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Keanu Reeves Made the Right Decision. Will You?

The secret to turning your API portfolio into a business-impact "power curve"
Aug 26, 2016

In the 1999 film “The Matrix,” Keanu Reeves’ character Neo chooses to embrace the potentially painful truth by taking the “red pill” rather than the blissful ignorance of illusion offered by the “blue pill.”

This choice inspired the title of our session on API best practices at our Adapt of Die World Tour 2016: “Get Ready for the Red Pill: How to Service Enable Your Crown Jewels with APIs.”

The critical importance of coming to grips with the scope, scale, and urgency of digital competition and “going big” with APIs was part of the reason.

But hang on: the ride doesn’t end there.

Another potentially painful truth is that “going big” doesn’t mean simply allocating more money via the same old budgeting process into the same old project pipeline so IT can pump more APIs into the same old business planning cycle.

That’s a recipe for getting “Ubered,” or “Amazoned.”

The power of digital assets

The names of these two companies have been turned into verbs to describe what happens when  disruptors capable of super-linear growth (across both revenue and scale) challenge incumbents whose pre-digital era strategy planning or product development cycles can’t keep pace.

They’re masters of digital assets like data and APIs. As two of the founders of the Digital Initiative at Harvard Business School explain, digital assets can be exactly replicated an infinite number of times, at zero marginal cost.

This means that every well-designed, modern digital asset effectively has infinite capacity for re-use, additional use cases, and more partners. It also enables you to bring a lot of small bets to the market, quickly—and, consequently, to find the few that can hyper-scale immediately.

Embracing the mash-up

The “API economy” is powered by APIs.  It may be better understood, however, as the “mash-up” economy.  

We know what that looks like—literally.  

The Center for Global Enterprise created a great visualization of API mash ups on the open Internet (one of the big nodes at the top right is Amazon’s ubiquitous product API).

And then there’s the visualization of Amazon’s internal microservices connections (APIs) circa 2008. It looks a lot like the open web—because, by design,  it works much like the open web.

Every enterprise needs to embrace a mindset and master the tools needed to make the most of the opportunities presented by a mash-up economy, where the highest and best use of any API is fluid across boundaries inside and outside the firm.

That’s not a skill restricted to digital natives like Amazon. Walgreens built its PhotoPrints API for internal purposes to enable its app to send digital photos to in-store printers. Today, there are more than 200 mash ups using this API—and generating shared revenue for Walgreens and each outside partner.

Every digital asset as an API

What we’ve arrived at as a framework for building mash-up economy competitiveness among non-digital natives is the enterprise API portfolio. It encompasses an underlying discipline of service enabling every digital asset as a modern web API, coupled with the vision to invest in strategic product management for those assets with market potential."

The benchmarks for success that we have observed underpin the framework and have shaped the agenda of our Adapt or Die World Tour. We’ll dig deeper into it here on the Apigee blog and in the Apigee Community—but don’t miss the opportunity to join us at Adapt or Die in San Francisco on Sept. 27 to learn about it first-hand.


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