12 Disruptive API Trends for 2020

disruptive api trends for 2020

One of our customers made an astute observation: You’ve created thousands of APIs, but this one is our first. Over the years, we’ve worked with customers across industries and see how companies and institutions design, build and manage API programs that make a real difference. Each Catalyst (the digital transformation team I serve on) has a unique perspective based on our experience combined with how we work across our company and with our partners.

Here is the set of API approaches that I predict will empower disruption in the coming year. The trends are based on customer and prospect assessments in digital maturity, industry research and real conversations with companies leading the charge. Retrospectively, how did we perform in 2019?

Drumroll, please! Top 12 Disruptive API Trends for 2020

These trends are not foundational trends. These approaches push companies, institutions and organizations to beat their competition. When you apply just one or a few, you can disrupt your industry and related industries.

  1. Design wins
  2. Business product strategy
  3. UX
  4. Adoption through network effects
  5. Visualizing data
  6. API-powered emerging technology
  7. Drive ecosystems with open data, frameworks and systems
  8. Innovation from project to product
  9. APIM compatibility
  10. APIs and AI
  11. Total product experience as CX for a mixture of analog and digital
  12. Bi-directional feedback loops

Design Wins

Think of API “Design Wins” both inside and outside of the company. The design win is a concept from business development in the semiconductor world where the goal is to win “sockets” aka getting your chip designed into an OEM product. So, the analogy would work in the world of APIs where internally or externally, when another group successfully consumes your API to launch their product or service, you capture these metrics that tie directly into P&L.

Ways you can facilitate design wins include fantastic discovery methods through unified catalogs, a marketplace, stellar SEO, discoverability, findability and searchability through various channels. Measure success based on both finished applications and integration success along the way.

This correlation across industries is tied in by historical signals including Intel’s acquisition of Mashery which served as a canary in the mind of API management company acquisitions, so you can see Intel lead the charge in API programs through their launch of the “One API” program during the summer of 2019.

READ MORE: Learn why API Design is so important.

Business product strategy

Outcome and business-focused API product value mean connecting APIs to the business vision and strategies. This mapping is how organizations communicate and close any gaps that an API offering needs to win. For example, I worked on an API team that provided auto transport capability data to a global marketplace that sold motorcycles and cars. This integration justified the Austin-based startup to build a world-class API team that made sure key stakeholders’ needs were addressed. The revenue generated by the integration directly showed how to shore up resources to support the operational aspects.

Product leaders have many aspects to consider for business product strategy including human-centered gamification techniques. They also have to consider the difference between omni-channel and omni-experience when it comes to strategy. How do you gracefully change your money-making engine to include API focused product strategy to get there?

  • Fellow Catalyst, John Wiese, also advised that he sees API program success being mapped to business objectives such as meaningful KPIs, rather than just measuring how many transactions per second.
  • Global Catalyst Leader, Brian Pagano, advises a new way to look at API monetization. It’s about putting an interface on existing monetized channels to discover and innovate on new ones.


How organizations handle various versions and API specification versions across tools and platforms is key to normalizing the API and increasing usability. View API products as enablers rather than overhead or cost centers is the first step to unlocking their value.

Network effects

Currently, there is a real battle of enterprise technology choices being made from the top of the organization and propagated down versus an organic yet intentional community driven adoption to reap the benefits of network effects. In reality, you need degrees of both choices to succeed in the market. A gentle balance is ideal for software products that both businesses and technology owners love.

This battle looks like:

  • Measuring the influence of people using technology because they have to versus;
  • Measuring the influence of people using technology because they want to, its fit for function, and the community rewards the API product or technology with adoption.

Visualizing API data

The better you can represent your data as a story, the easier it can be to convince your audience to take action. We’re seeing APIM vendors, customers, partners and the greater community showcase data from APIs in ways to capture reuse, patterns and catch hiccups before those consuming their services see any issues. Data engineers and data scientists collaborate with business intelligence and API product leaders to achieve designs for these visualizations that make sense across the organization.

How the API empowers emerging technology

To avoid hype and skepticism, businesses get buy-in by emphasizing practical uses of modular elements of cryptocurrency, blockchain, hyper ledger and digitally ethical functions. Accessing value through APIs in food and agriculture, insurance, higher education, government and organizing world aid are ways that APIs power emerging technology in useful, critical ways.

For example, when a natural disaster hits, how can you securely communicate with family members across the globe, get them the resources they need and physically keep them safe from fraud during vulnerable times? APIs power platforms and ecosystems to deliver this kind of aid. One such company that delivers privacy and practical solutions is from Orchid Labs.

Driving ecosystems

What drives the formation and growth of ecosystems are the rise of open API frameworks. The frameworks use open data. Globally, industries that aren’t bogged down in imposed regulation and compliance, are gravitating towards open systems. Open does not mean that everyone has access. Open in an API ecosystem leans more towards APIs that are designed in ways that reach best practices so that you create initial and lasting interoperability for a living system.

Innovation from project to product

Innovation using APIs can start anywhere, but API projects that successfully evolve into API products still get the most resources. If everything has a headless offering, best in class APIs with a great integration experience AND marketing wins.

APIM Compatibility

Speaking of marketing, one of our leaders, David Bressler, has delivered webinars on how API management must be compatible across platforms, devices, languages, and scale across environments for the most mature digital strategies to take shape.

Though most enterprises are largely building/using REST APIs, product leaders must start looking at how to leverage many other kinds of APIs to deliver more capabilities faster:

  • RESTful
  • GraphQL
  • Streaming/Asynchronous

Relating APIs and AI

If you’re curious like me, but not a specialist, you’re always looking at the interdisciplinary approaches of various standards. In this case, artificial intuition and deep learning DL, subsets of artificial intelligence AI and machine learning ML move us closer to more capabilities with less explicit programming to produce more complex outputs to interpret.

Here, I’m examining how API models play a part in affecting AI/ML/DL capabilities. What’s common is the data and the ability to process both structured and unstructured input in parallel.

Total Product Experience

My interpretation and application of TPE mean that the digital doesn’t replace the physical need. Designing APIs with different lifecycles of the product in mind requires sophisticated orchestration and coordination. What analog and digital experiences make sense for the context? What are the sentiments from each? Goal of TPE: What users expect is met with ease and thoughtful design.

If your product is for a workplace, consider five or more generations with varying degrees of interest in digital experiences. Depending on the goal of your product experience, what’s the cost of leaving certain audiences behind? The idea is to be as results-focused as possible and think about the kind of experience that keeps your audience coming back in an age where it could be easy to switch platforms, services or products.

Bi-directional API feedback loops

When it comes to creating APIs that people want to use, it’s not enough just to meet technicalities for feature and function. Organizations that understand continuous onboarding and API improvement results are measured by meaningful adoption can more quickly deliver effective experiences.

It’s this simple:

If the experience is good, people will want to know what it’s built with.

Companies like Stackshare invite members to see what technology stack the company used to build the product.

“Let’s take a look under the hood.”

This concept is true for well-designed cars and other products that interest folks. At the time of writing in North America, tear down content came in the form of over 97 billion search results and roughly 5.2 billion videos. From a security standpoint, since the more fascinating a piece of technology, the more curiosity it will draw. The very first hacker to hack the iPhone and Google Glass has notoriety.

What do these trends mean?

We believe that instead of a narrow use case when you partner with your APIM vendor to give them more context into what you’re trying to accomplish as a business, what sets them apart is what they can offer you to make it happen. Comment below and let us know your thoughts and reflections.

Read my last API Trends article.

Download the ebook to modernize your IT infrastructure with APIs.