Key Lessons From 100 API Projects

If you’d spent the last five years collaborating on over 100 enterprise API projects, what do you think the biggest takeaways might have been?

At our 2018 Platform Summit, we had Frederic Pozzi, Vice President of Digital Sales at Axway answer this question — except there was no hypothetical element since he has spent the last five years working on over 100 enterprise API projects.

In this article, we’ll walk you through three of Frederic’s key learnings from Axway’s stance in the API world.

Understanding Axway

Axway is a sizable information technology company that focuses on API management and cloud integration for many multinational enterprises. Previously, their primary focus had been traditional enterprise software solutions, but they began their foray into the world of API management with the acquisition of Vordel in late 2012.

Vordel was an API management vendor and gateway provider that was already well-established in the global market, with enterprise customers including Allianz, 3 UK, and Mazda.

Frederic described the projects from this immediate post-acquisition era as “tactical projects”; that is to say that they were highly technical projects with experts in SOA, XML, and security. However, the value of APIs still wasn’t proven, and Axway battled hard to encourage their clients to build bigger, more powerful APIs.

“We had to work project after project to demonstrate the qualities — the advantages — of using APIs.”

Lesson One: APIs Are Everywhere

In working with APIs on an everyday basis, one of the most abundantly apparent takeaways has been the huge surge in API usage across industries and applications.

As we saw a second ago, Frederic’s early days of API management were focused on big, bulky enterprise projects that were presumably far and few between. Many of these APIs were internal systems and didn’t serve as products in their own right.

However, a huge paradigm shift in API usage has caused an explosion in the number of discoverable, outwards-facing APIs, with almost every contemporary application now featuring an API suite in the supporting role.

“Any Salesforce application has APIs, any enterprise application now offers APIs… everyone now offers you APIs with the application you’re buying.”

In a sense, this implied learning from Frederic’s presentation captures two separate (but inherently related) phenomena: a growing demand for API solutions in general, and a growing number of new and innovative applications for APIs.

Lesson Two: API Management is Key

Another lesson from these years of API practice was the importance of API management. No matter whether it’s an API you’ve acquired or an API you’ve built from the ground up, Frederic believes APIs need to be managed in every sense of the word.

That means security needs to stay tight, the lifecycle needs to be controlled, and in some cases, traffic needs to be throttled — among other such concerns. Frederic notes that he’s witnessed many cases where customers purchase new APIs that weren’t built to meet their eventual demands; that’s when throttling would’ve been much appreciated.

Customers bought new, fancy applications full of APIs and they used them, for instance in mobile applications, but the mobile applications were used by millions of their clients, and guess what? The backend just broke and fell over, because it wasn’t properly managed and the requests weren’t properly throttled.

Lesson Three: APIs Are Tied to Business

Analyzing the relationship between business and APIs gives rise to Frederic’s third and final takeaway — undoubtedly the most important — which we’ll reveal in just a second.

Ask yourself this: what type of business do APIs serve? Six years ago, Frederic says, it was just banks and financial institutions that were serious about growing into their use of APIs; after all, they made up fifty percent of Axway’s API management revenue.

There are now endless use cases for APIs. As we’ve previously covered, APIs are affecting g multiple sectors, from farming to travel, healthcare, machine learning, connected energy, automotive, IoT, among many others.

“Any business could potentially take advantage of APIs.”

In Frederic’s case, this has highlighted the importance of treating APIs as part of a business model. For him, five years of key learnings haven’t really touched on the technology aspect too much — rather, they’ve further solidified this relationship between APIs and business.

“There’s nothing in particular to “crack” [technology-wise] to help enterprises adopt APIs.”

Frederic has come to ask his new customers one key question: what is your company’s business model around APIs? It was the customers with the clearest visions for how an API contributes to their business — treating the APIs as products and ensuring understanding among business folk from day one — that had the most successful projects. Not only did they have more genuine use cases (and more of them), the development and rollout itself were faster and better-funded.

The Proof Is In The Pudding

In his presentation, Frederic supplied impressive examples of just how significant this API-business relationship is. For starters, he offers up the case study of Twilio — whose sole product is their APIs — and is worth more than six billion dollars. Almost immediately, APIs start to sound a lot more attractive to the business folk who are distributing funding and choosing hiring quotas!

Fun fact: 64% of major API providers believe API integrations lead to greater revenue. (Source: 2018 State of Integrations API Report)

He also delved into Axway’s collaboration with an unnamed major bank. With their successive deployments of API platforms, it was clear how greater acceptance for this kind of work made future worker faster and smoother. Ultimately, this investment in APIs led them to a place where they can now serve prospect clients quicker and provide a better service.

“Suddenly, you are not just perceived as a center of cost, but something that really creates value for the company.”

A Final Note

It’s clear that the biggest takeaway from years of API management was the importance of the close relationship between business and API. That said, Frederic’s journey also captures half a decade of evolution in API practice and the undeniable importance of ongoing API management.

As a closing suggestion, Frederic mentioned how some CIOs had used their tech budgets on consulting firms, just to educate their business folk on the importance of API management and APIs as a whole. This, he says, is an excellent investment.