Intuit publishes hundreds of apps built with the APIs for its QuickBooks accounting software. Many of Intuit’s APIs have only been going a couple of years but their success has turned heads. Mark Boyd sat down with Intuit’s Ketan Kittur, director of project management and partnership integrations, to understand how the company makes sure its third party devs are successful.
Intuit got into the API business some years ago because it found that creating APIs saved clients time moving data between systems and encouraged them to look for more ways to incorporate QuickBooks into their workflows. As recently as 2014, the company still only had around 50 published apps. But seeing the impact of these few apps on the lifetime value of customers, it invested more heavily in APIs and now has over 450 published apps and 1000s of developers working with its APIs.
While Intuit wants all its developers to be successful, not all of the many thousands are equally valuable to the business or to customers. Ketan explains that the company has a process for selecting the API clients the company really wants to focus its attention on. First off, the team looks for pressing client problems not on the product roadmap. It then searches the dev community for solutions. The outreach team works with these developers to make sure their apps are of the highest quality, keeping in mind that the work has to create business value for the developer too.
Ketan emphasizes that Intuit only wants to work with the best apps. To work out which these are, the team looks at everything from customer ratings to download numbers and churn metrics. The devs behind these apps are then given special attention.
But how does Intuit measure developer success? Simple, it tracks two things: how to make building apps more lucrative for devs and how to help API clients build apps more quickly. For the first, Intuit offers app developers a channel to customers through personalized app stores and in-product discovery. With a handful of developers, team members will also go over customer pain points so they can develop apps that heal the pain.
To help devs build apps more quickly, on the other hand, the company goes all out to ensure developers have access to quality documentation, plentiful code samples, relevant SDKs and stability dashboards, among other things. When someone’s ready to publish an app, a team member will then work closely with the developer to go through the process. Every year, the company does a security and technical review to make sure the app still does what it’s supposed to and gives developers feedback and guidance on keeping apps high quality.
To help put new apps in front of customers, the company holds events like the high profile ‘app showdown’ contest, which involves a 100 devs competing over months and then ten finalists competing for a $100,000 prize to fund work on their app.
Ketan concludes the talk by emphasizing that if you want a flourishing API ecosystem, you need to accept your position as a platform and treat third party devs as key assets, because they’re the ones that are going to bring new business and increase the lifetime value of your existing customers.