Joel Reid at Axway explains that Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) power digital transformation but their complexity needs to be managed
For many companies, the journey to digital transformation is already well underway and moving ahead at pace. Indeed, a recent study by McKinsey reveals how digital transformation rollouts have accelerated by as much as seven years in response to the impact of COVID-19.
At the heart of all this digital transformation lies the application programme interface (API). Providing the vital connectivity between systems, data and applications, APIs increasingly power our everyday digital lives and play a key role behind every digital transaction – whether that’s posting on Facebook or ordering something from Amazon.
However, as firms pursue their digital transformation journeys many have encountered significant bumps along the way thanks to the sheer number of APIs proliferating across the organisation. Mastering all this complexity is proving to be the key to ensuring that future digital ambitions and growth don’t stall.
How APIs power digital transformation
In recent years, APIs have been taking the world by storm. Linking systems and data, APIs make business systems more responsive and adaptable and provide all the tools needed to build new services, extend the functionality of existing products, and revitalise so-called legacy systems by making it easy to connect and extend these systems to the cloud.
It’s true to say that where digital transformation is concerned, APIs are a game changer. Whether that’s speeding up the delivery of data and services to customers and partners, reducing the time and pain of onboarding new clients to grow revenue, or unleashing richer customer self-service environments that deliver frictionless and speedy experiences. As many organisations have discovered, APIs enable businesses to rethink and automate business processes and open up to a wealth of new business opportunities.
Now established as the de-facto standard for connecting modern applications to one another and the data and services that power these, APIs enable firms to harness their resources to meet new customer demands, improve efficiencies, accelerate data-driven business decisions, enhance collaboration within and beyond the enterprise, drive new innovations – and more.
Although APIs are truly powerful change agents, the rapid growth of API deployments across the enterprise in itself creates a new set of challenges. Challenges that, if left unmanaged, can hamper the ability of organisations to move ahead at speed – or maximise the value of their API investments.
The trouble with APIs
While APIs empower organisations to adapt fast to a changing world and deliver a top-notch experience of their ecosystem to employees, customers and partners, 60 percent of organisations say they are now having to deal with the realities of API complexity.
Consider for a moment the most recent escalation in cloud-powered services consumption as enterprises had to pivot their workforces at speed to work-from-home models. Today, the average employee uses 36 cloud applications, while the average company now depends on over 1,000 different cloud services. All of which have to work well with the legacy applications the company already has. As the number of cloud applications within the enterprise grows, so too does the number of APIs.
Today’s organisations are discovering that with increased digital maturity comes increased complexity that creates bottlenecks thanks to API programmes that run in a disjointed or siloed manner in multiple parts of the business.
Added to which, thanks to the sheer number of APIs, multiple API gateways, a lack of common standards and security, and no common catalogue to index everything, many firms are grappling with the fact that innovation is stalling as developers struggle to reuse assets.
All this equates to high operational complexity, increased security risks, and a worrying lack of centralised visibility and governance.
Mastering API complexity
The key to mastering API complexity is having a clear API strategy in place that makes it easy to create, control and consume APIs. Just as with modern IT architectures overall, the goal should be to stop building systems and start cultivating ecosystems. In other words, centralise as much as necessary and decentralise as much as possible. The main focus should be on delivering more value to the business with APIs.
Open up your API platform
Most traditional API management offerings can only govern “their” APIs. But what about all the other APIs and integrations that connect systems, apps, people, clouds and things inside your enterprise, be it on-premises, in cloud or hybrid?
A closed API management platform lacks visibility, has cost implications, and makes it difficult to consistently enforce corporate standards and security policies. Not to mention hindering creativity and speed in teams by restricting them from using their technologies of choice.
The least risky strategy is to design for openness and change, and never assume that all APIs can (or should) be managed with the same gateway. Instead, embrace a multi-gateway world that provides complete visibility and control over all your integration assets and digital capabilities in one place.
To deliver value at the speed the business requires, organisations need easy access to all their APIs and other digital capabilities – across cloud and on-premises, multiple API gateways, and various integration patterns – no matter how they’re managed.
Stop reinventing the wheel
In terms of the key features that will ensure teams across the organisation no longer need to constantly reinvent the wheel, while ensuring organisations achieve the centralised visibility and governance that’s needed, organisations should look to:
- Automate the discovery of all API assets across the distributed IT environment
- Work with API vendors that can publish, secure, track and monitor their assets while enabling firms to use existing or new technology – and consolidate this information on an open platform that can be shared with developers across the organisation
- Deploy a unified catalogue that makes it easy to facilitate API reuse and adoption, accessed via a centralised portal that displays all available digital services to team across the organisation
- Making it easy for API consumers to discover, subscribe to and consume APIs to accelerate time to value for digital business.
To move forward faster, today’s companies need to find ways to embrace API lifecycle management and efficiently manage and govern multiple API gateways, their hybrid cloud IT environments, and other third-party ecosystems. Only then can they leverage the true promise of APIs to unleash value faster and reuse existing investments to drive new opportunities and revenue.
Joel Reid is UK&I VP/General manager at Axway
Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com