Businesses are using more applications than ever and accumulating huge mountains of data in the process. Data is one of the most valuable assets an enterprise has in successful business. Customer data enables the enterprise to provide hyper-personalized experiences to customers. Analyzing customer interactions with your enterprise, your products, and your services enables you to make better decisions, improve customer satisfaction and, possibly, even identify new business models. Providing customers, employees, and partners access to your enterprise data enables self-service and operational efficiencies.
However, many enterprises falter when it comes to executing on API initiatives as they rush into API implementation without really developing an overall API strategy that aligns with the business strategy.
APIs (Application Programmer Interfaces) are the bridge components that allow diverse apps, platforms, and systems to connect and share data with each other. APIs can initiate tasks, facilitate processes and provide a unified view of your customer journey. They allow your legacy technology, your third-party SaaS apps, your custom business apps, and your connected devices to connect seamlessly. This allows access to data which supports informed decision-making in your organization.
According to MuleSoft’s Connectivity Benchmark Report 2019, 43% of organizations today are using more than 1,000 applications routinely in running their businesses. More than two-thirds of the IT department’s time is typically spent on running the business vs. innovating and developing projects. On average, 22% of the IT budget is spent on integrating different technologies annually but this number is stagnant for the last two years and matches the stagnation in the number of applications that are integrated, which is stuck at 29%.
The net result of the growth in the number of applications and lack of growth in the number of integrated applications is that data silos and integration challenges are key enterprise concerns that are slowing down the pace and efficacy of digital transformation initiatives.
Enterprises are attempting to address these integration issues by hiring more talent, employing DevOps best practices to improve the efficiency of application development and deployment, and adopting API-led connectivity to promote reusing software components.
organizations to deliver digital transformation and innovate faster than the competition, it is critical to discover, connect,
and reuse software assets using APIs.
Business Benefits from APIs
While I have alluded to some of the business benefits of APIs above, here is an explicit list:
- increased productivity,
- increased innovation,
- increased employee engagement and collaboration,
- increased speed in meeting line-of-business user demands,
- greater agility across teams for self-serve IT,
- a decrease in operational costs,
- revenue growth, and,
- potential for identifying new business and revenue models.
You may have heard that we are now in the API Economy (per Forbes) and want to jump on that bandwagon but, for the typical enterprise, the first step is making APIs available internally and reaping the benefits of increased productivity, greater agility, increased speed in meeting line-of-business user demands, and a decrease in operational costs.
The next natural step is to enable partners and customers to access your APIs with appropriate governance and security controls. This is when you can expect to see increased innovation and potential for uncovering new business and revenue models; your API consumers will find use cases that you would not have dreamt. When this happens, you may just be able to monetize APIs directly, a la Salesforce.com which generates 50% of its revenue through APIs, Expedia.com that generates 90%, and eBay, 60% (Harvard Business Review). Investing in APIs is a strategy that pays for itself.
For non-techies out there, how are APIs changing your life? You can order a ride from your Apple Watch with the Lyft Ride API. You can see information from big banks, like Capital One, about your accounts. You can post to multiple social profiles using the HootSuite API. You can store digital content and share it with others via the Dropbox API. You can even learn about cyclist and pedestrian activity to help cities be more bike-friendly via StravaMetro. APIs are everywhere now – nearly 20,000 are now available (Programmatic Web) – doing things that consumers take for granted daily.
APIs are about application and data connectivity; API strategy is about seamless and secure connectivity to the right APIs for authorized API consumers inside and outside your company. In today’s hyper-competitive business environment with the rapid pace of innovation, to get and stay ahead of your competition, an API strategy is critical to digital success. Whether you are trying to deliver a superior digital experience to your customers, partners, and employees, or launch new digital products and services, or open new business and revenue models, successful execution depends on your ability to enable quick and easy access to your enterprise data. And this is where APIs and API Strategy enter the business picture.
Through our extensive experience with integration projects, we feel developing the right API strategy entails different aspects as follows.
- Understand the role API strategy will play in your overall business and digital strategy.
- Ensure your enterprise architecture and IT teams overall are aligned with “API Thinking”.
- Ensure you have the right platforms and tools to technically enable your API strategy.
- Ensure you have the right architecture patterns and controls in place to support your API program.
