My previous article looked at how business capabilities should determine your platforms’ building blocks, a.k.a microservices. But how do you get your users and applications to interact with your packaged business capabilities? APIs are the critical links to your data and services that enable rapid innovation and serve as the basis for future partnerships. In the second installment of the “Innovating with MACH” series, we’ll focus on the business value of being truly API-first.
Switching from Integration-first to API-first
Business leaders are always looking to create newer packaged solutions or experiences in their platforms. And you probably already realize the benefits of having these platforms fully or partially on the cloud. Often, organizations think of APIs as only a way to help with automation or integration. This sort of thinking lets you access only some of the underlying functionality of the platform. Sometimes, thinking of APIs in integration-first terms blocks essential business opportunities and leaves you unable to adapt to new opportunities that may arise in the future. In a month or two, when you need to extend your platform for a new use case, your team may have to build a whole new set of APIs, not to mention the updates to the platform itself.
Being API-first is a critical aspect of being MACH. And this means anticipating that an API may have many use cases in the future. An API-first approach means thinking of an API as the most important stakeholder of your platform. By putting APIs as the foundation, instead of the software solution itself, all platform functionality is accessible to you. This gives your platform longevity since you can easily compose and extend the solution or experience tailored to you and your customer. Building your platform and your organization as API-first sets you up for the future, helping you quickly react to the market and evolve to meet the unknown future needs of consumers.
Being API-first would mean that everything you build should start with APIs that deliver a direct or an indirect business value to the organization. This might require a cultural shift in how your team thinks about innovation. Instead of focusing on systems and their technical details to drive innovation, API-first allows the business leaders to get involved. Far from being just technical conduits for sharing data, you can almost think of APIs as your organization’s face or digital reflection. Instead of focusing only on innovation within your business, API-first empowers you to innovate within your ecosystems of partners, customers, and opcos inside your organization.
Thinking of your Platform as Integrations-first
Thinking of your Platform as API-first
How an API-First Strategy Affects Your Bottom Line
Becoming API-first unlocks significant opportunities for efficiency, speed, growth, resilience, and future-proofing, improved customer experiences, decreased development costs, and a better, more innovative product.
Improved Time to Market
If you follow an API-first strategy, any new request from the business or internal teams will be defined as an API through a proper governance process. Developers can start building the frontend and the backend services in parallel using mock services and standard API definitions like Swagger or OpenAPI Specification, or GraphQL. You can release the actual business capability much faster due to this parallel working model. This enables you to innovate faster and go to the market before the competition.
All organizations rely on partners and other stakeholders in their ecosystem. Sometimes your partners will innovate more business and sales models. But only if they have the required data exposed as APIs. Building an ecosystem with APIs that can interact with external parties can go a long way, especially when expanding your business into new territories and reaching a broader customer base. For example, Google made its AI engine accessible through the Vision APIs allowing developers across the world to utilize its AI technology and implement it in various use cases.
Unlock New Business Opportunities
If your platform is API-first, many third parties could build much better, unique experiences to consume the services offered by your platform. This unlocks new revenue streams via partner sales. You could even start monetizing your APIs and gain new revenue through that.
Improved Performance and Resilience
The API-First approach allows you to build well-architected services to deal with failures. The API layer shields the backend services and will handle intermittent failures at the backend, providing a better experience to the users. APIs also allow systems to be operated with efficient data models like JSON over REST and authentication protocols like OAuth2 for a better user experience. When users get better response times and minimal to zero downtime, they start coming back to your business.
Increased Efficiency and Collaboration
Starting with APIs allows business stakeholders to develop multiple use cases for every API. This approach ensures that each API contributes to the business’s overall success and improves the efficiency of the platform. Individual teams can start implementing their services as APIs and expose them to other teams while still owning the management and maintenance responsibilities. This streamlines operations and helps teams deliver functionalities without bottlenecks.
In an API-first organization, developers can fetch most of the functionality they need to create applications from elsewhere. Instead of starting from scratch, they can use cost-effective APIs from third-party providers or use their own internal APIs.
Improved Marketing Visibility
Being API-first forces you to strictly document every aspect of your product or platform. This gives the benefit of having a well-documented backbone to attract new business and talent. You have the opportunity to promote stories of how you are using the API and how it fits into the customer journey. This will create excitement about your APIs and potentially spark new ideas among other developers. commercetools is a great example of how being API-first can improve our marketing visibility.
Getting Started with an API-first Strategy
The first step in defining your API-first strategy is aligning your overall business and digital strategies. Determine how your API will relate to desired business outcomes – are you simply trying to accelerate your digital transformation and improve customer experience? Or is there an opportunity to disrupt your industry by providing a robust API? Determine the target audience for API consumption, review your existing IT infrastructure and figure out where you need to create data bridges. You will need an organizational change to support API-first thinking and move into a mindset where your API is a product in itself. It is also vital to implement the right full-lifecycle API management tool and governance models to support your API initiative.
Get in touch to find out how a strategic partner can bring API-first thinking to your business to create a positive impact. You don’t have to start from scratch if you use the B2B Accelerator+, with its pre-built use cases and standard features, available as 50+ API endpoints, and a Kubernetes accelerator to take you to market faster. In the next installment of the MACH Powered Innovation series, we’ll take a look at why cloud-native should be at the core of your business model.
Senior Solutions Architect
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