The first API was launched in February 2000, meant to act as “internet as a service.” Since that time, and at an exponential rate, APIs have become the lifeblood of the information ecosystem. Although many companies have launched at least a few APIs, the majority of companies do not have a core strategy and vision for their APIs as an interconnected landscape. This is an opportunity cost that cannot be overstated; and a lack of strategic direction, vision, maturity, and governance for an API landscape can place companies at a severe disadvantage. Coupled with unforeseen pressures such as the recent global pandemic, the inability to drive API creation and management can prevent businesses from adapting and surviving. On the other hand, those businesses who proactively pursued a strategy for their API landscape—such as restaurants who were suddenly required to operate on a “remote order and deliver” business model—not only survived the multiple shutdowns but thrived and even grew in the midst of this unprecedented industry killer.
Businesses are waking up to the API revolution not as a technical feature but rather as an integral and critical part of their infrastructure. Clients of Google’s Apigee platform indicated that to develop their API business strategy best, they valued the performance analytics, security, and governance elements far above other important factors such as monetization and self-service capability.
Given the structure of an API, along with the natural evolution of many companies, the growth of API management and development is often organic, sprouting up in those areas that require the interfaces/implementations to complete tasks and access crucial data. Whether the APIs are designed for internal use, external access, or both, APIs often become another tool for IT organizations to implement to solve specific problems. Unfortunately, this organic growth is not only incredibly inefficient, resulting in silos of API development and a lack of best-in-class practices; it can also create significant risk to the company when the APIs are not adequately secured and protected against outside threats. Further still, the tactical inefficiencies pale in comparison to the potential of leading companies who prioritize API strategy, create dedicated landscapes, develop API maturity, and ensure balanced governance to guide API development for flexibility and consistency.
These leading companies are able to achieve a strong API strategy and maximize the potential of their API landscape because they were able to change the way they view their business model.
According to Google Cloud’s research, 56% of IT decision-makers view APIs as assets that help organizations build better digital experiences and products, 52% say APIs accelerate innovation by enabling partners to leverage digital assets at scale, 40% view APIs as systems integration enablers and 36% say they see APIs as strategic assets for creating business value.
Clearly, APIs aren’t about greater efficiency and cost savings only. These are welcome benefits, but the larger benefits come from API-first digital transformation:
- The supply and demand of your company’s digital assets are unlocked through APIs for your customers, suppliers, and partners
- Additional monetized products and services created by external developers
- Agility, allowing companies to pivot their business model extremely quickly
These benefits have to be measured using a shift in metrics. Cost reduction is important, but equally so is the speed to API release, growth of traffic, number of active developers, and the speed of onboarding apps. This fundamental shift in focus is what unlocks the full potential of an API landscape. This shift is what requires API maturity and governance to create a successful API landscape. APIs should not be viewed as tactical data links; instead, APIs should be viewed as products that customers desire, channels with value propositions, and ecosystems that bring customers, partners, and your data together.