Your APIs should solve a pain point – not become one.

As enterprises continue to change their businesses through technology, a critical component to accelerate this journey is APIs; they are fundamental to driving innovation, enabling greater agility, and building the foundation for new business models and partnerships. A recent article published by McKinsey, “APIs: The secret ingredient for one company’s massive tech leap,” highlights typical customer experiences as they embark on their API Journey. At Axway, we see this all the time, and you can explore our customer success stories to see how they’re learning to treat APIs as products.

As far as we have come with using APIs to drive the business forward, we are at another inflection point in how API management solutions need to evolve as we prepare for the future. Here is the typical enterprise situation:

  1. The number of APIs is going to continue to increase
  2. 95% of API management customers have three or more API management platforms in use
  3. In a recent survey, 71% of decision-makers either agreed or strongly agreed that they didn’t experience the business results they had hoped from their API Programs
  4. Gartner predicts that even with multiple API management platforms, soon less than 50% of APIs will be managed by existing platforms as the explosive growth surpasses the capabilities of traditional API Management tools
  5. Development and technical personnel are increasingly overburdened, with ever-increasing pressure to deliver more business at speed.

As the above factors illustrate, a better approach to API management is needed today and in the future. Like every business problem, the solution lies in examining what your customer or user needs to succeed and working backward to the technology solution.

With the above customer context in mind, Axway has built Amplify, an API Management Platform that discovers APIs across the distributed enterprise and enables providers to curate, productize, and deliver API products for rapid adoption by targeted developer constituencies. In addition to the technology shift, leading enterprises are also embarking on a mindset shift by viewing their APIs as products.

The right APIs are essential to your business

Much of the focus of API programs has traditionally been on building large quantities of APIs, leading many to overlook that they only have value when used to achieve business goals. Creating the right API is more important than the number of APIs.

JPMorgan Chase & Co’s Takis Georgakopoulos hit the nail on the head at a conference late last year:

“I laugh when I see some of my competitors say, ‘I have like 50 APIs.’ Great. But really that does not matter that much. What matters is, if you talk to a healthcare company, can you solve their pain point?”

Treat APIs as products

A business-led approach to APIs starts by identifying the end customer and the problem you are solving for them. Your API should be the product you are offering to meet this need.

David Mooter, Sr. Analyst at Forrester, corroborated this point in a recent webinar about the API adoption survey cited above: the right mindset for APIs is to think of them from a business perspective, not so much from a technical perspective.

“Start by asking, ‘what are we good at?’” says Mooter, and with an API-led model, “you are fusing technology and business to create a digital business. The technology is fundamental to your business design, not an afterthought,” Mooter adds.

To ensure API Programs deliver on business goals, leading enterprises implement a tight collaborative approach, ensuring IT provides capabilities that drive the business outcomes.

As Jeremy Barnum, CFO of JPMC, remarked on their Q1 earnings call, “if you look through it all, it reflects the simple reality that the best products get delivered when developers and business owners are working together iteratively with end to end ownership.”

Curate your APIs

Every individual API does not necessarily need to be a product. The aim should be to provide a curated business capability built with the logical grouping of all the required APIs, presented in a simplified way with the proper documentation and all the related assets needed for the developer (internal or external) to incorporate the capability into their application.

The power of curation is apparent in our everyday life. You can experience this with retail stores that have made great merchandising choices with enticing displays, art museums where thematic exhibits provide a holistic view of the subject, and how we listen to streaming music using playlists built around artists, genre or mood. You can see how thoughtful curation makes sense of the content, making it more accessible and engaging.

With curation, there is a unifying theme. Things flow logically, offering a fantastic experience. Yet how many of our developer portals are just a list of stuff? How many of our APIs only answer part of the question with no guidance on where to get the rest?

Creating API products means thinking longer term than today’s quick fix. How will these API products be versioned, enhanced, governed, and properly deprecated when appropriate?  

Thinking of APIs as products is a critical shift. However, as we saw from the earlier statistic, 71% of decision-makers felt they didn’t realize the desired value from their API programs. Research also tells us that 86% of IT and Business decision-makers agree that the value of APIs lies in their consumption and not in their existence alone.

Addressing this problem requires thoughtfulness in the last mile experience for your APIs.

Make it easy to consume your APIs with a marketplace

The last mile for your APIs is a storefront in the form of a marketplace, where people go to consume API products. A properly functioning marketplace ensures API products are exposed for easy discovery and consumption by developers. Developers need an easy way to search, filter, find ratings, view reviews, and connect with an expert when needed.

National Bank of Canada, one of Canada’s largest commercial banks, shows just how powerful this mindset shift can be. NBC’s goal – get better visibility of their APIs and drive their adoption.

The bank’s teams had been building APIs from the bottom up – a lot of technical APIs derived from their legacy systems that were becoming complicated to manage. They decided on a more robust API strategy to treat APIs as products to tackle this problem, which required bringing business and IT together.

One immediate result was fewer duplicated APIs:

“In the past, we were more project-driven, asking to develop APIs, so we would end up with sometimes three, four, five APIs doing the same thing,” says Fabrice Bastos, API Design and Strategy Chief at NBC. “So, we are changing our approach and embracing domain-driven design.”

With NBC building their marketplace on our Amplify API Management Platform, teams can easily discover the right APIs to get the job done. The next focus for NBC, Bastos says, is automating their approval process so developers have streamlined access to APIs.

Are you ready to put your APIs to work? Axway is ready to help. As Axway Catalyst Erik Wilde puts it: “Don’t build a business model for your API. Build an API for your business model.”

Let us show you how.

Looking to accelerate adoption and usage of your APIs? Learn from how other leading enterprises are doing it here.

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EVP PRODUCT MANAGEMENT
Rahim is in charge of designing and coordinating Axway’s product and platform portfolio to meet customers’ current and future needs.

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