Business today is driven by getting information to the right people at the right time. But knowing how to get the most out of valuable company data—from customers, products, supply chains, operations, and more—is a new way of thinking for most companies. And it’s becoming the new imperative.
We call it the API Economy. Business leaders are starting to harness data in APIs that can drive innovation from the inside out. They’re taking on a new integration mindset that is concerned less with connecting applications and more with exposing information within and beyond organizational boundaries.
It starts with a shift in perspective for everyone in their technology—moving from questions about how technology runs to questions about how technology is supporting business goals to their best ability. Customer experience, global expansion, omnichannel engagement, and regulatory compliance are heart-of-the-business issues, and all of them can be more effective by exposing, orchestrating, and monetizing services through APIs.
Ross Mason, MuleSoft Founder and
VP of Product Strategy
The CIO clearly has a critical role to play in all this, but so do all leaders in the organization. The first step is for leaders to train their talent to think differently about technology and broaden the IT mindset from building, testing, and runtimes to delivering the data—the assets of value. Once you’ve laid that foundation, here are some tips you can take based on lessons learned we’ve learned from our early adopter clients:
- Define your API product. APIs should have a name, a clear intention, a clean definition of the value, and perhaps more important, a clearly defined audience. Is it a small set of known developers, a large set of unknown developers, or both? Is it public, semi-private, or private? How do these essential facts inform the scope, orientation, and value of the service?
- State your purpose. Name what’s driving the API charge: Is it business model innovation or technical services? The latter may be easier for an IT executive to champion, especially if the API is launched as part of a broader IT delivery transformation, technical debt reversal, or DevOps program. It can also simplify the path forward and the expected outcomes by focusing on service calls, performance, standard adherence, shrinking dev timelines, and lower maintenance costs. Planting the seed of how business services and APIs could unlock new business models may be trickier. But the faster the initiative is linked to growth and innovation, the better.
- Define your governance model. Base your chosen model on the intended consumers (internal, partners, public at large) and whether the program is being driven by IT or the business. Tools such as API management platforms can provide a dashboard-like view into the inner workings of a solution landscape. The visibility can provide a better handle on dependencies and performance of the core services across legacy systems and data.
- Focus on pragmatic solutions for your technology. There are many decision points, and they can become distracting. REST or SOAP for the service protocol? JSON or XML for the data formatting? Resource or experience-based design philosophy? One size generally doesn’t fit all for most questions like these. Companies should make appropriate decisions to guide shorter-term needs with a focus on pragmatism, not doctrinaire purity.
- Plan big, start small. Joint cross-industry opportunities may be tempting right out of the gate. However, businesses should consider carefully whether the payoff trumps the extra complexity. Ideally, companies should use open, well-documented services to accelerate time to prototype. Expecting constant change and speedy execution is part of the shift to the API economy. Enterprises can use their first endeavors to anchor the new “business as usual.”
- Plan your adoption campaign. Don’t forget about planning your communications—if people don’t know about your API, they can’t leverage it. Collaborate with your marketing and PR teams to create a sustained campaign designed to drive awareness, subscriptions, and support. Beyond readying the core APIs and surrounding management services, don’t forget about the additional items required: documentation, code samples, testing and certification tools, support models, monitoring, maintenance, and upkeep. Incentives and attempts to influence stakeholders should be tied to target audiences and framed accordingly.
This post is based on a chapter from Deloitte's 2015 Tech Trends report called the API Economy chapter, written by George Collins, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and David Sisk, Director, Deloitte Consulting LLP, with contributions from our MuleSoft alliance Ross Mason, Founder and VP of Product Strategy, MuleSoft, and Uri Sarid, Chief Technology Officer, MuleSoft.