Apparently, next week should be officially dubbed "Global API Strategy Week." The tech industry is already one big conferencapalooza given the way so many events conflict with one another. Even with Thanksgiving week in its midst, November alone includes developer-focused events such as Defrag, QCon, Amazon's RE:Invent, and Google Chrome Developer Summit. But rarely do we get two conferences about nearly the exact same thing at the same time. In this case, we have two events next week on nearly opposite sides of the planet; each dedicated to the subject of API strategies.
Now, If you subscribe to Netflix director of engineering Daniel Jacobsen's most recent thinking on why you probably don't need an API strategy, you might wonder how it is that the API economy could possibly sustain two simultaneous events on the subject matter. Jacobsen argues that for many organizations, APIs are a tactic. It's a semantic argument that to me, lacks context (note: 3Scale's CEO Steven Willmott has published his own retort). Maybe to the CEO of a big company, the APIs that are being released (internally or externally) are a tactic. But to the group or division that's releasing that API, I can guarantee you that it is most often viewed as a strategy and their approach to success should be structured as any great strategy would.
The first conference of note is the Apps World Conference and Exhibition taking place at Earls Court in London. With an expected attendance of more than 8,000 people many of whom are developers, Apps World is a monster of an event including free and paid workshops, more than 250 exhibits, and several hackfests. I will be chairing the API Strategies track that takes place on Oct 22. The second API-related event taking place next week is the API Strategy & Practice Conference in San Francisco. ProgrammableWeb editors Wendell Santos and Mark Boyd will be there covering the event. If you plan to be on that side of the planet, be sure to look them up if you've got a good API story to tell.
Back to London; one reason I'm thrilled to chair the API Strategies track is because of all the great panelists and speakers that will be there that day. Between the representation on the enterprise side from organizations like MasterCard, Coca-Cola, TripAdvisor, GSMA (producer of Mobile World Congress), The Financial Times, The Guardian, and Deutsche Post IT Services and on the solution provider side from the likes of Intel, 3Scale, Layer 7, ASOS, and SOA Software, this event represents a golden opportunity to rub shoulders with key API economy practitioners and players.
The day will be broken up in to seven presentations and three panel discussions, the latter of which I'll be moderating. The themes of the panels cover three key phases of the API lifecycle:
- API as the starting block for your development journey
- Launch and management of your API
- Developer communities – outreach and management
Based on initial conversations with my panelists, I'm looking forward to hearing about how an organization's API strategy can serve as a key lynchpin to both its internal services-oriented architecture as well as its external-facing business offerings. SOA Software CTO Alistair Farquharson wants to know if such initiatives should be business or IT-led. Or can it be a collaboration as was the case of one retail giant that recently told its story to ProgrammableWeb? The Guardian's Open Platform product manager Cantlin Ashrowan told me about one point he's going to hammer home; "If your software development practice isn't founded on federated APIs you are fundamentally doing it wrong." It will be interesting to see if his fellow panelists agree.
Another question that's recently come up -- and that will no doubt be a topic for debate -- has to do with the realization that despite its efficiency, the REST/JSON defacto for data marshaling may be forcing too much of a compromise in fidelity. That realization is giving rise to potential alternatives. One of my panelists --- Layer7 principal API architect Ronnie Mitra --- says we often hear about the WS-deathstar (referring to the Web services stack) from the SOA days but asks if we're headed down that road again? Is there a way to have our cake and eat it too?
Community is often the most neglected part of any API strategy. More often than not, I hear about the disappointment that follows the release of an API because of how few developers flocked to its new community. Note to API strategists: just because you build it doesn't mean they'll come. The community phase of your API strategy needs a plan replete with key performance indicator (KPI) expectations, it needs people, and it needs a budget. On the matter of KPIs, Mastercard OpenAPI Community and Platform vice president Dan Martin noted in pre-event planning that he would like to talk about the importance of being able to measure the impact of community. "You can never really learn what efforts work and what don't if you aren’t meticulous in tracking the impact" said Martin who will also be sharing some of his community trials and errors.
On the community front, I'm looking forward to hearing how GSMA mobile API strategist Manfred Bortenschlager figured out how to get multiple external organizations (namely, major carriers such as AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone, Rogers, Bell Canada, and TELUS ) to help drive the GSMA OneAPI programme forward on a global basis. Are there potential partners in your business ecosystem to help drive your API community?
I could go on, but there's literally too much to talk about given how packed the day is. Better yet, come join the conversation. If you're planning on being in the neighborhood, the organizers of Apps World are offering a 25% discount to ProgrammableWeb's audience members. Just go to the registration page and use the code "API25." See you there!
By David Berlind. David is the editor-in-chief of ProgrammableWeb.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect to David on Twitter at @dberlind or Google+, or friend him on Facebook.