EB: What are APIs?
IC: APIs—application programming interfaces—are the unsung heroes of the application economy. Applications wouldn’t exist without them. APIs are sets of defined rules that govern how one application or piece of software can talk to another, providing ready-made, universal access to whatever functionality an organisation needs to deliver.
On the web, APIs make it possible for services like Google Maps or Facebook to let other apps “piggyback” on their platform. Think about the way TripAdvisor, for example, displays nearby restaurants on a Google Map in its app, or the way an airline displays hotel and car hire offers beside the flight reservation details.
EB: Why are organisations adopting them?
IC: UK organisations are swarming over APIs like bees around a hive. A global study commissioned by CA Technologies among 1,170 senior executives finds that 82 percent of UK organisations have now adopted APIs as a strategic business tool, with one fifth using them to drive new revenue growth initiatives.
They are most commonly used by organisations for app development, integrating back-end systems and data to apps making use of enterprise data as well as external partner integration. In the UK, organisations that have adopted APIs have increased customer satisfaction by 36 percent and cut their IT costs by 38 percent.
EB: What other benefits do APIs offer?
IC: APIs are helping organisations modernise processes because of their ability to consume and leverage third-party developer innovation through APIs. By opening up and sharing select data with third-parties, organisations benefit from partnerships by exposing services to drive new revenue channels through digital eco-systems. Among these innovations are ‘conversational commerce’ services that enable consumers to interact with brands or aggregated services using chat, messaging or other natural-language interfaces. This could include instructing your mobile device using natural language to book a flight, or aggregating different services together to book a preferred hotel, restaurant or taxi partner at the destination.
An API management strategy specifically enables organisations to create secure and optimised APIs throughout their lifecycle, and at enterprise scale. The bottom line is that API management accelerates digital transformation by bringing systems together, securing integrations, delivering better customer experiences faster and enabling enterprises to capitalise on new opportunities.
EB: What challenges do organisations face during adoption and management?
IC: Despite the high adoption rate of APIs across EMEA, with 90% of businesses using them, organisations face numerous obstacles throughout the lifecycle of creating, securing and managing APIs. Those with existing legacy systems must integrate them with new systems and some lack the API tools to make it a smooth process. Furthermore, and particularly in the UK, the lack of skills and resources needed to manage the process is having an impact on the ability to unlock the value of the data, scale usage, whilst managing performance. Crucially, securing the open enterprise is part of the API management process, and one that needs to be tackled before app development can be accelerated.
EB: What should organisations be doing to manage APIs effectively?
IC: There is high demand for APIs to drive business ROI, from reducing the cost of innovation and rapid app development to delivering a superior customer experience and new revenue stream opportunities. Organisations must therefore take a full life cycle approach to API management to ensure they can take full advantage of its benefits. This should include strategy and planning, security, development and integration, measurement and lastly, testing, deploying and monitoring. It’s important to consider APIs as products and accordingly put the necessary tools, resources and expertise in place as you would to take any product to market.