How to Design a Compelling API Business Strategy?

In common-sense parlance, a purposeful, coordinated technology program with meaningful business requirements, leads to a successful API business strategy, encompassing everything from design and development, to management and beyond.

APIs in a public or private domain for any business enables new ways to engage and connect with the needs of partners and customers. APIs offer a range of compelling opportunities for businesses, from simple commercial strategies such as extending existing product offerings, to forging unexpected commercial partnerships.

Designing, creating, integrating and managing APIs for a business is a critical prerequisite for participating in a digital ecosystem. And to leverage APIs effectively, a business must put a clear, realistic API strategy in place, start with small wins and then build on them. The following table provides a sample of how to go about your strategy:

API Business Strategy Planning Management Enterprise Deliverables
Target Segment Define your market segment in detail including size and user persona; specify API profile needed to satisfy top use-cases for each target segment.
* Simple API and integration = More Customers
Establish KPI targets, traceability and dashboards
Design for agility : Determine costs, Open communication channels, Version governance, Performance reviews
Business-led : Segment oriented work streams – Open APIs, B2B APIs, B2B2C APIs, Product APIs, Internal APIs
Monetization Channels Specify business models and marketing drivers for the channel to reach each target segment Establish adoption targets, developing market and channel actions (community sites, involvement in forums, events and communication) Channel-led: Community and Business development work streams – SOA and web services, EAI
Business Goal Specify the roadmap of API deliverables, mechanics, integration capabilities and business processes to meet the target segment needs API roadmap, adjust and report on iteration cycle, establishment of an alpha team Engineering-led: Support work streams – Infrastructure, Technology selection and Future agility

Best Practices for API Design and Architecture

API design is meant to deliver and fulfil a specific business requirement.

Approach to build the best API design and architecture is to realise the needs i.e. diving deep into the business requirements, understanding what data needs to be accessed and setting SMART goals. Such goals might include creation of new revenue channels or generating leads, introducing new frameworks or improving existing ones, removing any bottlenecks in an overall business structure etc. For example, a hotel’s aim is to increase the number of bookings made, hence they expose their reservation APIs to third party traveller sites, social media and more.

Once a clear business goal is established, the next step is to figure out which data needs to be shared and with whom. The sole purpose of creating and publishing an API is to share a specific functionality or data from your enterprise with third parties. A hotel, for example, would want approved partner websites to consume APIs granting access to the booking schedules and pricing data from specific backend applications and databases, in order to reach out to customers looking for a temporary stay in certain places.

From a “data accessibility” viewpoint, you might want to have answers to the following questions:

  • Figure out where the data resides. Is it housed in an ERP system, a VM solution, a cloud data warehouse, or somewhere else?
  • Will the data be pulled from a single source or multiple sources?
  • Is it necessary for data to be hosted on-premise, in the cloud, or both?
  • What security and policies will be required to implement access for various business stakeholders – technical executives or management access to the data from these applications?

Answers to these questions will help the enterprise to plan and design the right architecture.

When APIs are managed well, as products, they become tools to drive a business forward as they enable easy communication within and outside the business. Having established, marketable APIs help other businesses to access and integrate data and resources for their specific applications thereby creating and expanding a digital business ecosystem.

APIs offer endpoints for any connected device, whether that is a web browser, a mobile phone or an IoT device connected to public or a private network over the internet. By building APIs and exposing data, the usefulness of a core product can be extended to any internet-connected device.

Business and Technology teams must work together to successfully deploy and maintain APIs within an organization’s data architecture. Technology teams can help business teams navigate this data architecture to realize their API goals. What is more important for a successful API design and architecture is, if a client adopts a multi-point integration platform as a service that supports hybrid integrations across multi-cloud and on-premise standalone endpoints, it will make this part of the API strategy decidedly easier to build competency for a complete API ecosystem.

Making a Success of Your API Strategy – Some Pointers:

Choosing the right products and technology is tricky but vital to build a scalable business model.

Connecting legacy and future technology
A choice of technology in a service or product-based company can only be as operative as the rest of technology allows it to be; so considering workflows and how technology impacts them, is critical. Create a platform for continuous change, align business architecture with the emerging technology design and link every change to the legacy system through APIs, with a vision of the future state that can make a business profitable and fit in with the choice of product and suitable technologies.
Bringing in the mind-set values
Transformation falls flat if people around it don’t believe in it. A workforce needs appropriate understanding, training, and continuous learning opportunities to cultivate the knowledge and skills necessary for ensuring that technologies & products chosen are fit for purpose when they are ready to go to market. This can be done by assembling agile teams that span organizational boundaries to share ideas and insights, with one goal in mind - to meet customer needs.
Ignite collaborations
During the transition, the coexistence of two discrete models has the potential to bog down regular business and bring decision-making for new initiatives and collaborations into question. Modern API integration relies on hybrid models where two different API integrations can allow developers to seamlessly develop an end to end business process - an API managed solution.

Developers can build their business and integration processes on one platform (example – Informatica/Amazon API) and deploy the end point directly into another platform (example - Apigee Edge). The Apigee API developer can discover and consume these business and integration processes from the registry. This bi-directional API integration on different platforms allows developers to seamlessly develop an end-to-end API managed solution.

Start Small for Big Returns

A good approach is to start with a small, cost effective, contained API initiative with a robust API business strategy, before publishing APIs for a wider audience to use. Define the use-case and create an execution plan along with success parameters so the initiative can be measured. It is not about the number of APIs or services; it’s about how carefully an API is created to deliver the right kind of experience to an end user. Trialling is key in these early stages to uncover potential issues in design, development, integrations, and identify ways to drive adoption for APIs. You may also be pleasantly surprised to see the different ways in which your API gets used by different third parties. This is the start of your new digital ecosystem!

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