Let’s talk about API’s. They’re a crucial part of every digital transformation, yet people don’t always seem to know what exactly it is they do. Not surprising, as API’s are deployed in many different ways. You could use them to make weird combinations of incompatible devices such as boilers and thermostats, turn cars into data sources, or have them integrating internal and external systems. It’s thanks to this diversity that API’s are a crucial part of every digital transformation, as they allow even the most traditional businesses to innovate. When you want to get the most out of them, you should know how to manage your API’s, though. Below, we happily share some of our API implementation tips.
If you connect your applications to the outside world, the world is your oyster. You can reach customers based on their location, collect data to improve your services, and perform real-time updates on devices. These connections are the perfect way to get your digital transformation going, as they enable you to follow your customers’ every move. But as devices and external systems usually don’t speak your company language, you should find a way to make them communicate. Application Programming Interfaces (or APIs) are perfect to do so. They are also highly efficient, as they only connect those parts that are needed to exchange data. Let’s say you want to order coffee in Paris, but you have no knowledge of the French language whatsoever. Would you go back to school to learn how to speak French fluently, or would you simply look up the word “coffee” on your mobile phone? Just saying.
Tip #1. Open up!
Who said you have to do all of this by yourself? Outsourcing is the answer to the capacity problem many IT departments struggle with. The great thing about APIs is that they can be published to external developers. You can just cast a line and wait for brilliant applications developers to bite and connect their ideas to your API.
As you manage your APIs through a dashboard, you maintain an overview of all connected devices, systems, and people. So, it does not matter whether this person is your neighbor or someone in China; thanks to solid Identity and Access policies (we’ll talk about them in the upcoming blog), everyone can join in without endangering your internal systems and processes. Uber, for example, opened up its API platform to developers from outside the company, who integrated apps about restaurants, hotels, sightseeing, and other transport providers. So, without any work from Uber’s side, their app got enriched by many new services that added value to their business. This way, everybody wins. Very import is that you use industry standard to do so, standards like Swagger or the Open API initiative like the WSO2 api manager / API gateway uses as well.
Tip #2. Version your API
There’s no way you will create an API that is free from mistakes and future-proof forever. Developers (whether internal or external) will most certainly signal teething problems, and both your company and the world change constantly. This means you’ll have to perform updates regularly to keep up with your customer expectations and to secure your data. As you can read in this article, changing or replacing a published API is dangerous. It will rubbish your infrastructure and confuse your users, because you are changing the endpoints that influence their business logic. Fortunately, the solution is simple: version your API! It’s ridiculously easy to do and it allows you to perform updates without throwing your systems into disarray.
Tip #3. Store and re-use
APIs bring in quite some data. This needs to be stored, but in a way that it is easily accessible and transportable. We therefore -highly- recommend you to move everything you have (e.g. operation systems, databases, mobile application back ends, and web servers) to the cloud. It’s the only way to relieve your servers and quickly move your applications from A to B. Furthermore, retrieved data might be useful for several departments within your company. Customer details, for example, are useful to both P&D and Finance. When you’ve stored your data in a way they it can be easily retrieved by the ones that are authorized, you create a treasury room that helps optimizing your business processes in multiple ways. Think about all the things you could do with the insights you derive from customer data, such as location, preferences, and usage behavior!
All up to date about how to manage your APIs? Then download our white paper “Go Digital!” to prepare for your very own digital transformation.