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Realizing the economic value of APIs

The API—the digital reflection of an organization—sets companies apart

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Competing in the API economy

In today’s world of ever-expanding interconnectivity, application programming interfaces have emerged as important tools for providing access to data and capabilities beyond the firewall. In fact, APIs are becoming the digital reflection of an organization.

To differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market, companies need to create digital capabilities for end users as well as API experiences that set themselves apart in the minds of developers and the organizations they support. They also need to manage their APIs as they do other products and services. This requires a commitment to addressing the external API “look and feel” as well as developing an infrastructure that supports the API lifecycle from inception to retirement. This executive report, the second in a two-part series, explores the API experience and the use of APIs as a new, dynamic form of product offering.

APIs represent more than technical conduits for sharing data. Well-designed APIs provide organizations with a critical link to data and services that enable rapid innovation, open up markets for new goods and services, and serve as the basis for future partnerships. APIs have become a vital external representation of an organization; the digital “face” upon which companies base their brand impressions. Our research shows that, given the increasing importance of APIs, organizations need to focus on:

  • Designing engaging API experiences that appeal to developers and organizational strategists. To do this, an organization must brand its APIs to differentiate itself in an increasingly complex marketplace. At the same time, an organization’s APIs must reflect the organization’s core messages and values. An API producer must be able to effectively promote its APIs to key audiences and ease the overall API adoption journey.
  • Managing an API as a product to address elements of the entire API lifecycle, from inception to retirement, in much the same way a company oversees development and ongoing support for any physical good or digital service.

This executive report is based on interviews with more than 30 individuals representing companies across industries. It highlights key challenges and effective practices for creating the external experiences and building internal capabilities needed to compete successfully in the API-driven economy.

Designing the API experience

APIs, like other products, need to provide an experience that delights customers at all levels. Our study reveals three important facets that bring together an enriching experience for the developers who use APIs and the consumers of the offerings those APIs enable.

  • Organizations must consider the branding and positioning implications of APIs. Not only should organizations address the technical needs and experiences of developers, they should also consider how end users experience API-enabled offerings.
  • A robust API promotions strategy that facilitates awareness of the APIs is required. It is critical to sustain developers’ interest in considering API usage in an ever-growing ecosystem and pool of competitors.
  • Organizations should nurture API adoption throughout the API lifecycle, with an emphasis on turning the API consumer into an API champion. The API lifecycle transcends the initial adoption for development; it is a cumulative experience that includes the use of testing environments, version upgrades, service level agreements (SLAs) and post-deployment support, among other factors.

API branding and development

As with any branding, the API brand communicates its business value and reflects the larger values of the organization. A successful pattern for branding incorporates consistency, clarity and constancy with two user communities in mind: developers and end consumers.

From our research, it is clear that APIs represent more than development tools; they are, in fact, digital products that require similar levels of development rigor to those of other products.