The goal of almost every enterprise, no matter the industry, is to deliver delightful customer experiences that fuel business growth. Though each industry and organization’s profits rely on different mixes of products and services, one underlying link unites virtually all of them: to keep pace with changing customer demands, a business needs IT agility — that is, it needs the ability to connect data, applications, and systems to create new digital experiences and products.
How do companies do this? They use application programming interfaces (APIs).
APIs allow software to talk to other software — which means they can enable developers to connect systems, data, and applications, even if these digital assets were originally written in different languages or otherwise deployed in ways that make them difficult to leverage for new use cases.
Well-documented and well-managed APIs provide a consistent interface that allows developers to work with digital assets without having to understand underlying systems complexity. This dramatically reduces the specific expertise required to build innovative new applications and consequently opens up opportunities for more developers to do more, faster. APIs are not just a kind of integration technology — they’re products that empower developers.
Five Ways APIs Can Fuel Growth
How can investments in managed APIs translate into business results? Here are five key ways organizations are leveraging managed APIs to fuel growth.
Improved software development efficiency: Companies are always looking for ways to streamline aspects of their businesses and create operational savings. When APIs are well managed, including documentation support and investments in self-service developer tools, they can accelerate software development by making high-value digital assets more easily consumable and reusable. Because APIs facilitate a more atomic approach to software development, with applications assembled from independently-deployable APIs rather than written as tightly-coupled monolithic blocks of code, they can enable parallel development efforts and modern DevOps approaches, such as maturing software products through rapid iteration.
Better developer and end user experiences: Managed APIs enable organizations to not only make their digital assets more easily available to developers but also collect analytics and generate insights about how and by whom APIs are being used. These insights help organizations to iterate their APIs so developers are increasingly empowered to create better experiences for end users. Well-managed APIs help business to iterate not only quickly but also intelligently.
Fewer security headaches: APIs are an essential ingredient in modern software development, but when APIs are poorly managed, security considerations may be implemented inconsistently — or not at all. An API management platform provides a common plane to apply security precautions while still allowing individual teams and developers to work relatively autonomously. Robust API security capabilities should include authentication mechanisms to control who can access APIs, intelligent security algorithms to combat bots, and tools to enforce traffic quotas and other policies.
Multi-cloud acceleration: Modern IT ecosystems are often a heterogenous mixture of legacy systems and modern SaaS and cloud services. To compete as this landscape becomes more and more complex, businesses need the agility to freely connect these systems and to locate applications and data where they will be most useful. APIs abstract this complexity into an interface that developers can easily use to connect and leverage apps and data across clouds or across hybrid deployments, and API management platforms provide control over and visibility into this process.
Entry into new markets: With APIs, organizations can not only make digital assets easier for internal developers to use but also package those digital assets for external partners and developers. Whereas in the past an organization might have spent months integrating its technology with that of a single partner, today’s digitally savvy businesses frequently make their APIs available via self-service developer portals. These portals enable businesses to onboard and support new partners at internet scale. As more external parties consume a provider’s APIs, those APIs become more likely to be leveraged for new use cases outside the provider’s core capabilities. This type of adoption may generate ecosystems of suppliers and consumers around the provider’s services, and help the provider to enter adjacent markets and broaden the scope of its innovation efforts without a proportionate increase in internal R&D investments.
APIs Provide Stability Amidst Change
The array of technologies vital to business will continue to broaden and diversify over time, and use cases and strategies will continue to evolve. The shifts will no doubt be dizzying at times, but as these changes occur, APIs will continue to be one of the through lines that unites how organizations react. Even when change swirls, APIs and API management will provide an anchor, helping businesses to express the data, applications, and expertise that have made them successful in the digital contexts that partners and users increasingly demand.
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