APIs are reframing the way we do business. Unlocking new opportunities to engage better with customers, while delivering the real-time data and immediate customer experience they want and now demand, says Paul Cunningham, Chief Marketing Officer.
As an amateur historian, and one with a particular fascination for the Roman Empire, one of my favourite quotes is that “If the Romans had been obliged to learn Latin, they would never have found time to conquer the world.”
Apart from pointing out the obvious and notorious difficulty of acquiring that language, the comment is a light way in to understanding the challenge of integrating disparate technologies and working methods in today’s business and technology ecosystems.
In a digital economy, we have an opportunity to attain scale, efficiency and connectivity in ways that were previously unimagined. Yet organisations often struggle to achieve their desired outcomes for want of a shared language or methodology that integrates data, processes and skillsets across boundaries of company, technology or industry.
For example: you want to access your most strategic supplier’s data on current pricing, quotes, orders, deliveries, returns and more, but crucially to do it inside your own company’s hard-won, functionally rich system, not having to learn theirs, and moreover to do all of this in real-time without loss of application performance, data security or competitive edge.
The good news is, to conclude the metaphor, you don’t have to learn Latin any more.
Application programming interfaces (APIs) were once largely limited to technical domains such as operating systems but have now become a significant engine of business growth. The potential is big. As the connective tissue linking these technology and organisational ecosystems, APIs are a significant competitive driver. McKinsey estimates that as much as $1 trillion profit globally could be up for grabs through the redistribution of revenues across sectors within ecosystems.
IDC and F5 research around API adoption and digital transformation examined key API lifecycle considerations. They found that by 2022, 90% of new apps will feature a microservices architecture based on APIs and 35% of all production apps will be cloud native. Those that do not incorporate APIs into their IT strategy will likely be left behind, both in terms of functional capability and the ability to attract investment and skills.
The API ecosystem
APIs quickly move data between one system and another in a way that is readily understandable and easily consumed and adopted. They enable devices and applications to speak to each other in real time.
APIs are everywhere, supporting everyday applications and transactions, especially cloud and SaaS. They allow companies to leave parts of their software available or ‘open’ so other software can easily integrate with them but without compromising performance, security or function.
Organisations are rapidly adopting APIs because they enable rapid and repeated innovation without the limitations of legacy B2B integration systems such as EDI (electronic document interchange). Implementing an API strategy increases business agility and efficiency, enhances the customer experience and opens up new revenue streams.
Innovation, efficiency and revenue
An API strategy puts our customers in a better position to innovate at speed, increase productivity and open up new revenue streams. More than half (52%) of organisations in a recent MuleSoft survey say that IT has generated the most business value by building reusable integrations that save time and money on future projects.
APIs drive business outcomes: organisations using APIs benefit from operational improvements such as increased productivity, increased innovation and greater agility. They also drive innovation through ecosystems with partners and external developers by exposing them to third parties.
And as new business users and applications emerge, API strategies are necessary to drive true value: outside of IT and the supply chain, business roles such as analysts, data scientists and marketers are all demanding integration.
In today’s digitally transformed environment, businesses need to be able to pivot quickly to respond to customer needs and changes in the competitive landscape. APIs allow them to access data from our platforms and display it in their choice of application. There’s no need to learn new paradigms or switch between systems, thereby reducing investment, time to market, training and ongoing costs.
This unlocks a vast amount of real-time transactional data. Data used across the business by different teams across different time zones, saving the customer considerable time and delivering a better customer experience.
Westcon-Comstor AIM – Application Integration Management
Supporting our data-driven strategy, Westcon-Comstor’s AIM solution was initially developed for our global Telco and Systems Integrator customers who are typically well advanced on such approaches but is now being recognised by smaller customers that are already digitally aware and enabled, and value the agility and flexibility we can bring them.
These customers can easily leverage the benefits of our AIM solution to bring speed, accuracy and scale to their day-to-day sales, e-commerce and logistics operations, allowing them to punch well above their weight.
The AIM suite is built with Microsoft’s robust and secure Azure platform for API management. All our APIs follow the same design approach and accessibility for consistency. Our self-service web portal ensures customers can onboard, access and test their required integration fast, minimising the effort and cost.
It’s make or break
For some customers, APIs may not yet seem relevant to their business. But at the rate business applications technologies such as ERP, CRM and digital trading are advancing and becoming more affordable, an entry into the world of APIs can bring increased efficiencies, enhanced customer experiences and new revenue streams.
With digital transformation well underway, now accelerated by macroeconomic factors, organisations that don’t evaluate where APIs fit into their business technology strategy will be left speaking an obsolete language.