Application programming interfaces, or APIs, enable external and internal consumers to seamlessly access, interact, and engage with a company’s data and functions. APIs essentially bind different parts of a value chain together even though the underlying components may be based on different systems, technology, or supplied by different vendors.
The use of APIs can be easily seen in the marketplace through the web of interconnectivity developing between popular SaaS and PaaS providers, along with partners and the developer community. For instance, the customer service management platform Service Now can interact via APIs with the customer master data in your NetSuite customer relationship management (CRM) system so when a customer calls your organization, all of the caller’s correct details are readily available. You know who they are and you don’t keep them frustrated on the phone for 10 minutes while you type in all their information.
APIs make the needed information readily accessible, promote the rapid development of new capabilities, and even greatly reduce the amount of rework required should you switch to a different vendor or datasource. Or, another example of the power of APIs is how your corporate travel site can “talk” to Trip Advisor (via APIs, of course!) to help manage your itinerary, share feedback on the hotel or airline, and help you sync travel plans with colleagues or customers.
The Power of APIs
When companies have access to data and functions via APIs, it empowers them to make smarter decisions, improve customer satisfaction, drive innovation, and identify new areas of business. In fact, many businesses have identified APIs as their largest enabler of digital transformation strategies. According to Harvard Business Review, Expedia.com, for instance, generates 50% of its revenue through APIs and eBay, 60%. The benefits of using APIs are many, including enabling new digital products, reducing time to market, opening new partner opportunities, enhancing customer experiences, and preparing for the future.
To reap the full benefits of all that APIs have to offer, your organization’s API strategy should reflect the key business drivers and goals upon which you are focusing in the market today. Say, for example, you supply a network of large companies with components. And they use an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system like SAP. Ideally, you would provide them with API endpoints so their order management system can talk to your order management system without any manual intervention, leading to automation and a lot of time saved. But how do you build an API strategy that will enable this digital transformation?
Developing a Successful API Program
Developing an API program is a significant undertaking that can have a profound impact on your organization. Because it can drive new products, new innovation, new customers, and new revenue streams, it’s not a task to take lightly. Even though APIs are important, many companies still struggle. We have found that it’s not enough to just start using APIs. In our experience, organizations that establish a comprehensive API strategy, whether the APIs are being consumed internally or externally, are the most successful.
For starters, you need to plan your API strategy like it’s a new business. That includes:
- Aligning to the business goals
- Identifying supporting technology
- Measuring performance
- Engaging your ecosystem
Aligning the business goals with the API program is important, as is identifying the appropriate use of technology and supporting architectures. KPIs are for measuring the success of the API program and ensuring that it is meeting the goals of the business. And engaging the ecosystem is important, whether this is for external API consumers or even internal API developers. It is important to know and understand your audience, what capabilities they need, how to support this audience, and how to build an effective communication plan for your program.
As you can see, building a successful API program is not just about technology. You need to define the foundation of your API program in terms of its strategy, monetization approach, target audience, goals, etc. And then evaluate and find an appropriate technology upon which you can execute the API lifecycle. Think about it. It’s like any other product that you produce. You wouldn’t launch a new product without a go-to-market strategy, would you? APIs are the same. They need nurturing and support to grow into their full potential.
In his new, easy-to-use book, “API Success: The Journey to Digital Transformation,” API and tech expert Nelson Petracek sets out the criteria, questions, and thought processes you need to consider to build and deliver a successful API strategy that is technology-agnostic. Petracek draws on his decades of customer use cases and interactions to layout a guide that your company can use to create and run a successful API program.