A common question we hear from customers is “Do I need an API?”. It is a fair bet that 95% of companies that ask that question already have one. Do you communicate with partners, dealers or other external entities via a [web] service or other externalized enterprise service? Then you probably have an API. It might not be a very formalized or effective. But it is basically an API.
Now that we have established that you have an API, what should you do to make it better? We can break that into 3 suggestions:
- 1. Your API should reflect your brand. The beauty of an API is that you can control and package the output of it as you see fit. Providing your product catalog as an API could help you control the branding of your products through multiple layers of channel distribution. Consider this as an example: could you see Apple accepting this kind of branding for their products?
You have a very unique opportunity to ensure that the presentation of your materials through an API is tightly controlled. That it generates output with the right content, images, colors and even logos to ensure that your brand survives the channel filter (or not if you are in the white label business).
- 2. Strive to make your API self service. Have you ever noticed how banks, airlines and even hotels have endeavored to limit the amount of direct, personal interaction with their staff that is required for every day tasks? Kiosks have replaced customer service agents – and when they work I think we can all agree it is a significantly streamlined and consistent experience. Consuming one of your APIs should be the same experience as a kiosk with automation of the provisioning process, adequate and targeted documentation, an integrated test environment, and some meaningful and proactive analytics. All without picking up the phone or sending an email to facilitate the process.
- 3. Treat your API like a product. Even if your business is about making widgets, if you have now identified a partner interface [API] that is instrumental in your product distribution, treat your newly discovered API the same way as you would a new product in your widget line up. Rationalize the API against other market requirements. Think about your API life cycle – does it rely on systems that you are planning to sunset? Determine how you are going to judge in 6 weeks or 6 months whether your API is adequately meeting market needs. Document it adequately so consumers (developers) can implement it in their apps without having to engage you directly for support.
These may seem like simple concepts but they make the difference between an effective API program that can drive revenues, profits, customer retention/acquisition – and just a bunch of web services you expose to interface with your business ecosystem. Here at SOA Software, we have been in the business of bringing structure to enterprise services and APIs for over a decade. Our enterprise API management platform is the culmination of all that experience mixed with the very latest in technology, concepts and best practices for organizing and executing an effective API program based on the principles described above.