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Tomorrow's Leaders Are Setting the Table for Success with API Strategies

By Erik Linask
July 20, 2016

Much lip service has been given to the idea of business transformation, with new devices, applications and services creating previously unheard of possibilities for enriching business processes through integration with any number of other complementary services. It’s not a new concept – such integration has been going on for decades.  But, as Cisco’s CTO for APIs and Integration, Cisco Collaboration Technology Group, Jose de Castro, noted in his keynote at All About the API, this fourth Industrial Revolution we’re now witnessing thanks to massive advancements in machine learning and AI, the availability of infinite compute resources, and the countless sensors and other data sources being pushed into the technology ecosystem has made it such that “there has never been a cooler time to be a consumer of technology.”

The difference today is that APIs have made it not only easy to build integrations into nearly any data source, but also have created an environment where well-designed APIs make it easy for nearly any business user to become a developer.  It is a trend he suggests was kicked into high gear by Microsoft, which, in a stroke of genius, allowed ordinary users to enter the developer world by enabling them to write Excel macros to automate data-driven processes.

As for APIs today, he pointed to a telling statistic: Nearly 100 percent of enterprises worldwide today consume APIs in some capacity, and nearly half offer their own APIs to the market.

“APIs are about helping businesses unlock and gain access to data and services, whatever they may be,” he said.

But, he made the case that success is fundamentally driven by how businesses formulate their strategies for entering this API Economy and transform their businesses alongside these modern capabilities to become disruptors, rather than being themselves disrupted.  It’s a risk which business leaders are well aware of, with top CXOs indicating industry convergence as their top concern today, yet, fewer than 10 percent of businesses have a formal API strategy in place, which de Castro says is a recipe for disaster.

As with any evolutionary trend, businesses must choose their paths wisely and invest properly in the tools, training, and resources to ensure strategies align with corporate goals in order to facilitate growth.

As for the APIs themselves, there are many good APIs today – but the key is to build great ones by focusing on those that make sense for the business, to provide ample documentation with use cases and real-world examples, offer on-site workshops and, importantly, offer 24/7 developer support.  Support has always been a hallmark of great customer service, but the API Economy has given rise to a new breed of customer, which requires different support characteristics. 

Developed properly, businesses will find, however, that their API strategies have the potential to be truly transformative by speeding application development, securely exposing data and services to a broad community of users, driving new business partnerships within ecosystems (Saleforce is probably the obvious case study here), and ultimately creating new revenue opportunities as a result.

de Castro built Tropo on these very principles, with a mission to “democratize voice, video and messaging through a cloud platform by putting them into the hands of everyday users and developers, inspired by the Excel macros.”  It was clearly a successful strategy, given Cisco’s decision to acquire Tropo a little more than a year ago.

“Developers are today’s king and queen makers,” he concluded, underscoring the idea that APIs truly are the economy of the future.

Edited by Alicia Young

Group Editorial Director

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