- Evangelize your API with your internal and external developer community.
- Measure your API program’s effectiveness and implement continual improvement.
1. Digital Strategy Alignment
The first step in defining your API strategy is aligning to your overall business and digital strategy. This involves the following.
- Determine how your API will relate to desired business outcomes – are you simply trying to accelerate your digital transformation and improve customer experience? Is there an opportunity to disrupt your industry by providing a robust API? Or are you trying to be at the forefront of the API economy a la Amazon, Twitter or Twilio? Or are you trying to build a third-party developer community? Or enable customers and partners to self-serve using your API?
- Determine the target audience for API consumption and, if relevant, prioritize them.
- Perform a data audit to know what you’ve collected and how that information helps you deliver value to your customers.
- Determine desired outcomes for your API so you know what you’re looking for in an API.
- Review your existing IT infrastructure (apps and systems) to know what you have to build on and where you need to create data bridges.
- Develop and prioritize a high-level API roadmap that will support the overall digital strategy.
2. API Thinking
The next step in implementing a successful API strategy is to implement organizational change to support API-first thinking. This is important for all your employees, but especially so for your Architects and Developers. Take time to train IT staff to implement, maintain and coordinate your APIs, including someone who can develop API-related policies and procedures. It is important to think of your API as a product and implement processes and procedures to support it as such.
3. Right API Platform and Tools
Once you have aligned with your digital strategy and adopted API-first thinking, it is important to implement the right full lifecycle API management platform that will ably support your API initiative. This will involve a “buy” decision if you don’t already have the right tool in place, as it is our firm opinion that “building” your own API management platform is not the right decision for (almost) any enterprise. According to Gartner:
“Differentiation does not come from building your own API management platform. It comes from the APIs you publish … full lifecycle API management comprises a very wide set of functionality. At the start of API programs and digital strategies, clients need only a small subset of that … however, API programs and digital strategies quickly require more and more API management functions when they take off — far more quickly than any development shop can keep pace with.”
You need to consider the API platform’s capabilities, such as API design, security, publishing, analysis, monitoring, and monetization as they relate to your short- and long-term needs. Additionally, take a good, hard look at the developer portal and its usability from a consumer developer’s perspective. Last, but not least, you need to evaluate API management products for their fit in your technology landscape.
4. Right API Architecture and Governance
The next step is to establish the right API architecture patterns and have the right governance model in place to support your API program. Among other things, remember to consider:
- Full API lifecycle management from planning and design through optimization and versioning,
- API scalability to potentially handle both internal and external API consumers,
- API evolvability to adapt to new business needs and new business models,
- API manageability and monitoring, and,
- API security as you do not want to become tomorrow’s news about a security or privacy breach.
5. API Evangelization
Now that you have an API that is useful, it is important to promote it to potential consumers – this is where you must embrace API evangelism and marketing. You want to promote stories of how you are using the API and how it fits into the customer journey. This will create excitement about your API and potentially spark new ideas among other developers. For you to effectively evangelize your API, you need to publish a comprehensive developer portal with appropriate productivity tools that ease developer onboarding.
Building an external developer ecosystem around your API typically involves some combination of free third-party apps, paid third-party apps (for example, on Salesforce AppExchange from ISVs), and known customer/partner apps.
6. API Program Continual Improvement
The long-term sustenance of an API program relies on actively collecting developer and consumer feedback and metrics, and using them to improve your API strategy.
MuleSoft has an excellent resource on defining and implementing a successful API strategy. For full transparency, XTIVIA has been a long-term partner with MuleSoft, a company that provides exceptional business agility to companies by connecting applications, data, and devices, both on-premises and in the cloud with an API-led approach.
A great API strategy means that your API is successful AND gives your users increased capability and efficiency in accessing data and integrating systems.
Whether you would like to incorporate APIs into your IT architecture or want to develop an API, XTIVIA has your back. XTIVIA’s goal is to help enterprises increase their operational efficiency through technology to achieve performance goals; APIs are playing a growing role in making that happen.
To have a no-obligation call with a trusted XTIVIA expert who can help determine your best API strategy and options, simply fill out the form below to get things started. We’re looking forward to learning more about your organization and how we can help with your APIs.