Giving Excel Power Users The API Driven Resources They Need
31 Jul 2013
I've been an advocate for non-developers being one of the most important audiences for your API, since I started API Evangelist. I know us developers love to believe we are the primary force behind the success of APIs like Twitter--it is partially true, we are. But we also had the assistance of the power Twitter user in getting the good word out. Tech savvy journalists, marketing and other folks who get the platform, API, and value that lies within, while also possessing a large or very influential audience.
Another example of this dynamic I'm seeing unfold in slow motion is from web APIs that are driving the Excel spreadsheet. I've posted before about using Google Spreadsheets in conjunction with APIs, and I just saw a another great example of using Microsoft Excel from the electronics parts provider Octoparts.
Octoparts walks us through an API to Microsoft Excel solution, that has some pretty obvioius potential, by providing a direct connection between their product catalog to customers and partners via their API and an Excel spreadsheet. The particular approach requires the usage of DataNitro, a plugin for Excel that allow you to run Python functions within your spreadsheets. Once installed, you can import products using the Ocotoparts APIs, complete with functions for filtering by manufacture, SKU, price and other key catalog fields.
This is a pretty significant example of how APIs can be used by non-developers, and specifically power Excel users. I don't know about your experience, but pretty much every industry I've worked in, is being run by Excel wielding business and marketing power users. This isn't some small group of niche developers, this group of users represents the engine of business in our everyday world.
Think of the potential, when we educate these everyday users about APIs, then provide them with simple API usage examples, allowing them to access the valuable resources they need within an organization or externally from partners, government and other public sources of information.
Much like mobile has emerged as a focus area for API providers, I predict Microsoft Excel and Google Spreadsheet connectors will become commonplace in API ecosystems. So make sure your products and other valuable corporate resources are accessible via API for the power spreadsheet users in your supply chain.