Your APIs need a business vision to drive value

Your APIs need a business vision to drive value Colleagues brainstorming

I’ve spent a lot of time partnering with large enterprises in guiding strategy, adoption, and execution of business technology transformation. Something I see time and time again is that a lot of people slip into the technical perspective of API provisioning: building an API and publishing it on a developer portal.

“Now everyone will come use my API, right?”

Not quite.

A recent report we commissioned on API adoption shows that a “build it and they will come” approach can set you up for disappointment: an API’s value doesn’t lie in its existence alone, but in its consumption. In other words, your shiny new APIs are useless until someone uses them.

Having a unified vision across the technology and business teams means they can work together to draw the greatest value from your APIs. As Digital Transformation Catalysts at Axway, we help enterprises implement the right strategy to accompany the technology and make it work for their business objectives.

Here’s a look at how we can help everyone at your organization catch the vision, so you can get back to building great digital products and services.

Technology will get you nowhere without a business vision

Many organizations start out on API journey, and it quickly ends up in “pockets:” isolated parts of the organization are developing or using APIs and the organization can’t really get the full benefit of doing it at scale.

This is why, as Catalysts, we help organizations work from a strategic standpoint, as opposed to going in and showing them 20 PowerPoint slides about our award-winning API management platform.

The technology is obviously very important: to implement a platform model, you need the platform!

But being an open platform company means that you have a business model and a technology model that come together. To me, that’s what it really means to be “digital.”

Adopt a business-led approach

Finding that delicate balance between business and technology isn’t easy, and that’s why it can be invaluable to have the guidance of trusted experts who have been helping businesses like yours make the tough decisions.

At Axway, we don’t just sell you a platform, we also offer business solutions and the expertise and guidance to get you there.

In a recent report Axway commissioned, Forrester found that organizations taking a business-led approach via API product management are better able to create new business opportunities, increase agility and revenue, and improve customer satisfaction.

A business-led approach to APIs means harmonizing the business and technology objectives. As Axway’s EVP of Product Management Rahim Bhatia puts it:

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

Organizations where there is a good degree of business collaboration with the technology teams move faster and achieve their business objectives.

Focus on API consumption

Building an API is one thing. But a lot of pain happens when companies fail to think about the consumption of their APIs.

Of note: in the survey I mentioned earlier, 71% of respondents said they didn’t experience the business results they had planned from their APIs. For many, there’s clearly still a gap between developing APIs and making them consumable.

The right API management solution can help companies increase API utilization and decrease the complexities of API governance and onboarding, but equally important is making the right decisions about your APIs.

Get API design right, from the start

Properly-designed APIs are so much more than a bunch of technical widgets – and they’re a lot more valuable. Good API design can give you an abstraction away from the complexity of your backend systems. If you can shield the consumer of an API from all of that, it becomes “plug and play.”

It’s also essential to have all the right security policies baked into your API design from the start. My Catalyst colleague Erik Wilde dives much deeper into how API security requires a combination of technology & processes here. The best API gateway in the world can’t protect you from a poorly-designed API that leaves a back door open to your most precious data.

Treat your APIs as products

A key element of a business-driven mindset is moving from a project-based organization to a product-based approach: one that grasps the importance of digital products and the technology that underpins them.

I won’t go too much into this, as Bhatia delves deeper into the importance of treating your APIs as a technology that packages up a business capability in this article.

But I will say that treating APIs as products means designing APIs to solve pain points. You should be designing them in collaboration with the business, understanding what the capability of the API needs to be.

That, in turn, means you can go faster because you now have a design that leads directly into a technical specification. If you go from a value proposition design, you have something that’s understandable as a capability, and you can start to offer that to consumers in your API marketplace.

Get teams to talk to each other

My experience with enterprise architecture is that large organizations can easily get siloed. It’s essential to get both the technical architecture and the business architecture right. But sometimes enterprise architects can be ignored as the business side pushes to move faster, and the IT teams can get caught up in the “how” without getting to the “why.”

In a previous position as an enterprise architect, I remember meeting with the global markets team. They are singularly focused on building, and they need to get projects out there fast. That’s important!

But so is laying the right foundation, and here I was putting the brakes on, arguing for common, consistent models and the architecture it takes to build those things up. One man turned around and said, “Just tell me the minimum I need to say to you to make you go away.”

It’s a tough reality that there are sometimes competing stakeholder needs: you have people who want agility and velocity, and then you have the people who see what it will take to get there and want to make sure things are done the right way – otherwise you’re going to end up spending more time undoing missed opportunities.

That experience and others like it taught me that large organizations can really struggle to pull all these elements together for a truly collaborative approach.

Who has governance and oversight into your APIs?

An important element here is that many API programs lack proper governance. You need ownership and oversight, you need visibility, and you need people who can ask how APIs align with initiatives and value streams.

How do you know your APIs are adding value to your organization? Do you have the tools to measure it?

Modernizing an enterprises’ architecture or moving to cloud native applications are good objectives, but there are questions that need to be answered from a business perspective as well.

The value of expertise

I mentioned earlier that at Axway, we’re not just offering software – we also provide the expertise to make the most of that technology. It’s an approach supported by findings from our API adoption report: API management technology combined with business and digital expertise from a vendor is valuable to developing more consumable APIs.

Sometimes, you don’t know what you don’t know. If any of these pain points I’ve discussed resonates with you, there’s a good chance you could benefit from some outside perspective and guidance to get your API program on track.

Our Catalysts team brings rich experience from around the globe – from open banking and the world of finance to healthcare and other technical settings. And we’re not just thought leaders: we are also practitioners. We can go deep into aspects of API design and delivery, but we can also talk about strategy and API management as a business.

Let us help you:

  • Unite key stakeholders from business and technology
  • Determine where you are now in your API maturity
  • Develop a mission and vision that will guide you as you scale your APIs
  • Agree on the KPIs you want to achieve
  • Create an engagement plan to help you get there

And get everyone in your organization to catch the vision.

Start driving stronger business outcomes with your APIs today by scheduling a call with an Axway Catalyst.

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Digital Transformation Catalyst   Experienced leader and technologist with 25+ years experience and innovative strategist for API, Services and Microservices to support digital transformation, IT modernization, and continued growth for large enterprises. Brian helps make businesses consumable by guiding them with the power of transformation with APIs.

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