Innovating with MACH (Part 2): API-First is Key to Meeting Customers’ Future Needs
My previous article looked at how business capabilities should determine your platforms’ building blocks, a.k.a microservices. How do you get your users and applications to interact with your packaged business capabilities? APIs are the critical links to your data and services that enable rapid innovation and serve as the basis for future partnerships. Let’s focus on the business value of being API-first.
Switching from Integration-first to API-first
Business leaders want to create newer experiences on their platforms. Thinking of APIs in integration-first terms prevents you from adapting to new opportunities. In a month or two, when you need to extend your platform for a new use case, your team may have to build a whole new set of APIs, not to mention the updates to the platform itself.
Being API-first means anticipating that an API may have many use cases in the future. An API-first approach means thinking of an API as the most important stakeholder of your platform. Everything you build should start with APIs that deliver direct or indirect business value to the organisation. This might require a cultural shift in how your team thinks about innovation. Instead of focusing on systems and their technical details to drive innovation, API-first allows business leaders to get involved. Far from being just technical conduits for sharing data, you can almost think of APIs as your organisation’s face or digital reflection. Instead of focusing only on innovation within your business, API-first empowers you to innovate within your ecosystems of partners, customers, and business units inside your organisation.
By putting APIs as the foundation, instead of the software solution itself, all platform functionality is accessible to you. You can easily compose and extend the experience tailored to you and your customer, extending the platform's longevity. Building your platform and your organisation as API-first sets you up for the future, helping you quickly react to the market and evolve to meet the unknown future needs of consumers.
Thinking of your Platform as Integrations-first
Thinking of your Platform as API-first
How an API-First Strategy Affects Your Bottom Line
Becoming API-first unlocks significant opportunities for efficiency, speed, growth, resilience, and future-proofing, improved customer experiences, decreased development costs, and a better, more innovative product.
Improved Time to Market
If you follow an API-first strategy, any new request from the business or internal teams will be defined as an API through a proper governance process. Developers can start building the frontend and backend services in parallel using mock services and standard API definitions like Swagger, OpenAPI Specification, or GraphQL. You can release the business capability faster, innovate faster and go to the market before the competition.
All organisations rely on partners and other stakeholders in their ecosystem. Sometimes your partners will innovate other business and sales models. This is easier if they have the required data exposed as APIs. Building an ecosystem with APIs interacting with external parties can go a long way, especially when expanding your business into new territories and reaching a broader customer base. For example, Google made its AI engine accessible through Vision APIs, allowing developers worldwide to utilise its AI technology and implement it in various use cases.
Unlock New Business Opportunities
If your platform is API-first, many third parties could build much better, unique experiences to consume the services offered by your platform. This unlocks new revenue streams via partner sales. You could even start monetising your APIs and gain new revenue through that.
Improved Performance and Resilience
The API-first approach allows you to build well-architected services to deal with failures. The API layer shields the backend services and will handle intermittent failures at the backend, providing a better user experience. APIs also allow systems to be operated with efficient data models like JSON over REST and authentication protocols like OAuth2 for a better user experience. When users get better response times and minimal to zero downtime, keep coming back to your business.
Increased Efficiency and Collaboration
Starting with APIs allows business stakeholders to develop multiple use cases for every API. Each API contributes to the business’s overall success and improves the platform's efficiency. Individual teams can start implementing their services as APIs and expose them to other groups while owning the management and maintenance responsibilities.
In an API-first organisation, developers can fetch most of the functionality they need to create applications from elsewhere. Instead of starting from scratch, they can use cost-effective APIs from third-party providers or their own internal APIs.
Improved Marketing Visibility
Being API-first forces you to document every aspect of your product or platform. This forms a well-documented backbone to attract new business and talent. Marketing can use the stories of how you are using the API and how it fits into the customer journey. This creates excitement about your APIs and sparks new ideas among other developers. commercetools is an excellent example of how being API-first can improve marketing visibility.
Getting Started with an API-first Strategy
The first step is aligning your overall business and digital strategy. Determine how your API feed into desired business outcomes – are you simply trying to accelerate your digital transformation and improve customer experience? Or is there an opportunity to disrupt your industry by providing a robust API? Determine the target audience for API consumption, review your existing IT infrastructure and figure out where you need to create data bridges. You will need an organisational change to support API-first thinking and move into a mindset where your API is a product. Implementing the right full-lifecycle API management tool and governance models to support your API initiative is vital.
Get in touch to find out how a strategic partner can bring API-first thinking to your business to create a positive impact. You don’t have to start from scratch if you use the B2B Accelerator+, with its pre-built use cases and standard features, available as 50+ API endpoints, and a Kubernetes accelerator to take you to market faster.