Open Banking: The API journey continues

By Koen Adolfs

Open Banking is still a relatively new enabling capability at ABN AMRO. Foreseeing big opportunities, we pursuit to open up the valuable ‘digital building blocks’ from our IT landscape, use those of others and provide all enablers developers need.

Although having launched our Developer Portal and first API Products for over a year now, a meaningful journey remains ahead. There is still a lot to do and learn, especially as we are scaling. At the beginning of 2019, we would like to give you an update on where we are at and involve you in our API journey. I hope it also helps you in yours…

As society and business have grown increasingly digital in nature, the demand for connected software has exploded. In turn, the Application Programming Interface (API) has emerged as an important resource for modern organizations because it facilitates software connections.

At ABN AMRO we are committed to evolving client offerings by reinventing client journeys and further leveraging partnerships:

Figure 1: Presented by Christian Bornfeld, Chief Innovation & Technology Officer (ABN AMRO Investor Day, November 2018)

For this, API technology is crucial. Besides the distinction between closed (or internal) and open APIs, deeper distinctions can be made. In general, we talk about: private, mandatory, partner, customer and public APIs. Each of them can have its own business model: free, developer pays, developer gets paid or indirect.

Figure 2: Various kinds of APIs and business models

Start of our journey (2017–2018) — Central API Team

When we started with Open Banking (focused on Open APIs), we started with only one Central API Team working on all relevant capabilities for both the API Platform and developing APIs using it.

In this manner, we have launched our Developer Portal and (together with Tikkie) two successful API Products: Tikkie Payment Requests and Tikkie Fast Checkout. With the people of Beyond Banking, we have organized two amazing hackathons. Next to this, we worked on Partner APIs and are preparing the launch of new exciting API Products.

Figure 3: ABN AMRO’s API Platform
Figure 4: Start of our journey (2017–2018) — Centralized governance over our API Platform with one Central API Team

This combination of activities learned us valuable lessons. The main ones?

Getting the best value from your APIs means learning how to manage their design, development, deployment, growth, quality, security and support while dealing with the complicating factors of context, time and scale.

API management also includes the management of an API ecosystem, the distribution of decisions within our organization and even the process of migrating existing APIs into our growing API landscape.

Having this background, we agree to the lessons from the book ‘Continuous API Management’ (by Mike Amundsen, Ronnie Mitra, Mehdi Medjaoui & Erik Wilde). The writers distinct two key challenges in the API management space:

  1. Managing the life of a single API
  2. Managing the landscape of all the APIs.

How to grow from one to the other is a learning path we will need to figure out together. Are you on an API journey yourself? The following basic themes will emerge making it difficult:

  • Scope: What is the proper level of central control? What should central software architecture teams be focusing upon when governing APIs over time?
  • Scale: How do you deal with changes in scale over time? How do you manage the growing challenges on technology, teams and governance?
  • Standards: How do you keep APIs and related processes aligned over time? How do you provide consistent guidance for teams designing, implementing, deploying and supporting APIs?

Growing to an API ecosystem (2019 and on) — Decentralize vs Centralize with Multiple API Teams

We will open up more APIs (partner, customer, public) and we want to do it good. To facilitate, we will decentralize more responsibilities and build enablers for other teams to make it work. So our journey continues.

As the API topic grows within an organization, it can become a complex and adaptive system. All of the individual people in the organization make many local decisions, sometimes collectively and sometimes individually. When all those decisions happen at scale and over time, a system emerges which is capable of adapting a lot of change.

But working with a complex system requires a special kind of approach. It is difficult to predict the impact of changes in a complex system — making a change to one part of your system can lead to unintended consequences in another. Therefore implementing large changes and waiting for results is a bad idea.

So instead, while making decisions on what to decentralize and keep central, we will ‘nudge’ the system by making smaller changes and assess their impact.

We are looking forward to present you our new API Products and other developments. We invite you to give us feedback on what you experience.

Let the learning continue…

Want to learn more (or use our APIs)?

Visit ABN AMRO’s Developer Portal or go to our Developer Blog. You will read everything to know about our APIs and more.

About the author:

Koen Adolfs, Product Owner Open Banking

Over the course of his career, Koen has developed a taste for change, strategy and digital innovation. After focusing on the Internet and Mobile, he started specialising in APIs when PSD2 was in the make. As the Product Owner for Open Banking, Koen and his team are responsible for ABN AMRO’s API platform, supporting the business lines in formulating their vision and enlarging the developer community.