"Our API is a 'super-charger' for everything that is Nimble. The API is meant to allow users to unleash the power of Nimble in a variety of different ways – users can take more ownership of Nimble’s core value and extend it."
Nimble (www.nimble.com) was founded in 2009 to help businesses transform their social conversations and communities into business opportunities. Nimble opens a whole new channel for companies to engage customers in a two-way dialogue, combining the power of traditional CRM, classic contact management and social media into its simple affordable web-based solution.
Jason McDowall, a recognized expert in mobile software development, is head of products at Nimble. He joined the company to lead the expansion of the Nimble platform and its mobile strategy. Jason spoke to Apigee about Nimble's API strategy.
How are you using APIs today?
Our mission is to help organizations improve their business relationships to drive revenue. Nimble was designed entirely with customer engagement in mind and is the first social selling platform that empowers companies to nurture their customers through social listening and engagement, helping them turn their social communities into customers for life. It’s a contact relationship manager on social steroids.
We give our partners and customers access to their data through a simple and powerful API. With the API, they can add extensions and integrations to the core Nimble technology that we haven't done yet. Our API is a super-charger for everything that is Nimble.
What is the value of the Nimble API?
At its core, Nimble provides actionable insight into every contact record. The API is meant to allow users to unleash this power in a variety of different ways – users can take more ownership of Nimble’s core value and extend it. For us, the API gives us the opportunity to grow faster. As a small company, we can only satisfy only a handful of user needs. The API allows us to harness the efforts of partners and users to unleash the power of Nimble to the world.
How have Nimble partners and customers reacted to your API?
Part of our plan was to get an API out early and iterate as we go based on feedback. So far, we've gotten feedback in three areas. One of the challenges is that OAuth authentication can be a painful protocol to use. We also need to provide a variety of sample code – the beginnings of an SDK – so API users can copy and paste examples in their favorite language and get over the initial hurdle of getting to the data. We're also getting a ton of feedback on what we should deliver next in the API; there's lots of enthusiasm and interest in our roadmap.
What need were you addressing with the Nimble API?
It was always part of the plan to expose our services – we recognized early on that we would never be able to address all the needs for all our customers. The timing of our API, however, was based on customer feedback. We saw a tremendous amount of demand, especially from our partners.
We have a bunch of VARs that work with small businesses, and they are all now Nimble experts. They educate users and ensure Nimble works well for them. Our network of VARs has been really vocal about needing an API. They recognized some data migration challenges and other extensions were needed, and they've accelerated our plan to deliver it.
How do you expect your API to evolve over time?
We have a REST-based API and the data is delivered in JSON format. We've used a limited set of parameters and a standard format to keep things simple. The API is still in a “beta” state, but even today anyone can sign up and request access.
In terms of functionality, we anticipate not just exposing basic data about contacts and deals, but eventually exposing derived intelligence and recommended actions for your contacts.. As we deliver new data and services, we're trying to prioritize delivery in terms of API use cases. For example, there's the widget use case, where someone may want to embed a widget into an app like Outlook so users can see Nimble data for any given email address; we also want to support data migrations, more advanced reporting, mobile applications, and eventually two-way data synchronization with other tools, like Salesforce.
How do you work with Apigee?
We use many of the capabilities in the Apigee platform, including Gateway Services, Developer Services, and we've also had a great experience with Apigee's customer services team.
Apigee's services team has been phenomenal. Very early on, we were able to work with Apigee to get our API ramped up – they were really flexible and helped us get started quickly. Initially, I didn't appreciate how much value we were going to get out of Apigee's services, but I understand now how much work was involved in setting up Web site, setting up the authentication and plumbing on the back end. We originally had our own authentication process, but we wanted to leverage Oauth, and Apigee helped us do that easily.
Do you have any advice for those just starting?
I agree with the best practice of just putting an API out there as early as possible. Start with something - lay out your plan and start to collect feedback, even if it's a small beta group. Apigee can help guide you in developing APIs. Listen to your Apigee advisors. And don't underestimate the amount of effort it's going to take to get the first piece done – so start small. There are lots of little gremlins that can pop up. It's not as simple as just opening up your back end.