System integration: APIs vs. RPA

System integration has become an increasingly critical issue for organisations across the UK public sector. As technology has evolved, the need to integrate and upgrade systems has too. But with many public sector organisations finding themselves locked into legacy platforms, navigating migration and synchronisation is no easy feat. Many vendors can be reluctant to release data, or can charge excessive amounts to do so.  

Determined to progress for the needs of citizens, the UK public sector is currently turning to two major technologies for solutions - Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). In this edition of Tech Bytes, we’ll explore the differences between these two technologies in system integration, helping you decide the best choice for your organisation.  

What is RPA?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that uses software bots to automate repetitive, manual processes. These bots can be programmed to perform a range of tasks, including cross-system data synchronisation and migration, just like a person would – with a series of keystrokes and clicks. This makes it an excellent tool for system integration, removing the need for manual rekeying and offering a quick and easy method for data extraction and entry.

Benefits of RPA system integration in the UK public sector: 

  • Reduced operational costs: RPA can automate routine tasks, reducing the need for manual intervention and saving significant amounts of time and money 
  • Improved accuracy and quality: RPA bots are immune to human error, completing tasks without error - improving data quality 
  • Increased productivity: RPA bots don’t need breaks - they can work 24/7, increasing productivity and efficiency 

What are APIs?

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are software components that allow different applications to communicate with each other. APIs provide a standardised way for applications to share data and functionality, making it possible to integrate different systems and applications.  

Benefits of APIs in the UK public sector: 

  • Enhanced interoperability: APIs enable different systems to communicate and share data, enhancing interoperability between systems and applications. 
  • Improved data management: APIs enable real-time data sharing and integration, improving data quality and accessibility. 
  • Increased innovation: APIs enable developers to build new applications and services by integrating with existing systems and data sources. 

RPA vs. APIs

While both RPA and APIs offer unique benefits to the UK public sector, they are fundamentally different technologies. RPA is focused on automating manual processes, while APIs are focused on enabling different systems to communicate and share data. As above, both can be used to integrate public sector systems, so which should you choose? 

API system integration 

APIs are created specifically for use cases such as system integration, making them the first port of call in most cases. However, APIs aren’t always readily available – the API(s) needed for your system integrations may come with a large price tag, posed as a one-off purchase or subscription-based purchase.  

APIs can also be quite complex, requiring advanced coding experience to implement. Especially within the UK public sector, those skills might not be available in-house. However, if a suitable and accessible API is available, no-code tools such as NDL Connect can help you overcome this hurdle - simplifying the process in a graphic-led, drag-and-drop development studio. Connect also features a library of ready-built API connectors too, making it even easier to hook your systems together. 

RPA system integration 

Sometimes APIs can be too expensive, or they might not exist at all. Depending on your specific project, APIs aren’t always available to link your chosen systems together. So how do we get these systems talking to each other?  

That’s where RPA comes in. RPA bots can be used to migrate data (extract it, and re-enter it into a new location) or synchronise it (rekey information entered into one system into another). Bots complete these processes just as humans would, copying it information and entering it into a new place using the correct formats and input fields.  

Through this method, systems aren’t directly communicating with each other, but bots are bridging the gap – gaining the same results without manual intervention. Like APIs, RPA can be quite technical. Low-code products like NDL Automate are also available, allowing public sector organisations to create automations easily.  

Time to integrate? 

The UK public sector can benefit greatly from the use of both RPA and APIs for system integration. RPA can reduce operational costs, improve accuracy, and increase productivity, while APIs enhance interoperability, improve data management, and enable innovation. By understanding the differences between these technologies, public sector organisations can choose the right technology for the job and drive greater efficiency, innovation, and digital transformation. 

The NDL Evolve Digital Transformation Platform provides access to both RPA and API connection technologies in low and no-code development studios – making system integration simple. To learn more about Evolve, don’t hesitate to get in touch or book a free demo. For more integration inspiration, check out our ever-growing library of public sector success stories