How to Succeed in the API Economy; a Prescription from ProgrammableWeb

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Ultimately, these interactions have a business motivation. Either a better ultimate customer experience that drives usage and loyalty which in turn indirectly drives more revenue (as is the case with Netflix). Or, maybe, as has always been the case, the export of such business capability is a way to capture outsourcing revenue from other organizations that need that capability but have no desire to build it themselves the way Uber uses Google Maps (or at least it did at the time this article was published). In this respect, APIs can be used to build new revenue generating experiences, products, business models, and business channels.

Which is why joining the API economy is very much a business conversation. It’s about serving some other business need, with APIs simply being the best means to that end. 

Not surprisingly, any blueprint for joining the API economy should be more about business stuff like sizing up the opportunities, setting objectives, making the appropriate organizational adjustments, going to market and measuring progress than it is about technology.

And so, this is precisely the train of thought that our blueprint follows. Published in partnership with ProgrammableWeb’s parent organization (MuleSoft, now a Salesforce company), this is the first in a running series of papers written to help organizations succeed in joining the API economy. 

To be clear, joining the API economy is not a must-do for all organizations the way having a website is. In fact, the first of the journey's four main stages (Establishing Digital strategy) is very much about diligence, the outcome of which may be an invalidation of any API economy opportunities. At least for now. 

The second of the four stages (Aligning Organization and Culture) is really about all the adjustments that an organization must culturally make for the networkable service orientation (NSO) of business capabilities to succeed. To the extent that digitally reinventing some or all of the company around the provision of business capabilities as digital services requires services-oriented and secure-by-design thinking, it will be a major cultural shift that requires alignment across the entire organization.

In fact, part of democratizing innovation — an important outcome of API-led connectivity — involves including IT and non-IT personnel alike in the ideation process. It’s no longer enough for the tech teams to be the only ones thinking about how to leverage a technology like APIs. The entire organization must be thinking about the business capabilities within their domains, and what if any opportunities might be connected to those capabilities were they to be made available outside the organization as API-led services. Culturally, this sort of democratization of innovation will require a fair amount of education in order to get the collective creative juices flowing. 

The third of the four main stages involves getting all of the right technology in place and this will likely vary from one organization to the next depending on the digital strategy and ecosystems that were set forth in the first stage. But suffice to say that it will involve the implementation of some sort of API management system because API management systems, like content management systems or database management systems, are not something you need or want to build yourself. 

The fourth stage is all about ecosystem engagement. Joining the API economy isn’t as simple as launching an API and making it available outside your firewall. If that’s all you do, your API is nearly guaranteed to fail. You must nurture the ecosystem for which the API is intended. The ecosystem goes hand-in-hand with the desired business models and outcomes that should have been identified in the first stage. The ecosystem involves the target audience of your API and the value that you’re hoping they’ll co-create with you and the business model that serves as the context; again, very much a business conversation.

All of this and more are outlined in the downloadable whitepaper. The paper, aptly titled “API Strategy Essentials: A practical guide to winning in the API Economy,” is encyclopedic in nature but also leaves many topics for further exploration; fodder for more papers that will be coming in the weeks and months ahead. Here’s the link to download the paper and, as always, I welcome any feedback at david.berlind@programmableweb.com.

Be sure to read the next API Strategy article: How DataSift Survived Twitter's Merciless Business Behavior in the API Economy

 

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