Event planners deal with so many different systems to capture and manage information around their events. Starting from event management solutions, ticketing platforms and event apps to other organisational systems like marketing, sales, finance and membership solutions. Yet putting all this data together to make any proper sense of it is one of the biggest challenges event planners face.
In fact, findings unveiled in a recent research study, titled ‘How Important is Your Event Data’, found that more than 52% of event planners see the lack of integration between technology systems their top challenge when it comes to managing the data around events.
We all know that there is no value in data if it’s just sitting there and doing nothing. There’s also little value in data if it’s not being shared with the right people at the right time. Or if it’s not giving you the insight you need to make informed decisions around your events.
And this is exactly where the whole concept of APIs comes in.
What is an API?
Simply put, an API – or Application Programming Interface – is a way for two pieces of software to talk to each other and exchange information. You can think of it as a piece of software that functions as a door or window, if you want. From the perspective of an event planner, it’s the mechanism that allows your event management system to share data with your event app. Or your registration software to share attendee details with your CRM. Or even payment confirmations to your finance package.
The ability to automatically share information like this between all the different systems you use around events can bring all sorts of benefits:
Time Savings: Reduce the endless hours you and your team spend manually replicating event data from one system to another
Increased Productivity: Improve productivity by spending less time on admin tasks and focusing your team’s efforts on other aspects of the event.
Data Accuracy: Automatic updates between systems means you’re always relying on the most up-to-date and accurate data – less errors and inconsistencies.
Better Insight: Key people across your organisation have insight to important event data at all times – which helps in making more informed decisions around your events.
Top 5 Considerations When Dealing with APIs
A common misconception in any data integration project is that it is something that should fall under the responsibility of the IT department. Many event planners feel that dealing with APIs and integration models may be somewhat technically challenging. But don’t be bamboozled by technology. As long as you understand the top-level concept and what you want to achieve, then your event technology providers should be able to help you with the details.
There are, however, some key things that only you as the event planner understands when it comes to deciding what data needs to be shared with which system and why. So if you’re integrating your registration system with an event app, you are the one who needs to figure out which bits of data within the app need to be updated and how often this needs to be done.
Have a look at the most important things you need to know about APIs when dealing with integration projects around your event data:
1) Putting the Right Data in the Right Place
When integrating your event management system with other applications, you need to decide how the API will pull and share information between the two systems. So if you’re integrating your registration software with your CRM solution, you should decide which questions from your registration page (names, address, telephone numbers) should be updated in Salesforce and vice versa.
This ‘field mapping’ process is important as it ensures that the right data goes into the right field of each system. So your event app, for example, may use ‘preferred names’ for addressing delegates but your event registration system records first, last and preferred names. By mapping the ‘preferred’ name field between the two systems, the API ensures that the app addresses the delegate as his preferred name ‘Johnny’ – instead of his full name, John Smith.
2) Choosing the Direction of Your Data Flow
The next thing you need to decide is whether this sharing of information is a one or two-way process. With event apps, the flow of information is usually one way where data from the event management system – like event agendas and delegate schedules – is pushed into the event app. With CRM, finance or membership systems, it makes more sense to synch data in both directions. So you’ll be able pull invitations lists from your CRM directly into your event management system – similarly, any changes to a delegate’s profile and attendance history will automatically be updated in your CRM.
3) How Much of Your Data Should You Share
Another thing to consider around your API is the filtering of your event data. By default, your API may expose all your data to the integrated systems. Your finance team, for example, may want access to all your event data but your event app may only need access to data around one particular event. You may want to create one app for your exhibitors and another for your delegates – by setting the right filters within your API, you can make sure that only relevant event data gets shared with your other integrated systems.
4) How Often Should You Synch Your Systems
This is an important question that can determine your API ‘pipeline’. Mobile apps, for example, consume a lot of data from event management systems, especially on the day of the event. That data needs to be constantly refreshed to ensure delegates have access to up-to-date information around the event. Finance or CRM packages, on the other hand, have a low but constant usage of event data. Data synching in this case can be set for once a day. Your event tech API provider may charge you for the amount of data you are consuming between your different systems or they limit the amount of data you are running through your API – so make sure you choose one that won’t limit your data use.
5) Determining Data Access & Security
Once you have decided which systems to integrate with your event management solution and set the parameters of your API, you can obtain an API key – often used instead of usernames and passwords. This key is one way of enabling integration by providing your event app and other third-party applications access to your event data, and vice-versa. It comes in the form of a computer-generated password that can be revoked if lost or compromised. If you don’t revoke it, your event data is vulnerable as it is left exposed to anyone who has access to this key.
Make sure you know who has access to your API key and try and limit the numbers – this is especially more important now with GDPR in place. When you do need to share it with other technology suppliers (like an event app provider), do so by phone instead of email, as it’s more secure. Also, if you’re integrating with more than one system, make sure you have separate API keys for each integration. This way, if one of your API keys gets lost or exposed, you can revoke the key (which disables the integration) and set up a new one. If you have one API key for all your integrations, then you break all the integrations at the same time, which can result in some costly downtime until you’ve sorted it all out.
Taking time to make these key decisions around your APIs will determine the success of your integration. While most event tech vendors provide APIs for their software, many like Eventsforce also have established partnerships and API integration capabilities with tried and tested software solutions (Salesforce.com, Sage, Insight Mobile). This is helpful as you’ll be able to get things up and running without investing the time and money into any coding work that allows data to be pulled from one system to another.
And if these API relationships don’t exist, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. By making sure your suppliers can provide you with the necessary advice, recommendations and workflows for integration means the whole process can take as little as a few days at a fraction of the cost.
Want to learn more about the benefits of data integration? Find out how you can save time, improve data sharing and reduce the risk of a data breach by downloading your copy of ‘The Event Planner’s Guide to Data Integration’ – includes case studies from Schroders, Haymarket, Royal Statistical Society and the Liberal Democrats.