APIs are beginning to drive business, according to an article by Rohan Pearce from ComputerWorld. This may not be surprising to some, however, in the accounting world APIs are finding their way into more and more boardroom meetings. Why? APIs are being recognized as valuable tools to creating new revenue streams and broadening customer and partner bases.
One such business that has adopted the API way of life is Australian based accounting firm MYOB. Its long-running developer program has helped it build an ecosystem of third party add-ons that deliver new application capabilities and serve new market segments. Keran McKenzie is MYOB’s API Evangelist, and he boasts how his developer program now has 3,000 developers, four APIs, and 200 add-on solutions in the market. The importance of these achievements is self-evident, but McKenzie explains that his software development program serves a dual purpose; MYOB’s APIs are dogfooded. This internal consumption has served as an added layer of connectivity and facilitates data transfer within MYOB.
McKenzie joined MYOB in 2012 with the purpose of growing their tech footprint. Four years later, McKenzie offers his advice on how and why his efforts were so successful. His key piece of advice to others developing an API strategy is to understand their market. McKenzie was able to tap into MYOB’s preexisting developer community and used their feedback to structure the developer portal and documentation. However, he mentions the need to ensure the documentation is not too developer-centric. A solid understanding of the product is crucial in developing a context for the less tech-savvy.
This segues into McKenzie’s second piece of advice: make it easy. He says, “If you're making every single developer who touches your API build their own OAuth layer or their own user authentication layer, you are putting all the work on them”. He suggests asking, “What tools have you got that make it as simple as possible?" By doing some of the upfront work and providing an SDK, wrapper, or library, companies can save the developer time and get them up and running faster.
McKenzie also suggests creating code samples that relate to FAQs in the developer community. This, again, makes it easier on the developer and serves as a way to illustrate the deeper, and richer features of an API. The value of making your API easier to implement, is that it boosts product stickiness. By creating an API that is relevant to customers needs, and easy to use, companies create a product that customers love.