Integration has existed as long as technology resources have. Prior to platforms however, IT was a monolith inside of an enterprise, which meant everyone had to wait around for integration to happen.
The power of APIs is evident but understanding how they work their magic can be challenging. In this discussion, we’ll take a look now at how exactly APIs can power your business — and what it looks like to launch an API-led digital transformation initiative.
What are APIs?
They might not always be visible, but applications are behind all of our digital experiences. In the early days of tech, these applications talked to each other through direct point-to-point connections. This evolved into an integration bus architecture, which connected applications to a shared source of information. Today’s APIs, versatile and scalable interfaces that create connections between software, expose the functionality of each application without requiring a bus or monolithic middleman.
You can think of APIs as Lego: simple, self-contained components with standardized interfaces. Yet APIs can also be complex in terms of the amount of functionality they expose; they also can easily be deployed, managed, and scaled within a micro services architecture. Because APIs can essentially create complex models composed of smaller, defter components, enterprise integration supported by micro services harnesses the power of repeatability or re usability. Platforms provide the features and technology businesses need to support this kind of integration.
APIs are all about re usability
I have worked on both sides of the table, building integration platforms as well as deploying them for customers. In my experience filling each role, I’ve found that the notion of re usability is the heart of the matter when it comes to API power. APIs allow for re usability within an enterprise, but API-led architecture also encourages reuse of existing assets from the start.
Many CXOs across various industries feel they have to reinvent APIs and platforms to drive API-led integration, but they do not need to reinvent the wheel. Nor do they have to discard everything they’ve built in the last years to transition to an API-centric ecosystem.
It is possible for enterprises to begin with what they already have. In fact, taking an incremental approach to API_led can enable more cost-conscious, ROI-based investments — the types of investments many businesses are looking to make in the wake of 2020.
APIs and security first thinking
In this era of increasing data breaches, most of which involve exposing data assets, businesses are necessarily amping up their security practices. There’s valid concern out there that exposing APIs can compromise security and data privacy, but I’d like to emphasize that APIs are not inherently unsafe or safe. Their capacity to support a security-first mindset within an enterprise depends on the governance and organizational culture that supports them.
In other words, how you treat your APIs is identical to how you treat data and security in your business. This is another key point about the power of APIs — APIs are not a technology-only component of digital transformation. They also hinge upon your organizational culture. Because it takes a true village to secure your data, change management is a critical component of transitioning to an API-centric ecosystem.
This means granting your business teams the appropriate privileges and embracing the principle of minimal access. When you do this, APIs become a tool for enabling, not inhibiting, your enterprise’s security-first mindset.
Launching an API-led digital transformation
You’re sold on APIs and their capacity to drive digital transformation and business value within your enterprise — what happens now, and where exactly do you begin? The first steps of your API journey truly depend upon your business, its existing assets and culture, and what you would like to achieve.
That’s why we present all clients looking to transform to an API-led architecture with a “journey map” to assess their enterprise’s current landscape and ecosystem. This map conceptualizes a business’s capabilities: data flows, source systems, data consumers, technology connectors, external data sources, governance and security, infrastructure, business capabilities, and other core components.
In a typical drawing board session, we invite CXOs to identify both where they’re currently at on this map and where they’d like to take their business. In many cases, that means specifying pain points. Are your enterprise’s current APIs secure enough, for example? Do you have good governance in place? Do you want to transition from mainframes to real-time connectors? What is your cloud strategy? Such specific questions allow us to gain a holistic understanding of your enterprise’s needs, as opposed to isolating individual factors.
They also reinforce the incremental approach of API-led integration. Embracing a crawl-walk-run approach when bringing APIs on board allows businesses to pinpoint a starting point and destination. It’s also vital for measuring progress in a space that might feel very foreign to those just launching their API-led digital transformation journey.
APIs may make enterprise transformation easier and drive faster innovation, but the speed of API projects hinges on a business’s existing culture, its starting point, and its desired destination. What’s more, API-led integration requires commitment from all stakeholders. Transformation has its inherent discomfort, and APIs are not an overnight, drag-and-drop change; the more collaborative the process can be between all players on the team, the smoother the end result.
APIs and the digital future
Digital transformation through API-led integration has the potential to generate high business value, but it is not entirely a top-down initiative. The concept of the citizen developer is important for every industry to understand — true innovation arrives when you empower all your developers and business people with the right technology platform, training, best practices, and protections. It does not come from a single IT group or business entity, but rather emerges across enterprise and partner ecosystems.
Fortunately, this notion is built into the makeup of APIs themselves, which build connected experiences seamlessly so that you can realize your innovation goals, enable your teams, and create the added business value that will allow your enterprise to thrive.