What is an API by the way?
An API (Application Programming Interface) enables various software, systems and/or apps to connect and communicate with each other in an easy and automated way.
Do you remember the ‘not so good’ old times when ERP, CRM and HCM enterprise applications worked as stand-alone solutions, creating their own silos of information, only to be exchanged through daily FTP batches, in an effort to sync data? With the explosion of cloud technology, smartphones and data, it is about time to create synergy and value: APIs are the core of this change.
APIs are literally everywhere. They can be external, connecting you with partners and/or customers. Or they can be internal, helping you improve workflow and productivity, while concealing your multiple systems and applications to behave as a fully integrated and homogeneous entity.
Some might think API is just a middleware. You are partially correct, but it is much more. Fueled with never ending streams of data, APIs are the key to actioning and leveraging your data. If data is the new gold, APIs are the prospector’s toolkit! They are key to unlock data across legacy and mobile systems.
API economy: it is a race with only winners
In 2015, Marc Benioff spent most of his Dreamforce keynote highlighting why API-first and mobile-first were key to the Salesforce platform success. I summarised it here with my own words.
API-first is a way of integrating features on a platform. It means that before you develop a great user experience, you will prioritize and design the underlying API that the user experience will leverage. This was in my humble opinion one of the many reasons for Amazon’s big success. This gives an extraordinary amount of flexibility: not only can you build one or multiple user experiences on top of the API (Salesforce Classic or Lightning), so can also third parties or ISVs, as well as integration specialists. And the best part is that no data is left behind. Instead of locking areas of your application by a ‘user interface only experience’, like View Setup Audit Trail, we'll start with the assumption that data can be exposed through the API and build from there.
Who says an increase of APIs also indicates an increase of API management. This market is actually expected to keep on growing at an average yearly rate of 33% until 2021.
It should come as no surprise to see the biggest IT players offer API management solutions such as Apigee (bought by Google), Informatika , Dell Boomi, IBM or Microsoft on this fast-moving market, and Salesforce joining the group with their recent and most expensive acquisition of Mulesoft.
The race is on and the competition is intense, to create solutions connecting as many apps and platforms as possible, while ensuring on-the-go data security.
Creating new profit streams
So far, APIs have done well at helping to streamline interactions between business apps. But there’s much more value in your data than you could imagine today, and even more tomorrow knowing that data creation should grow 15-fold between 2005 and 2020.
How can you innovate and generate more profits with APIs? The answer is simple: be proactive and open them to the market, and you will expand your possibilities.
API economy: the digital airport case
One very concrete example is the San Francisco airport. Since 2016, they have been leading the digital way when they started selling their data via their own APIs to companies working in and around the airport.
Closer to us in Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport launched in March 2017 their digital airport strategy based on APIs. The idea behind this was to foster custom development and innovation.
A first result was a collaboration with the FLIO mobile app, which offers real-time flight information, quick WIFI access or geolocation of shops and restaurants, amongst others for any airport around the world.
A second use is the wayfinder in augmented reality: your smartphone can now indicate to you the quickest route to any shop or boarding gate, and tell you how long you will have to wait on your way.
The next step is even more ambitious. Uber, Tomtom and several car manufacturers shall launch new services leveraging real-time road traffic and wait time data (border control & security) at the airport, to inform passengers when to leave home for their flight, allowing them minimal delay before departing.
APIs are now much more than a middleware to connect different systems and applications; they represent the future of data management. Now is the time to rethink your entire data strategy towards more external information exchanges: the more open, the more beneficial it will be for your business.
In other words, CIOs will have to think data before IT infrastructure. And not only them. All CxOs will have to be aligned and imagine new business models to stay ahead of the curve.
A new game is on. Is the API economy already part of your long-term business thinking?
Last but not least, APIs are very technical. My colleague Malaka Silva will complement this blog post with a more technical post in the coming days. Drop me a mail and I will be happy to share this link with you.