API World Day Two: Finance APIs Take Front Seat and Why Developers Need to be Business Analysts

Mark Boyd
Oct. 04 2013, 03:39PM EDT

DataWeek and API World are already a blur, with Day Two of the industry proceedings wrapping up late last night. A packed agenda saw as many as ten sessions all happening at once, creating a sense that perhaps this conference is trying to appeal to too many audiences at once, and making it more difficult to identify emerging trends across the API economy.

Several key themes were prominent across the day’s activities, however, including the increased trust emerging in financial APIs, continued discussion on viable business models for enterprises with an API and startups reliant on APIs, and the changing nature of API services that is seeing developers require greater business analysis skills.

Finance APIs

Finance APIs seem to be undergoing a chasm-leap in a similar vein to how initial scepticism for online retail was overcome. Like the early days of online retail when many would-be customers were reluctant to add their credit card details to online shopping carts, suggestions of using banking and finance APIs met with stern queries about the security of channelling data. With API management platforms promoting trust signals around their security provisions, and with many mobile backend-as-a-service platforms offering to manage the security protocols so developers don’t need to get their hands wet, there appears to be a paradigm-shift towards accepting financial data APIs into the API economy and ecosystem infratsructure.

API World saw several announcements of new finance-related APIs including:

  • Dun & Bradstreet launched their D&B Direct 2.0 API Solution on October 2. The new data service allows developers to plugin to Dun & Bradstreet’s finance and business analytics including business risk scores and ratings, fraud and compliance monitoring and intelligence gathered from social media, finance news and industry-related data points. Ken Maranian, from Dun & Bradstreet ran a workshop showing developers how to use D&B’s API products to improve investment decision-making and operational cashflow through the timely use of business analytics data about competitors, suppliers and partners.
  • AccountingSuite presented their Real-time Cloud Accounting API on October 3 at API World, signalling that for “the world of accounting and business software - it's ‘API or Die.’ They argue that asynchronous API, CSV excel import files and on-premises software packages have served the industry well, with an emphasis on the past tense… now finance systems need to avoid duplicate entry into multiple finance systems, and to create a batchless environment capable of managing instantaneous data updates. As sponsors of API World, AccountingSuite offered a scholarship to hackathon winners Powerlytics for their use of the AccountingSuite API.
  • Payvia were in attendance to talk up their new APIs aimed at easing mobile payment solutions. Amy Castor reports from API World on their API and their acquisition of Mogreet.

Finance APIs are a hot topic amongst developers. The release of the Venmo API recently, for example, has captured a lot of developer attention and was heard being talked about at API World.

The Developer as Business Analyst

Several talks and discussions across API World highlighted the closer relationship emerging between technologists and business decision-makers within an enterprise. The shift is being driven by two separate but related discussions:

  • How to create a viable business model using APIs.
  • With greater API orchestration available through new services, developers are requiring more business analytic skills to carry out their work.

Every business a data business?

Discussions from Day One of API World that had centered on mapping a viable business model using APIs continued into Day Two, with some debate and contention amongst API management platforms on what to expect in the near future. Richard Pulliam from Layer 7 Technologies, for example, argued that “every business is in the data business”, but that many enterprises have yet to monetize their data. For now, REST APIs provide a programmatic way for these companies to start demonstrating the value proposition of their data. On the other hand, Devon Biondi from Mashery and Sam Ramji from Apigee were less disruptive in their expectations, seeing the data mindset as something that will be outsourced: General Motors will keep the focus on making trucks, Ramji argues.

If Pulliam is right, developers may be expected to contribute more to helping a business map out what data is opened up, and be responsible for measuring the monetization potential of creating access to a company’s data assets. If Biondi and Ramji are right, more data companies and startups will need developers to help them develop products built on exploiting the opportunities locked in proprietary data held by enterprises who don’t know what to do with it. Either way, developers will need more business context to accompany their technical skills.

Every developer a business analyst?

The importance of business analytic skills amongst developers was further demonstrated by the release of new SOA Software services. Their new mobile application gateway helps enterprises expose mobile applications as APIs. Over recent years, APIs on the client-side have become so complex that they are unwieldy in a BYOD era. As staff use mobile devices to access enterprise data, their devices just don’t have the processing power to carry out the sort of realtime data analytics necessary to inform their business communications. SOA Software’s approach – in a similar way to AnyPresence and Webshell – aims to simplify the developer experience so that they are assembling code from templates or code snippets. This moves the goalposts so that developers, instead of being proficient in technical coding languages must now become proficient in API orchestration and have a deeper understanding of workflow and how it will improve a company’s business goals.

But wait there’s more!

API World and DataWeek also held conference streams on analytics-as-a-service, touched on medical and health data API services, and looked at marketing intelligence techniques using APIs and big data. Converting web data into datasets and APIs was also a common topic, with examples ranging from webscraping techniques that can allow a startup to monetize external datasets, to WebKnox’s natural language API tools. Meanwhile, Stupeflix launched a suite of APIs to assist video creation developers and to support brands automate dynamic user-generated content. Individual reports from the ProgrammableWeb team will cover all these and more over the next few days.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities. I can be contacted via email, on Twitter, or on Google+.

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