Accelerating the creation of APIs and promoting their use across the economy
Extending the reach of APIs throughout the French state
A government agency with national authority, AIFE (Agence pour l’Informatique Financière de l’État) was established in 2005 to guarantee the consistency of the French state’s financial information system, and to define and execute the strategy for that system. AIFE reports directly to the minister responsible for the state budget.
The range of products managed by or being developed by AIFE spans three major domains:
- In the budgetary and accountancy domain, solutions to manage the financial functioning of the French state: Chorus Cœur and Chorus Formulaires (budgetary, accounting and financial management system), Chorus Comptabilité Analytique, Chorus Déplacements Temporaires (management of travel expenses).
- In the electronic invoicing and public procurement domain, solutions for all public entities (state, public institutions, local public sector) and for their suppliers: Chorus Pro (electronic invoicing, 74 million invoices processed in 2023 for 850,000 companies) and PLACE (digitalization of public procurement procedures). Services are also being deployed within the framework of the plan for the digital transformation of public procurement (Transformation Numérique de la Commande Publique, TNCP) and, in close collaboration with the DGFiP (the French Treasury Department), for the requirement of electronic inter-company (B2B) invoicing.
- In the domain of the intermediation of digital services, shared tools enabling the interoperability of solutions (PISTE API platform; in-house CAPTCHA solution) and the automation of selected user processes (RPA platform).
AIFE was tasked moreover with meeting the requirements of the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) directive, which aims to make it easier for companies to meet regulatory obligations when responding to public tenders. For this, AIFE launched a service called “DUME” (the French acronym for “ESPD”). AIFE initially planned to reuse Chorus Pro to manage the relevant APIs. However, as Michel Traisnel, Manager of the Exchange Systems Division at AIFE, explains: “The design choices we had made when building Chorus Pro made it difficult to adapt to other business use cases.”
AIFE took the opportunity to rethink its approach to API management, aiming to build a platform (PISTE – Platforme d’Intermédiation des Services pour la Transformation de l’Etat, Service Intermediation Platform for the Transformation of the state) that would be completely agnostic in terms of business use cases.
“The strategic goal of the ‘PISTE’ project was to build an API platform with the loosest possible coupling between the technical and business aspects,” says Traisnel. “AIFE’s role was to help service providers follow best practices in publishing, securing and managing their APIs, with the goal of increasing both speed and efficiency. For this, AIFE chose to continue using the Amplify Platform from Axway.
Valuable expertise from Axway
Axway consultants provided significant support and guidance around the implementation and configuration of their Amplify Platform. Traisnel says: “The input from Axway was decisive, providing the expertise we needed to ensure a rapid and successful project. Their guidance in terms of best practices was also vital, because we wanted to avoid having to rework existing capabilities each time a new requirement emerged.”
Within five months of initiating the project, AIFE went live with the first version of PISTE and the first API, from Guichet Entreprises. Since then, PISTE has welcomed around a dozen publishers of APIs, including the Ministry of Ecological Transition and the Ministry of Justice.
“Our guiding principle for PISTE was openness,” says Traisnel. “We have an existing set of off-the-shelf services and whenever we develop another service for a supplier with a specific need, we always broaden it so that it can be used by other suppliers too.”
Resilient services for the French economy
PISTE currently offers 95 APIs, and there are 11,000 applications registered on the platform. On average, PISTE services between 20 and 30 million API calls daily, up from 15 to 20 million just 18 months ago.
“We have a platform that is resilient enough to offer the levels of service our clients (suppliers of API services) expect,” says Traisnel. “As we bring more APIs onto the platform, it’s clear that we made the right architectural choice. The loose coupling means that any business service published on the platform can be updated by the service provider without necessarily requiring changes to PISTE.
“Now that we’ve gained experience with PISTE, we’re saving time and working more efficiently, and we reuse existing components rather than reinventing the wheel each time.”
Faster and more efficient APIs
With a catalog of off-the-shelf services available in PISTE, and a structured approach to best practices, AIFE is accelerating the process of creating and publishing APIs.
“We now spend more time working with suppliers to understand what they want to achieve, but that saves time overall, because configuration and deployment are much faster today,” says Traisnel. “DILA set us a target of just 15 days to publish an API for Légifrance, and we were able to rise to the challenge.”