Application Performance Management 

To “monetize” your data, “productize” your APIs

Once the domain of geeky developers, APIs are becoming strategic assets that can help you deliver your product – your data – to market.

Imagine you’re a tourist and you want the mobile dining app on your smart watch to give you a review of a restaurant as you walk by. Or imagine you’re a farmer and want real-time data through Google Glass about past crop yields, predicted rainfall and temperature to help you plant your crops more efficiently.

In today’s digital marketplace, billions of applications and devices like these constantly demand more and different types of data. With every company becoming a software company in the application economy, delivering data in a timely and efficient manner has never been more important or crucial.

Those who make it easiest for applications to access that data will be the first to “monetize” it – that is, charge customers for it. But first you need to “productize” your application programming interfaces (APIs).

Want more? For further reading on APIs and security, see CA Technologies White Paper: Protecting Your APIs Against Attack and Hijack

Why APIs?

In tomorrow’s “Internet of Things” applications, the required data might come from multiple legacy databases maintained by different business partners that were not designed with cloud or mobile access in mind. Data from this unpredictable mix of applications must be made available to multiple applications running on different operating systems on a constantly changing mix of devices.

Traditional point-to-point middleware is far too complex, time-consuming and expensive to deliver these ever-changing combinations of data to so many different devices.

APIs provide a common, easier-to-use data access method for any developer, regardless of the data source or the end user device. Unlike traditional middleware, APIs enable developers to “de-link” the front-end applications consuming the data from the back-end services that deliver it.

As long as developers comply with the rules of the API, it doesn’t matter whether the data comes from a legacy mainframe database or the cloud, and whether the consuming application runs on a desktop PC, a smart phone, or a fitness wristband.

Route to market

Think of APIs as the delivery channel that gets your product – your data – to market. This makes APIs as important to your business as a dealer network is to a car manufacturer or a supermarket chain is to a cereal maker.

When a technology rises to this level of business importance, IT must bring the same discipline to delivering it as the business requires for any other product or service.

Questions to ask

Such “productizing” of APIs requires tackling tough questions across a number of business areas:

Strategic

  • What are your most critical business goals, and how might an API help meet them?
  • Would success be only broader market awareness or a specific level of market share or added revenue?
  • How much data do you want to expose via your API, and to whom?
  • Is it more important to tap outside innovation by allowing open access through a public or open source API, or to control access by sharing it with a select few partners?
  • Most importantly, what disruptive trends are about to transform your industry, and how might an API help you become (or remain) a leader?

 

Marketing

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What API features do they need the most? Is it SOX audit capabilities, HIPAA-compliant security, or usage metering?
  • And how are these APIs bundled and offered as a package to a specific market segment?

 

Sales

  • How will you promote your API and deliver it to the market?
  • How much money and effort will you devote to such efforts?

 

Governance

  • Who within your organization owns the API and has the final say on which new features or changes to implement?
  • What level of ROI is required to proceed with development of an API? Who calculates that ROI, and how?

 

Service

  • How will you cost-effectively deliver the support required to draw developers to your API?
  • How can you tap the user community to minimize your support costs?

 

Geek chic

APIs are no longer a geeky acronym only developers care about. They are becoming strategic assets that can make or break a business. That gives developers a chance to shine with CEOs, CFOs, and CMOs by delivering APIs that help create and dominate new markets.

Success, however, requires thinking of APIs as not just another internal IT project, but as products that must be cost-effectively marketed, sold and supported outside the enterprise.


Robert L. Scheier, a former Computerworld technology editor, has been writing about the business uses…

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