Delivering great digital experiences only grows more difficult year after year. Today, a single web or mobile transaction crosses an average of 35 different technology systems or components, compared to 22 only five years ago.
As businesses integrate IoT, wearables and other smart technology into their multichannel ecosystem, success lies in adopting API-driven strategies. APIs have grown to be the digital glue that not only empowers developers to create new software applications but also enables businesses to develop new revenue streams, streamline their go to market strategy and deliver better experiences to their customers.
What Does it Mean to be API-driven?
An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other. Without APIs, the digital experiences we’ve grown accustomed to, such as booking a hotel room or downloading software, would not be possible. APIs work in the background to help connect us to the information and technology we need.
However, companies that don’t prioritize leveraging APIs in their digital strategies are missing out on the benefits that consuming APIs can bring, as they make it easier to integrate and connect people, places, systems, data and algorithms to create new experiences, products, services and business models. Not all organizations need to be in the business of creating APIs since APIs are meant to be consumed; their creators intent for others to use and benefit from their APIs.
To capitalize on these benefits, businesses should be considering how they can embrace APIs into their digital strategies. But as a business user or C-level executive, APIs may not seem relevant to your realm of work. However, with the rate at which technology is rapidly advancing and the benefits APIs can bring, the next step in digital businesses lies in adopting an API-driven strategy.
What API-Driven Means for Businesses
Having an API-driven business model means investing into and using APIs to streamline, guide and improve business operations and processes. Incorporating APIs into corporate decision making ensures that they become the backbone of an enterprise’s digital strategy.
“We already live in an API economy where CIOs must look beyond APIs as technology and instead build their company’s business models, digital strategies and ecosystems on them,” said Paolo Malinverno, Research Vice President at Gartner.
In embracing APIs, companies understand that consuming APIs is a key part in their digital strategy to achieve business agility, streamline existing processes and accelerate time to market.
Business Benefits of an API-Driven Strategy
Companies that implement and consume APIs can expect to experience the following benefits:
- Enablement of New Technologies
Modern application architecture of cloud services, IoT devices and new technologies rely on APIs. According to an article by Gartner, “APIs are now central to application architecture because they enable loosely coupled integration, as well as being the data conduits behind mobile apps and many IoT devices.” This also can empower internal innovation by providing the agility and flexibility needed to do so.
- Reduced Costs and Time to Market
One of the main benefits of an API-driven strategy is a reduction in development effort and faster time to market. Developers understand that much of the functionality they need to build into an application already exists elsewhere. They have learned not to expend precious time and resources on reinventing the wheel but instead to rely on cost-effective APIs from third-party platforms or by using APIs they’ve already created. Embracing and leveraging APIs frees developers to focus on delivering the unique functionality of their applications more quickly, which helps businesses save money and resources. In a world where technology is continuously disrupting workforces, customer expectations and even entire industries, the ability to deliver quickly and cost-effectively is vital.
- Superior Digital Experiences
Since your developers will be empowered to build solutions across any channel through APIs, this creates better and more engaging experiences for any audience, whether that be for customers, partners or your employees. APIs can help enable the delivery of services such as personalization, data collection and integration. Additionally, as APIs continue to grow in number and in popularity, the capabilities available will only improve and expand.
These business benefits make it evident that APIs are becoming a major component companies should implement to achieve digital success.
Begin Your API-Driven Strategy
If you’re ready to reap these benefits from consuming APIs, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Look for an API-First Vendor
The first step should be to look for a vendor that is API-first. This means that the vendor develops API specifically for its users in mind. Basically, these vendors prioritize the creation of developer-friendly, secure and standardized APIs. We recommend looking for a vendor that follows the OpenAPI Specification, the largest framework today for designing, building, documenting and consuming APIs. The OpenAPI specification is language and platform agnostic and used by companies such as Netflix and PayPal. Businesses can rest assured that APIs from an API-first vendor will allow them to reap the benefits we’ve mentioned above.
- Best Practices in Leveraging APIs
How you consume and apply an API will depend on your business and its use case but regardless of what API you use:
- Read the API documentation to familiarize yourself with the API
- Keep a record for yourself of what APIs you are using as well.
- Make sure you have an open and API-forward architecture that can be well suited to address changing future needs.
How Businesses are Using APIs Today
As APIs continue to grow more critical to digital success, their evolution can present exciting opportunities for businesses; one such exciting development is headless APIs.
The term headless refers of the front-end of a site being completely decoupled from the platform behind it. The benefit of headless is being able to retrieve content from a backend platform and render it in a customer front-end that has been built using a preferred technology. APIs play a role in helping manage the vast quantity of content and data.
Take Liferay’s Headless CMS as an example. Liferay’s out-of-the-box API layer supports the OpenAPI specification, the most popular open source framework for RESTful APIs. Front-end developers can leverage the tools and frameworks they’re already familiar with to build sites. They also now have unmatched flexibility to integrate Liferay across all systems, which includes pulling data into Liferay or bringing Liferay into an existing ecosystem. Empower your developers to create differentiated customer experiences for every channel with content management APIs, content delivery APIs, content participation APIs and other REST APIs.
The growing importance of APIs in our daily lives is becoming more evident. Consider how embracing APIs can provide new possibilities and business opportunities for your company.