Seventhman Blog

Do You Really Need an API?

"API economy"In a world where software transforms the way we do business, one starts to wonder if small to large-scale enterprises really need an API.. and a real good strategy to make it work.  As we do business in the cloud and use lots of Software-as-a-Service models, APIs aren’t strictly tied up to mobility alone.  If you take a closer look at Amazon, you’ll see how they have built their business by extending its functionality to outsiders.  Then, there’s the OpenStack project.  Perhaps, APIs these days are the Sun of the software galaxy where everyone’s revolving around.  Yet, the challenge of management, distribution and monetization of API still abound for many API-driven tech companies out there.

The Problem With API

While I was surfing the Web to get my weekly dose of all things tech, I’ve encountered a post that caught my attention: A Company Without APIs is Like a Computer Without InternetSpot on!  I have to applaud Brian though for mentioning tips on how to engage developers to participate in building all those awesome software – this can be a tough job to accomplish, but doable nonetheless. I believe that you have to set out with a clear objective and define your target market well if you want to launch a successful API strategy.  It’s not just about making money or encouraging innovation.  The very idea of opening up your data must outweigh the risk and cost.  Finding motivated developers with the right technical and social skills is a major hurdle too.  How can you find tech-savvy evangelists who will add value to your business?

Let’s presume that you will encounter these challenges:

1. Exposing proprietary data to your competitors – much to their advantage
2. Opening your API to the public can mean added cost in developing your platform from scratch
3. Building APIs that developers hate
4. Delays and backlogs in transition, especially with documentation
5. Not coming up with a strategy that will make your business stay competitive

Creating an API Tactic vs. Strategy

You may argue that the two words are one and the same.  The thing is that in a developer’s lingo, API Strategy is becoming cliché, together with buzzwords like big data and disruptive innovation.  While you may have a strong case for building a strategy in today’s API economy, you don’t need a big plan to move forward.  Instead, what you need is a specific tactic on measuring things. Got it?  There are situations when building a strategy works, like those who want to build a developer community to help with their software initiatives.  In this case, strategy is fundamental to the business.  But, if you only need to focus on supporting your business goals, you simply need a tactic to help drive revenue streams to your business.

Bottomline: To gain traction where APIs are involved, you need a strong developer support working with the best marketing team who will help get the word out.  The key to your program’s success is knowing who your audience is so you can come up with the right opportunities.  Are you ready to build that rockstar team, open communication channels and share the credit?

APIs should be empowered both by business leaders and technology.