Getting the Most Value from Your APIs
In the first installment of this two-part series on the critical role of cloud-based APIs, Indix CEO and founder Sanjay Parthasarathy and I discussed developing a cloud-based API program.
Indix has been using the Apigee API management platform to great success for some time now. I lead our Rapid Launch program, which helps customers deploy API programs faster.
Here, we’ll answer a range of questions about how to generate the most value from APIs.
Why expose your services through APIs versus other technologies?
Alex: APIs connect the world. Increasingly, we see developers demanding that APIs be available for connecting into systems. This not only makes it easier for the developer, but it also alleviates point-to-point interactions for each data request. I often find myself in meetings where the technical folks ask what APIs are available for them to connect to, so other apps can use the data. This desire pushes us toward open systems for the exchange of data as opposed to closed systems that limit engagements and opportunities.
Other technologies often have security challenges around sensitive data, or a hard-to-change technical contract. These are anti-patterns for API developers, who thrive on ensuring speed and security of data.
Sanjay: At an architecture level, using APIs results in a more loosely coupled architecture rather than a tightly coupled one. That's the direction in which businesses are moving anyway, as it offers more flexibility, more agility, and more creativity.
Should we try to API everything?
Alex: Yes, but not on day one. Assign your initial implementation to a single core API team that develops standards, uses these for an impactful but not mission-critical engagement, and has gone from design all the way to deploying the APIs into production. This core team will set the stage to then expand and onboard other teams to use the platform. Onboarding is critical to ensure all teams adhere to guardrails for the digital platform. A simple example: API naming standards. Don’t use internal company jargon such as an acronym for a product, but call it the Product API—not “SEF Info API.”
Sanjay: Yes. I am a strong believer that every piece of hardware, every piece of software, and every piece of the network needs to be exposed as a service through an API. This doesn't mean that you expose all your services to everyone. And there are some things that you just can't do with APIs, but whatever you can, you should.
What kind of things contribute to stalled or delayed value from APIs?
Alex: Lack of alignment with business partners on the success metrics. This is about setting and measuring your goals for creating an API. Strictly looking at this as a technical integration issue is bound to be met with limited enthusiasm. You should work for concrete metrics that drive engagements; this will get teams excited. Learn more about success metrics in our Digital Rapid Launch video series.
Sanjay: A lack of clarity on outcomes at every point of the project. Unless all the key decision makers are on the same page about the desired outcomes, companies will get delayed in extracting value from APIs. For instance, as we're shaping our developer initiative at Indix, we are having an open discussion about what value we hope to generate for both our developer community and for ourselves.
Besides monetization, how else do APIs generate value?
Alex: Scale of usage of your APIs can lead to more engagement and increased revenue. Having an API is important, but consumption is critical. Providing APIs that enable easier connections to your systems and services will lead to more app developers using them, and thus more apps connecting with your systems.
For example, in a retail situation where a developer needs product and pricing information, easy-to-use APIs with supporting documentation will win. More apps using your API lends more visibility and can drive traffic to your stores and online sites, boosting both brand awareness and revenue.
Sanjay: APIs can redefine the existing approach to doing things. Take maps and location as an example. Cloud-based maps and location APIs have been transformative, and as such they have multiple layers and drive value in different dimensions: productivity, architecture, new applications, and more. Location APIs have become pervasive and can transform the way your company does business. APIs can enable most any digital scenario that our creativity and imagination can come up with, giving them value well-beyond revenue.
Many thanks to Indix and Sanjay for taking the time to help us put these posts together.