Your business, while certainly complex in its operations and delivery, runs on pretty much the same principles that all businesses run on. You have a product (which could be a hard good, soft good, or a service) that you try to optimize for customers (product strategy, engineering, development), communicate to customers (marketing), and sell to customers (sales, or, the guys who drive AUDIs). Along the way, you make sure bills are paid, customers are serviced, and that the proverbial trains run on time. But there’s really not a lot of differentiation between yours and any other business.
Where you can see noticeable differences among businesses is in how they extend their operations in an effort to touch new customers and partners. There is a lot of legwork involved in creating and managing these channels in an offline world, but for organizations that are transacting business online, there are ways to engage and work with those in your ecosystem in ways that bring you more exposure and ultimately, more revenue. The easiest way to do this is with APIs, because the entire purpose of an API is to provide a mechanism for integrating and exposing data and transactions among different applications. This means you have to have an API strategy. You have to treat APIs as a product to deliver revenue, partners, developers and users.
For the end-user, this means they can use a single app that pulls from many apps that makes their experience more robust and meaningful. That’s good; they get the distinct sense that their needs are being addressed. From the business’s perspective, it means that you don’t need to create everything yourself. You don’t need to be limited by what you do not provide. It also means that you can provide solutions and functionality in your apps that are highly customized and applicable to certain customer segments. With a very simple piece of software (an API), you can build, manage and continuously improve your channel operations to dramatically increase your bottom-line. Think in this century API first, web second. Join the API Economy.
There are three important aspects to note when considering the business attributes of having a smart API strategy:
Business lifecycle: the reference architecture on which an API operates is fairly simple, but is differentiated from other types of business-enabling technology tools. The entire foundation is meant to enable development, operate easily, and then create channels with the resulting solution. Here’s what I mean: most products and most business operations flow through a model of plan, build, deliver. While an API allows you to do those things efficiently, it also gives you the ability to share your product/service without limitations (or, rather, with limitations of a governance standpoint that are dictated by you), and then analyze usage and results. The elements of sharing and analysis are rarely included in products, but how else can a business function? Few technology solutions enable you to create a product, share it (thereby building new channels), and then analyze its efficacy. APIs do that, and the impact to your business channels is noticeable almost instantly.
Partner engagement: other businesses need you. And you need them. It’s the circle of the life in the context of capitalism. Hardware companies have big teams of OEM business development specialists who try to create networks of partners and suppliers that help make their own business bigger. Consumer packaged goods companies ignore partners. But with software and online operations, if you have smart strategy, you can rapidly collaborate with others to improve your online offering, whether you’re transacting in data, content or commerce. This can only be done through unique API protocols like REST that provide flexibility for applications to talk to one another. This is what creates new business opportunities.
Ease: with unique use cases, modeling and user stories (all of which can be created based on specific user needs) you can define basic requirements for your application’s functionality. From there, you can implement solutions like API Gateway to ensure security governance (and provide administrators with flexibility to manage their security requirements), Lifecycle Management for modeling and development management, and the Developer Portal to create a community to extend your API and apps and encourage community testing, support and collaboration.
APIs used to be the domain only of developers and they originally looked at their job as simply connecting apps where data needed to be shared. It was a technical function, and business goals were not always considered. There was very little emphasis on then taking the collaborative solution and making it a transactional tool in and of itself. Now, however, we’re seeing that API strategies are being created and employed by business users – where there is a need to move, share, and collaborate through data, an API can usually solve that problem. Business users are looking for ways to use that data to get more “stuff” in front of more people, and with that stuff to expose their business to more customers.
So have an API strategy and treat your API as a product. Your API has to be planned, built, run and shared..
Here are some resources for you:
Happy Holidays! or “api “olidays”