‍3 scenarios that can break your product integrations

No matter how many engineers you allocate toward maintaining your customer-facing integrations, certain issues are bound to crop up and impact your clients.

Third-party APIs will provide unexpected, unintended, and detrimental responses; they’ll quietly make significant changes that cause disruptions; or they’ll simply go down when you don’t expect them to.    

Regardless of the situation, your engineers are caught flat-footed and left scrambling for a solution in short order.

We’ll help you understand how, exactly, 3rd-party APIs can break your integrations by walking you through a few situations. We’ll also break down a solution that allows you to avoid these scenarios, along with many others, altogether. 

Related: How to maintain your product integrations

API responses are different than expected

A discrepancy between your team’s expectations for an API response and the actual response can cause your integrations to break or sync inaccurate data. 

This can play out in multiple ways (and they extend beyond the examples below):

  • If you expect the dates from a field to be presented in a format like DD-MM-YYYYY, but the API response actually presents them in the format MM-DD-YYYYY
  • If you anticipate an object but the response uses an array instead
  • If you think the response will be in integer format but it’s in string format 
  • If the response presents an error code that your team didn’t anticipate 
  • If the response unexpectedly returns a null value
A screenshot of an API response with a null value
While an API response can claim to be “successful”, it can unexpectedly return null values for critical fields, such as “employee_name”.

Your engineers might be able to troubleshoot these issues if they occur on an adhoc basis and if their volume isn’t so high. However, as you introduce more integrations and as more clients adopt them, these issues will likely occur more often and eventually overwhelm your engineers.

Related: How to plan for any API integration project

An endpoint sunsets without your knowledge

Say you’ve built an integration with a specific solution that hundreds of your clients use. Moreover, the majority of clients that use the integration sync a specific field from the 3rd-party solution with a corresponding field in your product.

One day, the 3rd-party provider’s endpoint for that field is no longer available, causing the integrations for hundreds of your clients to break. 

The best case scenario is that the 3rd-party provider offers an alternative endpoint that lets you sync the data. But even in this case, your engineers would need to build to the endpoint, which can take them weeks, if not months—all the while your customers aren’t able to access the data they need in your product. 

In most situations, your engineers are left to their own devices; they’ll need to read through the 3rd-party provider’s API documentation to determine the best alternative API endpoint to build to, assuming a good option even exists. And, as we’ve touched on previously, the process of finding information in the provider’s API docs can be tedious, time-consuming, and, ultimately, unhelpful.

A screenshot of a computer monitor that displays hard-to-read text
While the image above is an obvious exaggeration, API docs are notoriously difficult to navigate. In many cases, they’re also poorly written and missing up-to-date information.

An API has bugs that are left unaddressed

Some API providers have bugs that they don’t have bandwidth to fix. 

For example, we’ve seen a popular HRIS solution fail to return data when a request includes a specific timestamp. Requests to the application, as a result, can’t include one, which prevents your team from verifying whether data is recent and makes the process of debugging issues all the more difficult.

Many of these bugs aren’t widely known, which can prevent your team from accounting for them in advance. In many cases, your team will only find out about the bugs once an API response comes back. And by that point, your product’s data integrity and, by extension, your client experience, will already be impacted.

Related: The long-term costs of performing integration maintenance

Offer reliable integrations at scale with Merge 

Merge, the leading unified API solution, lets your developers build to a single unified API to access a whole category of integrations—such as HRIS, CRM, file storage, etc. 

Once connected, Merge handles maintenance activities with 3rd-party API providers on your behalf. 

More specifically, we’ve built out a partner engineering team that has deep expertise in APIs and that’s split into different software verticals (e.g. CRM). The latter ensures that each team member can dedicate the time necessary to gain a deep understanding of specific 3rd-party API providers within their category. That way, they can not only build robust integrations for their designated category but also respond to any issues quickly, successfully, and proactively. 

You can learn more about Merge by scheduling a demo with one of our integration experts.