Most business leaders now agree that APIs are an expected facet of business in the modern digital economy. According to the 2018 State Of API Integration Report by Cloud Elements, 85% of organizations interviewed consider web APIs and API-based integration essential to their business strategy and continued success. 60% of these organizations have invested in a public-facing API and the necessary infrastructure for developers.
According to Kin Lane of API Evangelist, who has been watching the API economy since 2010, “the biggest trend I am seeing is that it’s no longer a conversation about whether or not businesses should be doing APIs… it is expected that you need APIs to do business in this digital age.”
There you have it. Any enterprise that hopes to be successful, or even competitive, should be considering APIs as part of their digital strategy.
This strategy is something that Enterprise API Management: Design and Deliver Valuable Business APIs, by Luis Weir, covers well. Enterprise API Management, published by Packt Publishing, features nearly everything an organization would need to know to get an API business up-and-running, regardless of your knowledge or technical expertise.
Why An Enterprise Needs An API: Lessons Learned
Enterprise API Management comes straight out of the gate, explaining both what an API is as well as why an enterprise should be considering implementing one if they haven’t already.
“The web revolution was a kick-start for the next era for businesses – digital transformation. And APIs are the connective fabric of this much-debated digital transformation. Under API transformation, you deliver your organizational capabilities – your products – via APIs. Your communication, information exchange, innovation, and adaptation to ever-changing market conditions happens through well-laid-out APIs. The APIs become the backbone of your company. You can even leverage your partner sales channels with the right APIs!
Throughout the text, Luis Weir’s examination of the intricate world of APIs at the enterprise level is thorough to the point of being exhaustive. Exhaustive, but not exhausting. Weir’s writing style is legible and understandable even for those completely unfamiliar with API programming and design going in.
That being said, Enterprise API Management is written more like a textbook than a tutorial or work of creative nonfiction. Like many technical guidebooks, Enterprise API Management’s not necessarily meant to be read from cover-to-cover or in one sitting. It’s dense, and you’re not likely to absorb it all in one sitting. Below, we cover some of the most crucial lessons from Enterprise API Management.
Lesson #1: APIs are crucial for Digital Transformation (and disruption)
The preface and first three chapters of Enterprise API Management are an introduction to APIs in general and how they’re being used in today’s digital business world.
While some subheadings such as Change Or Die from Chapter 1, The Business Value of API might sound hyperbolic, he’s not wrong. Weir illustrates the concept of the necessity of staying current with the examples of both Kodak and Blockbuster. Both were gigantic corporations that didn’t see the technological shifts waiting in the wings. Both were effectively decimated, although Kodak’s still hanging on by a thread.
As Weir notes, quoting from the Harvard Business Review “B2C organizations that haven’t been able to innovate and engage customers in different ways, and through digital channels, are more susceptible to being disrupted by newer and more agile businesses.” Weir agrees, noting two ways such industries are disrupted: “First, low barriers to entry into these sectors lead to more agile competition. Secondly, they have large legacy business models which often generate the majority of their revenue.” As a result, Weir notes that embedded culture and organizational challenges present an impasse to quick change.
Weir cements his points with some pertinent statistics, such as that there are 2 billion smartphone users in the world or that on average, users check their phones an average of 85 times a day. He also details the sheer growth of the API industry as evidence. The industry has grown from the first few public APIs at eBay and Netflix in the mid-2000s to a robust ecosystem of over 20,000 public APIs.
Lesson #2: Great API management is founded on impeccable API design
Consider the section on API management, where Weir breaks the process of implementing an API info nine stages.
The Nine Stages Of API Implementation
- Community Management.
As Weir notes in the design sub-section, “Design-first thinking is fundamental in any API management initiative. Tools and processes that enable API-first design (covered in detail in subsequent chapters), and that encourage API designers and API consumers to interact during the design of an API, will shorten the development life cycle and therefore reduce costs, as the actual product produced will most likely meet the requirements from the get-go, without having to iterate several times through the entire implementation process to get it right.”
Those insights are worth the price of admission alone. If you’ve ever designed an API, you’ll know that things can quickly spiral out of control if you don’t stay focused on your end goal. If you’re reading Enterprise API Management in preparation for launching your first enterprise-level API, take Weir at his word. Planning your API ahead of time will help you focus on what data need you to collect, as well as how it’s filed and organized.
Too much or the wrong kind of data can be even worse than having no data at all.
Lesson #3: Direct profit is rare, most APIs benefit the business indirectly
Things really start to heat up with Chapter 3, “Business-Led API Strategy,” as Weir begins to introduce the tools and approaches you’ll need to develop effective and useful APIs that are also profitable.
“It is not always clear how an API initiative (which from the outset seems quite technical) can be related to the business, let alone what/how business benefits can be realized and measured,” says Weir.
This observation is another example of why you should read Enterprise API Management, no matter where you are in your API design journey. Too often, the business and technical sides of an organization don’t see eye-to-eye. Coders and developers are not necessarily thinking like a sales team or marketing department. Unfortunately, this runs the risk of making their code less than useless for delivering actual business results, let alone yielding a positive ROI.
Reading Enterprise API Management helps get your business team and IT department on the same page. It’ll help establish a universal lexicon, so everyone can communicate effectively, collaborate well, and work together towards making your business as effective and future-proof as possible.
Lesson #4: Data Is An Asset
According to a recent study from MIT, The Rise Of Data Capital, data is now one of the most important assets for an enterprise. “Data is now a form of capital, on the same level as financial capital in terms of generating new digital products and services. This development has implications for every company’s competitive strategy, as well as for the computing architecture that supports it.”
Data is already becoming a major source of revenue for a wide swathe of businesses. Salesforce.com earns 50% of its revenue via its API. eBay’s API accounts for 60% of its total revenue. Expedia.com’s API accounts for 90% of its revenue. Clearly, there is money to be made from both data and APIs.
The challenge comes from helping higher-ups to understand the earning potential of data and APIs. Too often, an enterprise’s data sits in siloes, unused and unobserved. An API allows an interface to assess how that data is being accessed and by whom, which offers insights into why your customers are seeking that data.
In this way, not only can data and an API be a source of revenue for your business, in its own right, it can also yield further business insights
Enterprise API Management: Summary
Enterprise API Management by Luis Weir is helpful reading for both businesses that are new to API development as well as more seasoned veterans that are looking to streamline their API design.
You should have a copy of Enterprise API Management on your shelf of technical manuals or among your digital toolbox for frequent and easy reference, however. It’s easy to use, quick to reference and eminently skimmable thanks to its excellent formatting. You’ll find yourself bookmarking your favorite sections and passages. You may be surprised to notice how many sections you end up highlighting.
Enterprise API Management is an essential resource for anyone looking to start integrating API into your organization, taking advantage of their ability to raise capital as well as your company’s profile. Data is quickly becoming one of the most valuable assets a business can possess. Failing to leverage that data into new business models is essentially leaving money on the table.