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Scale up, scale fast – Using APIs

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By Meet Semlani, Co-founder, Tartan 

Most companies today prioritise digital transformation to have a competitive advantage, and the use of API or Application Programming Interface is skyrocketing – and this is not just among tech companies, many other industries realise the potential of APIs.

API or Application Programming Interface, and in the context of APIs, Application refers to the software with a distinct function; Interface is the contract of service between two applications. The contract defines how these two communicate using a request and a response. Their API documentation contains all the information on how developers structure the requests and responses.

To understand the API architecture, let me give you an example of a remote-controlled car. You can move the toy car forward and backwards, make it slow or fast, and do other actions that cars do. You decide to give it to your friend, John, to be able to control the car as well. But you don’t want to give the car to him outright — it’s your car! You want to let him control it without needing to move it. That remote control has a specific set of functions that tell the car what to do go forward, backwards, and so on. Since it’s your car, you programmed the remote and gave specific instructions so John could only do certain things with it. John takes the remote, controls the car, and has fun, but he can’t do anything beyond what the remote control will let him. An API is a remote control. The car is an application, like Reddit. An iPhone app might use the Reddit API to “control” Reddit.

Every company today must develop APIs that serve their own business. Beyond external, monetised APIs, companies that build their APIs have significant advantages over those that do not.

Some of the key benefits for businesses using APIs include fostering innovation, boosting automation, better customisation, building new revenue models, improving user experience and most importantly, saving costs.

You can be from any sector to reap the benefits of APIs, – and this opportunity exists in every industry.

Some sectors offer APIs for various reasons:

· Compelled due to Regulations – Healthcare and Banking
· Prompted by Industry interoperability – Telecommunications
· Disruption – Retail, Media and Entertainment

Currently, there are around 24,000 APIs registered on ProgrammableWeb and over 2 million API repositories on Github.

As per the Slashdata Developer Economics Survey 19th edition, nearly 90% of developers use APIs in some capacity. 69% use third-party APIs, and 20% use internal or private APIs.

However, only some understand the API benefits for a business.

The earlier companies adopt APIs, the better their chances of scaling up fast.

While APIs can provide significant benefits, such as increased efficiency and flexibility, the adoption process is not always straightforward. One challenge that organisations may face is delayed API adoption.

There are several reasons organisations might delay API adoption and they are usually related to a lack of understanding or awareness, complexity or difficulty of integration, security concerns, lack of resources and compatibility issues.

The State of APIs survey collected over 850 responses from 100+ countries. Most of the respondents were professional developers, and among these respondents, 59.3% said participating in the API economy is a top priority, while 17.7% said they plan to prioritise APIs soon.

The dangerous delay in API Adoption

In an ideal world, users/ customers find APIs, integrate and launch them to achieve massive monthly growth. But in the real world, API usage follows a counter-intuitive pattern mapping into three steps: Exploration, Integration and Adoption.

Exploration: In this stage, the user/ customer learns about our API; if it addresses our problem statement or is just at a curiosity level, they play with it. They just seem to explore at this stage.

Integration: There comes a time in the future when a requirement reappears in the form of an API. Just as work and traffic gradually pick up, it drops again. This is the best time to understand and work towards testing and quickly move on to the next stage.

Adoption: Now that the APIs are tested and deployed, they run into production. The hockey stick growth we hoped for shows up, and we see our customers invest more in us and look for deeper integrations.

The dangerous delay is the time frame between the exploration and adoption phases. The longer the gap, the more significant the loss for your business. To put it simply, a dangerous delay is the time it takes for your API to switch from a position of curiosity to a need!

Finally, here’s a quick primer on how to implement API strategy:

· Define a clear digital strategy
· Align with your organisation and its culture
· Assess and build robust supporting technologies, and lastly
· Engage with the ecosystem

A lot of research and hard work will be required to naturalise an established company for the digital economy. If the thinking doesn’t change, then all the work will go in vain. APIs are the building blocks for any digital transformation, and determining which APIs to develop and what products and solutions they will enable require a digital mindset. Digital leaders have already created a template for success, and adherent organisations must pay attention to the how, why and, most importantly, the what!

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