API Management - From Service to Self Service
Service - it is at the heart of every business. Every business is trying to provide either a new or improved service to its customers. It again has two components to it. First, WHAT service do you provide, which of course is your core business. Second, HOW do you provide these services? APIs are a way to tackle these HOW.
Businesses are the experts in the area of what services to provide. It is the HOW part where technology could be of help and even be the differentiator. This is where you ask HOW do you provide your services to your customers. HOW do you maximize its reach? HOW do you make this interaction easier and intuitive? HOW do you impress them so they would want to come back and tell their family and friends about your service?
APIs are the way to tackle these HOWs! API stands for Application Programming Interface and has been around for a very long time - ever since people realized it is much more efficient to share and reuse already existing functions (or programs) rather than writing them anew. That is the definition in the traditional sense! Today, when we talk about APIs, it is, almost always, about web APIs. The reason for recent surge in the popularity of web APIs (also called web services) is thanks to the Internet. The most well known formats are REST, which in fact is an architectural style) and SOAP. Using these businesses are opening up their services online.
Integral to Digital Transformation
Many companies, if not all, today understand the need for digitization to survive and thrive in their businesses. They see APIs as integral part of their digital strategy. One of our energy utilities customers in The Netherlands has a very specific goal as part of the digitization - from service to self service - to enable their household customers to be able to do everything that a customer care executive is able to do.
That means no need to pick up your phone and wait in the queue to be serviced by someone else. All you need to do is login and click a few buttons. This is a really nice example in the sense of it being tangible, achievable and with very apparant business value. However, to be able to do that, they needed to open up their services in form of APIs on which their self service portal and mobile apps are built. This also provided them with the opportunity to provide these APIs to their sales partners, enabling them to do more sales smoothly.
Just take a moment to compare this process with one in a pre-API world, sending latest product propositions to the sales partners, then them doing telephonic sales, entering the leads in a file (possibly an Excel sheet), sending this data over back to the company, and finally another employee entering these leads as customers into the system.
However, only APIs alone are not sufficient. There is a need for governance and lifecycle management around the APIs like versioning, security, publishing API specifications, registering API consumers, deprecation, to name a few.
This broader area around APIs is called API Management. A well defined strategy is practically useless without the right implementation. Many vendors in the market provide API Management solutions, however, it is important to assess and choose the right one that fits your needs.
The engineers from ViCi can help you with this. Helping you define the strategy and architecture and helping you choosing the solution that fits your needs.
ViCi is knowledge partner of Axway, one of the leading API products in the market. To learn more about API Management, please feel free to contact us!