How APIs Are Transforming the IT Economy
Chances are you have overheard developers in your office talk about APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), but you might have just shrugged it off as more boring tech talk or a vague Star Trek reference. What you might not know is that APIs are a technology architecture that is transforming the IT economy.
Companies like Amazon and Salesforce.com have led this transformation to the tune of billions of dollars in additional revenue every year. Pinterest recently decided to join the revolution announcing its first API set in partnership with several big-brand retailers.
These economic opportunities are not restricted only to traditional tech companies; almost every plausible industry has examples of companies that have profited from opening up internal business functions to the outside world. After reading this, you are probably asking yourself what exactly are APIs and why are your developers talking about them.
What people are usually referring to when they talk about APIs are REST Services. What you really need to know is that REST Services are a very simple way for developers to write software that interfaces with your back-end systems.
Developers can make these connections regardless of programming language. Exposing these systems allows other companies to find new and innovative ways—which no one has previously considered possible or profitable—to deliver your data or business functions.
These services can also be used internally in your company, which allows your own employees to innovate and develop new products as well. REST Services facilitate code sharing and increase the speed of development. These benefits are why you hear developers discussing APIs in the hallway.
A question you should ask is whether your company should start implementing a development-architecture base on REST. Chances are good that your competitors are seriously considering making the change or you have a startup disruptor in your industry basing its business model on publically exposing core business functions.
You should be asking yourself whether your company can successfully implement REST services in a way that will lead to the innovation you desire. Andreas Krohn of Nordic APIs recently gave an excellent presentation about challenges in creating a successful API stack. His main point is that creating successful APIs is not a technical challenge; it is a business challenge.
The entire organization must embrace this new method of customer interaction and marketing or the opportunity will be lost. This takes education and sometimes even a cultural change. To get the full benefit of Krohn’s experience, watch the following video:
REST APIs have created a completely new way of interacting with your customers and delivering your data to entirely new markets. They have revolutionized the way in which companies like Amazon, SalesForce, and others do business. In fact, they are a primary means of delivering data to a mobile user base.
It might be time to stop and ask those developers what they are doing with APIs and how the company can build on what is being done.