Looking across the entire landscape of software that businesses buy, it is clear that APIs are becoming a competitive differentiator for companies of all sizes.
Beyond external, monetized APIs, companies that develop internal APIs for themselves also have advantages over companies that do not. Every company should be developing APIs to serve their own business. APIs that are built around the business are not something that only high-tech companies benefit from. Companies in well-established verticals should not be afraid to embrace APIs; in fact, our customer base is full of non-tech companies gaining agility through building their own internal APIs.
Many companies are familiar with extending the capabilities of their business and data by providing access to through APIs, and even more companies are familiar with consuming those capabilities and offering them to their own customers, as part of the nearly 20,000 public API economy. Our recent Connectivity Benchmark Report, for example, showed that organizations generate an average of 25% of their revenue from APIs.
But I believe the real value in APIs is not limited to external facing APIs. After all, the APIs that a company builds serve as a key ingredient in building agility within the business.
I certainly take advantage of externally available APIs. As the head of IT at MuleSoft, I am involved in the procurement of a lot of software solutions. Having a documented and easily usable API is an incredible advantage from my view as the buyer; the availability of an API makes a solution stand out in my assessment. The reason API access to software is so crucial has everything to do with how we expect to be able to use our data and how the system will serve our business across applications. What everyone wants to know is how they can get the data in a system or otherwise make use of the software they have purchased on their own terms. And to do that you need the software to provide APIs.
Going one level deeper though, APIs provided by software applications only represent the view that the software vendor has in terms of what they believe is important for our business. Our customers have countless stories of how they have created APIs in front of their systems to better serve their business needs––driving agility, data availability, automation, business intelligence, and governance.
APIs can create a real competitive advantage for anyone’s business because they allow for the creation of composite applications that can drive the business to operate effectively according to the requirements specific to the company itself. APIs aren’t just for the software you buy; a business can run better with APIs of its own. APIs allow you to surface the data from your business applications and allow you use it the way that makes sense for your specific needs and to make that data available internally as well as to partners, channels, and customers.
Becoming an API-driven business
Let me be clear, purchasing software that offers APIs does not make a business API-driven. Building a bunch of APIs doesn’t make a business API-driven either. An API-driven business is one that has APIs relevant to the context of their business and processes. An API-driven business can create services for itself pulling data from wherever it lives in order to get the data they want. An API-driven business can safely expose their APIs to internal lines of business as well as to external partners and channels.
Amazon is a great example of this. Jeff Bezos mandated that every team has to expose their data as a service. This resulted in the business being able to function by consuming and publishing relevant data. This mandate drives success at Amazon because the work that goes into each team solving a problem becomes something that is available for other teams in the business that need it.
This, in turn, helps prevent duplication of effort because it is less likely for another team to build something from scratch when the work has already been done. The underlying idea is relatively simple: if one team needs data for a project then it is likely that others need that data as well, and the work that goes into making that data available becomes even higher value when offered as a service (API) to other teams by removing the need for other teams to find and surface that data for themselves.
Every data source in your company and every business process has the potential to become both useful and valuable. If you design your API strategy around being able to reuse those APIs, and get them to drive value to every part of your company, the advantages would be profound.
I’ve been known to say, “every company is a tech company, the ones that realize this are more likely to be around tomorrow than the ones that don’t.” What I mean by this is really simple: companies that embrace technology and make it a strategic part of their business will scale and operate much more effectively than those that don’t.
How Anypoint Platform will turn your company into an API-driven business
For most companies, it would seem daunting – if not impossible – to become an API-driven business. Most people think that they need an army of full-time developers to benefit from this strategy. Fortunately, that’s not true. MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform makes it possible to accomplish this quickly and without an army of developers, regardless of the scale of your business.
Using Anypoint Platform, a business can decide what data to expose by simply having a conversation about what data is needed.
Here’s an example: a line of business owner in our company needed a faster and simpler way to consume data across two main systems: Workday and Salesforce. Working with data exports from both systems, he had managed to put together a final result that he could work with; but it was time-consuming to assemble.
My team was able to sit down with him and his team and, using Anypoint Platform, we crafted an API specification in a matter of hours, using the spreadsheet he had been working on as the model for the data he needed. From there, my team used Anypoint Studio to develop APIs that would assemble this data working backward from what our colleague needed to the data in the systems. By creating APIs in this “consumer-first” approach – in other words, designing an API around a specific business need – we were able to get the business the data they needed in its final form first.
Instead of taking multiple days to assemble the data, the line of business has their data on demand and tailored to the structure they need. Anypoint Platform has the developer and operational capabilities to make building and consuming APIs that deliver on our business needs with a very small team of developers.
Another great aspect of Anypoint Platform is that it’s a single platform. Having all the tools right there made this task incredibly easy. Even more exciting, because we created this API for the business, we can adapt the API even if the underlying systems change. This is possible because we were able to abstract away the underlying system and focus on the final deliverable: the data the consumer needs.
This is vastly superior to requiring the line of business to find, extract, and utilize the data they need across the systems that run the business. Instead, we offer lines of business data as a service targeted to suit their specific needs. Anypoint Platform also gives us the built-in access controls that we need to make sure that we know who is using the data.
If APIs make the difference in the software we select as buyers and if Amazon can attribute its success in part to being a business that runs on its own APIs, then I think the value of APIs is clear. I believe the most daunting thought most companies would have is asking themselves whether or not they can run their business on APIs based on the perception that the implementation, operation, and maintenance seems impossible.
MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform exists to simplify these components allowing the business to worry less about implementation and more about function and agility. Having a platform provide the tooling and services to your developers means that work can be done more quickly, with fewer people, and in a manner that is naturally reusable and flexible.
It’s easy to think that APIs are just used to access data from external providers. The truth is that APIs are valuable to access data inside your company as well. Anypoint Platform makes using that data very easy.
Want to learn more? Sign up for a free trial of Anypoint Platform and take a look at resources about API management.