaders should re-evaluate traditional integration policies and allow business users to perform self-service tasks to integrate data and applications.
Role of APIs
An API (application program interface) is a specification that defines how to interact with an application. Growth of the web and cloud computing have increased the interest in APIs. APIs allow organizations to share information and interact with third parties, and have become an indispensable part of the digital business environment. They are not just technical assets but are of strategic value.
The main benefit of APIs is that they provide a structured form of integration, ensure business logic and rule validation is applied, and are an efficient way to control access; we have previously discussed the technical and business benefits of APIs.
Citizen integrator example
One of the use cases of APIs is to enable access to data. We use a cloud-based application called Intercom – a customer engagement platform. We use it to encourage and enhance engagement with prospects, drive sales, and improve interaction with customers. Intercom make the data we’ve accumulated in their system accessible via a set of published APIs. They list several SDKs (software development kits) for different languages like PHP, Node.js, Java, and .NET which you can use to access the API. However what if you’re like me, you have some technical background but don’t know those languages or don’t want to bring in a developer? The answer is to use Flowgear.
The Flowgear platform provides more than just prepackaged integrations, it also makes access to APIs simple and flexible for citizen integrators. Here is how I created a simple Flowgear integration workflow to read data from Intercom and store it in an Excel spreadsheet.