API or Die

by Maria Birger

Now your enterprise seems digital enough.
But does it offer API?

In the caveman days, companies relied on telephones and fax machines to connect with external parties. Then as technologies evolved, companies began to administer websites to organize functioning. The future holds API.

So you and your company have finally made it to a digital platform. For some people, this step may have felt like a complicated ordeal, for others, it was the natural next step. Whichever side of the spectrum you are on, it was the right decision, and this transformation will only serve to benefit your company. However, this is not the end of the line.

Now, it is time to administer API, the most vital element of a digital enterprising.

What is API

What is API

API stands for an application programming interface. In essence, API serves as the link between multiple software programs. Generally, in this process, a program will demand a request, which is carried by API to another program. This other program processes the request and produces a result. The completed result is then sent back to the original program by API yet again. API can be thought of as an agreement between software vendors and external parties, which guarantees access to data through a documented interface.

In short, API is a conversation between two computer systems. The complicated technical process that occurs may be simplified by comparing a company without API to a black box. No one can see inside or outside the black box. There may be many fascinating business ideas occurring within the black box, but no one outside the box can ever tell. However, when API is added, visibility is created. Partners using API receive access to the digital functions of a company, carefully designed and published by API architects.

In the real world, API is everywhere the minute you log into an internet browser, facilitating smooth functioning. API allows companies to divulge useful data to customers, vendors, partners, and third parties quickly, precisely, and at virtually no cost.

Why is it important for your company to have an API?

API will be taking over the functioning world in the near future. In fact, this transformation has already commenced, so it is only a matter of time before API programs take over entirely.

To illustrate this future, imagine a world that is entirely connected through API. Programmers will be connected to companies, companies will be connected to customers, and customers will be connected to their various needs. An unbreaking web of connections will blossom into a precise net of efficiency. Anyone left out of this web will essentially be trapped on a deserted island, without any resources, and no easy way to connect to the rest of the world.

If your company does not connect with API, you will be left at a considerable disadvantage. Furthermore, this API driven future will cut down on the number of existing businesses. There won't be nearly as many competing companies, and rest assured the first companies to go will be the ones not in on the API loop.

API success stories

API success stories

It is essential to understand that loads of companies are already embracing API, and many new companies armed with API are emerging and gaining popularity faster than certain companies who have not yet adapted. Big-name companies like Walmart, Apple, Google, Uber, and Paypal are all administering API, which allows them to stay relevant and in front of competitors.

Furthermore, API is not just for big fish, and it is not out of reach for budding companies. Projects of all sizes should be actively pursuing API as a lead driver for digital expansion. There is already proof that the companies embracing API are more successful in their everyday business functioning. With the integration of API, companies are saving money and generating larger rewards.

As stated in an analysis by Harvard Business Review, many successful companies are already reaping the rewards of API integration. With the addition of photo services that allowed customers to print photos from their phones, dropbox, or social media accounts, Walgreens dramatically increased its customer relationship. With this addition, their photo services have become far more popular than the programs of servicers, not offering this convenient option, and the profits reflected this. 60% of Ebay's revenue and 90% of Expedia's comes from API. By allowing real estate possibilities to be viewed on google maps, google severely increased its navigation app's popularity.

API vs. web interface

If a web interface can be considered the home of a company's digital enterprise, then an API can be thought of as the street on which the home is located.

The web interface is the page anyone accessing a website interacts with. Strong web interface will be neatly organized, user-friendly, and accessible through a variety of technologies such as laptops, phones, and tablets. API should not be confused with a decent web interface, but rather yet another component that strengthens the company's digital infrastructure.

While a company's web interface is typically designed for human consumption, API is designed for other computers. Therefore, unlike a website, API designers do not care about colors, fonts, and pretty pictures. API is all about efficiency, speed, security, and performance.

How can my company get there?

It starts with business planning. Your company's future API will probably be one of the most critical digital artifacts published to the external world, and it has to be carefully architected to serve the desired business purpose. The strength of your API will determine the position of your company within the digital marketplace as it grows exponentially bigger.

Here are possible milestones leading to your API future:

  • First, clean your digital house. When attaching API, the internal affairs of your digital company will become visible to the external world. Therefore, the infrastructure proceeding API must be strong enough to support this future.

  • Next, develop a business case for API. This step is by far the most important one. The case made for API will determine how the company will be positioned in the future web of connections. Ultimately, this is what determines the long-term success of API within a company as it outlines the roadmap for providing digital services to customers, partners, and vendors.

  • Then, select your API technology platform. In the modern age, companies often choose API platforms such as Mulesoft, Akana, Azure API Management, Kong Enterprises, and others. Although API development can be accomplished without platforms, they should at least be considered and weighed for efficiency advantages.

  • From there, form your API team. API connectivity is a hot skill on the market, and it is not easy to find experienced integrators. Usually, combined teams are deployed for sizable projects, consisting of internal employees from a company and outsourced consulting groups. By combining on-shore and off-shore resources into powerful delivery teams, a company can jump-start a project with external experience, without significantly increasing its employee headcount. It is crucial to have strong architects, well-versed project managers, and experienced and productive API developers to create a successful enterprise.

  • Then you can develop your API. It is important during development to follow the best practices of API development, to make sure that the process is tightly controlled. Be informed on architecture, security, performance, and code quality point of view. As API develops, it evolves, typically growing through multiple releases. However, since external companies might already be connected and using the current release, it is crucial to maintain compatibility between old and new versions.

  • Following this, test your API. Like any software, API has to go through thorough testing. Often the best approach is to combine automatic testing with manual testing. Considering the external impact of API projects, no Quality Assurance is too much.

  • Lastly, market your API. Marketing of API to external companies (customers, vendors, service providers) is needed for the long term business success of API. This assures that the company will take the most beneficial position in the future connected world. Also, it is important to listen and learn from your API connections, as they can provide outstanding advice and market intelligence.

API Led Connectivity

API set up, and delivery can be explained in an easy check-list style pattern. The pattern enables companies to keep track of the process in a neat, linear fashion leading to the reusability of APIs.

Whether APIs are internally or externally facing, you can glean the most reusability by thoughtfully planning and designing an application network. This is a term made popular in the API Management space that refers to an API deployment design pattern known as API-led connectivity.

This design pattern requires that a company consider what data entities it would like to manage. Some examples of these entities include customers, inventory, and orders. Each data entity receives something called a process API that governs business data in one place. The process APIs consume system APIs that manage the interfaces into each backend system. Each system receives its own API. The process APIs are consumed by experience APIs, which are specific to each data-hungry front-end application.

This three-tiered design pattern (experience, process, and system APIs) ensures that an organization can reuse data to innovate rapidly.

The Takeaway

Don't get locked out of the loop. Don't send your company to a deserted island. If API is the future, then take the next step, and start planning for API integration in your projects. Prepare your digital enterprise, create your API, and stay relevant in the business sphere.

Get connected to start on the chain of events leading to the best rewards. Add your company's name to the expanding list of API success stories.

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