Today’s economy demands more connection between systems. When we want to connect two different services or devices—such as using our phone to turn the heat on or using Amazon’s Alexa to order food from an app on our tablet—we no longer need to wait for new release features or the latest integrations. The democratization of software is empowering us to self-serve and build these connected ecosystems ourselves.
For enterprise organizations, the capability to connect two or more systems without ever asking any of the companies behind these services for help allows for accelerated delivery and better business outcomes. Application programming interfaces (APIs), the glue that keeps great digital experiences together as the primary mechanism for system-to-system communications, allow for this to happen.
But in order to take advantage of the power of APIs, you need a more sophisticated approach to how you handle them. Leveraging a base of reusable APIs can allow you to achieve a better ROI for the effort put into building and maintaining APIs. Productization, or treating APIs more like products, gives you a foundation of strategic, reusable APIs that create a flywheel effect, delivering economies of scale while accelerating delivery. Below, we lay out four rules of API productization to take advantage of the expanded functionality of APIs.
Productization aligns your APIs with the purpose and value your customer is trying to derive. When you productize an API, you position it to answer a question your customer is asking, rather than pushing a solution to a non-existent problem.
In general, products are designed to satisfy a customer’s want or need, and API products are no different. But if you have a product that solves a customer problem, does it in a way the customer loves, but is poor quality, customers will not use it because they can’t rely on it.
Products today must be focused on ecosystems, from the car to the web, wearables, the connected home and more—not simply on a company’s interactions or revenue. That means they must focus on the customer’s jobs to be done, not on the value the customer provides the organization.
But attaining that customer-centric focus is easier said than done. These are the four rules of API productization that can help guide you:
Align leadership on API productization. Stop viewing APIs as a technology concern, and start thinking about how API programs align with consumer value. A lack of mandate and alignment forces the API consumers—for example, developers or a partner company—to use whatever interfaces are given to them, even if they are a poor fit and difficult to use. Consider forming an API Center of Enablement that will align API activities to enterprise goals.
Funding should be allocated based on value. Instead of allocating funding for APIs through projects that are measured by integration or channel success, build productized APIs based on allocated project funding that meet broader needs.
API teams must be dedicated and multi-functional. API teams typically aren’t continuously assigned to one or many APIs. They’re often spread across the business and IT, and aligned horizontally by discipline (e.g., security, quality, development, or data). To successfully productize your APIs, start with a dedicated, multi-functional team that represents all disciplines that are required to define, build, and release an API. Then, as it starts realizing success, use this team to coach others across the organization.
Leverage a digital platform owner. APIs can no longer be treated as a bunch of integrations; the real value of APIs now lies in what can’t be easily duplicated—their look, their feel, and how they address market needs. Focus on creating quality APIs with a specific role dedicated to delivering them: the digital platform owner, who is responsible for shaping capabilities across the portfolio. By establishing leadership and accountability for the delivery of the digital platform, you can deliver more reliable, scalable APIs in a very efficient way to manage capabilities that are used broadly across the enterprise or even outside it.
With the demand for continuous delivery increasing, adopting API best practices can ensure you get the most possible value out of your APIs, save costs, and solve more customer pain points with the APIs you already have.