One rarely has to wait long these days for a major merger or acquisition to rumble into the headlines. IBM and RedHat, Dow and DuPont, and Pandora and Sirius are just some of the noteworthy examples that have dominated news cycles in the last year.
The tactics, strategies, and goals of these M&A scenarios vary by industry and company, of course. But one thing all of them have in common is the requirement to merge IT infrastructure: application servers, routers, support contracts, databases, networks, and all the other technologies that allows a business to get things done——and all of the management philosophies that come with those technologies.
Leveraging this infrastructure to move the business needle is a challenge in many situations—but when one company absorbs another company’s infrastructure into its own, that challenge can become all the more daunting.
Meeting this challenge may involve recognizing that when two companies’ IT portfolios are combined, a single mechanism often does most of the connecting—application programming interfaces, or APIs. APIs are how software communicates with other software, so when businesses try to integrate their respective technologies to create a new and more powerful combined infrastructure, APIs are quite literally in the middle of the action.
Because APIs play a key role in connecting IT systems and in making digital assets accessible to software developers building new applications, a business’s success can be impacted by how it deploys and manages its APIs. This is true in virtually all situations but especially true during an M&A scenario, which inevitably and invariably increases the IT complexity an organization faces. APIs are universal connectors, so the ways in which businesses monitor and manage their APIs can turn those connections into points of leverage and opportunities for the increased insight and control that an M&A situation demands.
APIs and M&A: 4 Questions to Answer
Are my APIs providing visibility into my infrastructure?
To merge IT infrastructures, a company needs visibility into what different aspects of its IT stack are doing. Which developers are harnessing which backend systems? Which networks are being accessed and are all network boundaries needed? What kinds of applications are placing API calls? How many calls are being placed? When one company merges with or acquires another company, where are the IT redundancies?
These questions are important because the data, functionality, and systems to which APIs provide access are quite literally the foundation of a business’s market differentiation and its ability to execute. The traffic flowing through APIs maps the connections within a business’s IT ecosystem, and by monitoring this traffic, businesses can begin to form answers.
What insights can I gain from increased visibility?
When visibility meets analytics, increased optionality is the result. As companies monitor API usage, they can leverage analytics to begin to discern traffic patterns and derive insights that inform how they execute their M&A systems integration strategies, and how they go-to-market. It’s useful to know who is using an API, for example, but it’s more useful to understand how API usage should shape the business’s modernization plans—e.g., which monolithic applications could benefit from being broken up into smaller, more easily-leveraged services, and which applications can be replaced and retired.
How are my APIs impacting security?
Understanding who is calling APIs is one thing—controlling that access is another. Many top digital enterprises deploy APIs with traffic quotas, authentication mechanisms, and protections against bots to ensure data and resources are being used by the right people and applications in the intended ways.
When in an M&A situation, the goal is never to continue the status quo but rather to leverage synergies made possible by the union of two companies. New users will be using digital assets and services in new ways. Because they provide access to the digital assets that encapsulate an enterprise, APIs are like doors and windows to the organization—and these doors and windows should never be left unlocked and unwatched.
Am I leveraging APIs to improve agility?
APIs abstract backend complexity from both the interfaces developers use to create new applications and experiences and the end users who consume the fruits of developers’ labors. If customer-facing applications rely on certain systems and a business needs to update those systems over the course of its M&A work, APIs enable the business to do so without disrupting users, developers, and applications farther up the stack. Consequently, businesses can pursue modernization efforts without impacting SLO or SLA targets or other aspects of business continuity.
A Constant in the Chaos of M&A
Even in a particularly well-planned M&A situation, a period of increased complexity is inevitable. Whereas there used to be one HR database, now there may be several. A specific service that used to be the go-to solution for internal developers may become outdated or redundant as two organizations combine their resources. Technologies never intended to interface with one another may have to connect in new ways. Processes, strategies, and incentives that worked before may no longer be viable.
Focusing on the API layer throughout this process can provide the rutter for an organization as it navigates changing waters. Visibility into an organization’s IT infrastructure is a prerequisite to analysis, and security, control, and technological agility are all prerequisites to turning analysis into winning and well-executed strategies.