Indix and the Power of APIs in Commerce
Our customer Indix collects, structures, and refines product information from the web and makes it available via a catalog in the cloud. Recently, the company’s founder and CEO Sanjay Parthasarathy published a couple of blog posts about APIs. His first post explored how APIs are redefining everything we do in the digital world. He also wrote about some particular applications of APIs in commerce.
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. In this first installment of a two-part series, Sanjay and I compared thoughts on various topics related to cloud-based APIs and launching an API program.
“Digital” and “innovative” are often terms used together. What’s the difference?
Alex: Innovative companies introduce new experiences and modify existing ones with incredible speed. Digital technology is what enables this. The speed is made possible by having a digital platform with standards and automated processes for developing and deploying APIs. Think of apps that have new features added continuously.
Innovative companies deploy APIs quickly. They are also constantly experimenting and doing away with experiences that don’t gain traction. The teams behind such apps are turning their companies into digital businesses.
Sanjay: Digital is an alternative mode of existence for things in the physical world. A real product (a shirt, a shoe, a car) has a digital parallel that is used in e-commerce, in supply chains, and at every point along its lifecycle. The physical and digital worlds complement each other.
When you overlay digital information on the physical world, you get augmented reality. Innovation is something different—it’s about a new, different, interesting, or valuable take on things. These days, being digital is not necessarily about being innovative, since so many businesses have already made the leap. But being digital certainly makes for more rapid innovation.
What's the value proposition in building a cloud-based API?
Alex: APIs enable companies to securely connect with customers, partners, and employees at lightning speed and at scale. Placing these APIs in a cloud-based solution enable companies to focus on building an API program and not worry about the tools and infrastructure necessary to run, monitor, and scale the software. Businesses have been searching for these benefits through other technologies, but they always seem to fall short.
A well-structured digital program provides developers the ability to search and quickly get access to existing APIs, access to technical documentation for details on calling and receiving data, and the ability to test their apps, all independent of having to contact anyone. It also enables scaling, so developing an API that provides information for one customer or partner can scale to billions of calls.
Sanjay: The prime value proposition is productivity. Building and exposing cloud-based APIs enables developers both within and outside a company to access them. We thought about writing our own billing and metering system but it was so much more productive to use the Apigee platform, and focus energy on our core services.
The other advantage is that APIs enable you to go where the customers are, instead of waiting for customers to come to you. In other words, your API can be integrated into existing applications or workflows with existing users.
Finally, APIs are transformative rather than incremental in nature. This in itself presents multiple inherent layers of value.
What are the most important things to consider before starting on a digital transformation journey?
Alex: Executive support and vision for the digital journey. Often, teams implementing a digital platform will encounter legacy processes that slow the pace of innovation. We often hear of disruption at the business level, but we advocate that disruption also has to happen at the company level where teams are empowered to innovate and deploy APIs quickly.
Sanjay: I agree with the points that Alex makes. I would add the need for a clear definition of the desired outcomes—is it experimentation? Is it revenue? Is it users? Or maybe it’s productivity?
Businesses also must establish a common language and understanding of outcomes across their teams. For instance, when someone says productivity, unless it is specified, different people will interpret it differently based on their context.
The best way to get to a common understanding is to build a demo or a prototype to illustrate the value of the API. People need to see it to appreciate the value proposition. APIs can be transformative for a company, and not just incremental.
Coming up next, Sanjay and I will discuss the use of APIs versus other approaches.