Avoid ad hoc management
Technology executives have used APIs for 40 years, but over the past decade the Web’s permeation of APIs has fueled new capabilities in areas such as digital commerce, social media and cloud services. Yet many CIOs pursue APIs on an ad hoc basis, limiting the intrinsic value of APIs to create long-term value. Marketing executives, together with their CIOs, should have a clear understanding of how their API plan advances the organization’s larger growth strategy, a vision that can be shared through a developer portal that houses code and provides discussion areas for sharing ideas.
Manage APIs as products
Experience and skills in product management should be used to treat each API as a product supported by a cross-discipline team; e.g., product managers, business leaders, developers, and marketing, sales and business operations professionals. Product managers put the customer at the center, ensuring that your APIs provide the fuel to fill customer needs. Getting legal and compliance departments involved will avoid future surprises, and integrating a product management approach can help build a plan that goes beyond technical implementation. Similar to a product, an API has its own life cycle, and the API evolution needs to be planned as well. What are new capabilities? When are certain services going to be retired?
Work with your customers to develop APIs
Similar to digital experience development, a deep understanding of your customers’ needs and desires is critical for being successful. How are they planning to use your APIs? What data do they need and when do they need it? As we have seen in our work, it is impossible to guess the right set of APIs without direct collaboration and testing with your direct users.
Use API programs to attract talent
Many organizations use hackathons to attract talent, particularly developers who prefer working with APIs (especially REST) for mobile app development. In most sectors, talent outside the corporate walls remains largely untapped. External APIs and hackathons can be conducted to reach beyond traditional alliances to third-party developers, including startups (which prefer using APIs for service delivery and mobile app development).
Feature APIs at hackathons
Many CIOs conduct hackathons to inspire startup cultures and to get developers excited about modern architectures and development practices. In the hackathon context, “hacker” is not about breaking security; rather, it's about solving old problems in new ways (and generating a wealth of new ideas that marketers can prioritize by business value). Hackathons give developers permission to disrupt the organization’s traditional product development process (while having fun doing it). Citi, for example, uses APIs and hackathons together to get creative mobile apps into the hands of its customers as ongoing, versus one-time, events. This is important in an industry where startups regularly enter financial services with innovative mobile solutions, free from the legacy of a traditional bank’s brick-and-mortar operation.
Use APIs to define your two=speed IT architecture
APIs are the perfect construct to decouple your agile systems from your core backend systems. They allow you to respond quickly to market demands and adjust to your customers’ experience, while at the same time ensuring stability of your transactional and operational systems.
Tap into the vendor community
Business and technology leaders are also accelerating their API strategy execution by tapping into the vendor community. San Francisco’s AngelHack, for example, organizes API hackathons that enable brainstorms, customer experience innovation and the exploration of new revenue opportunities from partner ecosystems. In a short time, AngelHack has developed a reputation for helping established brands generate scores of new ideas for innovating apps and creating new business value through well-designed, managed events. Blockspring, another Bay Area firm, realizes that for most business users, APIs are difficult to use. Hence, it provides prebuilt spreadsheet functions that enable citizen developers to quickly and easily populate spreadsheets, dashboards and websites from numerous public APIs, data feeds and search engines (without calling on IT professionals for help). Then there’s Golgi, an innovative vendor in Ireland that helps development teams implement IoT solutions without investing in niche IoT integration skills. Golgi’s approach enables developers to treat IoT devices like any other API-enabled system (it also connects devices to the API ecosystem and provides an API developer portal as part of its offering). Given the complexity of IoT projects, Golgi is bringing the advantages of the API economy to the Internet of things.