Why Your Business Needs to Become a Platform

Mark Boyd
Nov. 26 2013, 08:00AM EST

In one of the opening sessions at today's NordicAPIs, co-organizer of the event and CEO of Twobo Technologies, Travis Spencer, urged businesses to not only adopt an API strategy, but to reorient their businesses towards becoming an API platform. It is a bold assertion that previously has only been taken up by large players (US telco AT&T speak about reorienting as a platform for example), yet Spencer is saying that in order to succeed, all businesses will need to reorient - and the sooner the better.

Arguing that "adopters of mega trends in cloud, social, mobile and big data will become the new market leaders", Spencer explained that businesses must become an API platform to be able to gain strategic advantage.

Spencer is calling this the "Platformification Effect". The explosion of mobile devices in the workplace, for example, is necessitating access to data by custom and packaged apps, while enterprises require access-from-anywhere to corporate data. Spencer quoted Eve Maler from Forrester: "APIs can create and unlock the value of business data."

And while APIs will power this new value flow, end customers are likely to be none the wiser. Reiterating Andreas Krohn's opening discussion on the disruptive impact of APIs, Spencer warns that end customers aren't going to mention APIs per se: while end customers may be upset they can no longer share their Instagrammed photos via Twitter, they probably have no idea this was a change in the API supply chain.

Ben Nunney, in a talk on Twilio's experience in working with developers backed this up in his presentation immediately following: "If you build a service, you have an API. The end result [of providing an API should be] a greater experience for end users."

Spencer explained: "We need to connect the dots for customers, so we need to be thinking about how we put data out there and how we consume it from other businesses. Most future products and services will be apps that consume APIs of platformified companies."

Spencer points to an example from Pearson, a publishing company specializing in travel guides. They have a wealth of travel data collected in order to publish travel guides. Pearson recognized that the data behind their travel guides could be amalgamated with other data to create new products and services. In this way, they leveraged the sunk cost (of guidebook data) to create new revenue streams. "Pearson started with one API and have now created a whole platform," Spencer said, urging incremental change for businesses unfamiliar with an API strategic approach.

How do businesses get started?

Spencer argued that identity is at the center of the new business mega trends of cloud, mobile, social and big data. To access data assets, confirming identity is the essential first step. A neo-security stack that manages federation, provisioning, identity, delegated access and authorization allows businesses to make use of international standards, industry adopted norms and secure infrastructure.

Spencer demonstrated how underlying technologies including SCIM, OAuth and SAML can create a neo-security stack that underpins identity, API, and entitlement management platforms. Here, security becomes an enabler for business: helping companies maintain control where needed, but fostering the innovation inherent in a connected platform.

NordicAPIs continues for the rest of today with talks by Mark Cheshire from 3scale, Andy Jones from SOA Software, the launch of a Swedish API licencing platform, and a presentation from creative agency Deportivo on how APIs are part of the creative pallet they use in their digital PR client work. This afternoon, ProgrammableWeb will be moderating a panel on how businesses can adapt to an API-enabled world.

Check back later today for more coverage of NordicAPIs. Videos of the days proceedings can be viewed online.

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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