Any digital strategy implementation will have APIs at its heart as the lingua franca for all the systems to connect and collaborate. However, as your organisation engages within the API economy, either consciously through buying software and building out APIs or unconsciously by having to interact with new SaaS services you have deployed or will be accessing through your partner ecosystem, it is very evident that without a clear and directed approach on how to plan, build, use, maintain and publicise these APIs and their impact on every part of the organisation the result of this engagement will not be successful.
Whether you are in Financial Services, Telecommunications, Utilities, or any other industry sector a key learning we have personally seen from being involved at both the beginning and end segments of the first roll out of API initiatives at organisations such as ANZ Bank, NZ Post, Optus and RMIT amongst others is that to over-deliver on customer, partner and 3rd party expectations requires more than just making a technology decision and rolling out numerous APIs as quickly as possible – the mantra of ‘if you build it they will come’ really is more of a dream than a reality. HSBC realised this to their cost with the first API Portal achieving limited uptake and compliance only benefits. Realising a re-think was required to attract partners and unlock new revenue channels; they sought a new approach which focused squarely on making it easy for developers and third-parties to consume their APIs. When organisations get it right the benefits are significant. NZ Post has achieved the double whammy of increased revenue and reduced operating costs through the implementation of Shipping and Parcel tracking API’s that allow their partners to create seamless experiences for their end customers.
While APIs are the glue that enable the efficient collaboration of all parties in an ecosystem, organisations often make the mistake of making a technical decision only; in other words thinking it’s as simple as implementing an API Gateway to host and secure the set of APIs. Even for smaller organisations, this approach neglects the full range of factors needed to achieve a truly pan-organisation value network as it will only satisfy the IT technology requirements without consideration for any business requirements.
What is required is a more comprehensive blueprint for the successful implementation of the transformation strategy which addresses all people, organisations and components.
Such a blueprint should be focused on a customer-centric approach aligned to an outside-in strategy that covers not only the initial planning and implementation but crucially looks at the on-going requirements and how the overall ‘product’ will change over time. High level considerations of the blueprint include;
– customer and partner experiences and how to reimagine the associated business processes and systems via AI and APIs and automation where possible;
– how to grow engagement with customers, partners and your own employees in other parts of the business with new and existing services including a focus on adoption campaigns to democratise the APIs
– what are the people and culture impacts on the existing organisation and where can employees be skilled up or talent deployed in new roles
– new operating model requirements including on-going governance and product ownership because APIs should be seen as products
– enterprise wide architecture impacts in the form of a formal API Strategy
Aligning the IT and business strategies requires much more than combining them into a single document. Within this blueprint, or API Program to give it a formal name, every aspect of the IT strategy should support the goals of the business which means every IT-related investment, activity or project must create or optimise business value.
Our next blog will start to look at some practical approaches to building out an API Program.