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In Part One of "How to Make Your APIs Leaner and Meaner," we discussed how to understand your assets from both sides, how to spend less with a solid plan, and how to build for resiliency and growth. In Part Two, we'll dive into how APIs are for every business (not just technology companies), as well as how to future-proof your investment.
APIs Are for Every Business
APIs as we know them got their start at Amazon and eBay, but thinking of them as a “tech company” tool is too limited. REST APIs can turn virtually any data or process into a simple, predictable interface. Web developers generally learn to work with APIs early in their careers, and once you’ve made an API public, they need no special knowledge to use yours. Proprietary algorithms, large databases, and all kinds of complex services and processes can be hidden behind an API, allowing you to tap into new markets easily and cheaply.
Center on Your Strengths
APIs deliver both simplicity and specificity, advantages in any industry or market. When organizations make the commitment to focus on APIs, they get the best results by identifying their unique value, and stripping away anything that doesn’t contribute.
APIs help businesses distill their value proposition into a simple, universal form, a huge win for businesses struggling to stand out from the crowd. The companies that most stand to benefit from API technology, according to HBR, are “small to midsize companies that now struggle to reach digital audiences through saturated and tightly controlled ad networks and eCommerce markets.” APIs let smaller companies bundle their core competencies into lightweight tools that are just as easy to use as APIs from the big players. Simplicity makes the value of your assets even clearer.
The flip side of that simplicity is specificity. You offer something unique, and your potential API consumers will find applications for your offerings you’ve never imagined. There are almost infinite possibilities for how different APIs can be combined and integrated to meet highly specific needs. Your job is not to overload your consumers with too many product features—it is to listen to your consumers, focus on your core value proposition, and streamline developer experience by offering APIs that provide the specific tools and data your developer-users need. The specific value you provide is going to be unique to your business and your consumers, even if the API standards are universal.
Learn from Innovators Across Industries
If you’re struggling to see how APIs might work in your business, consider a couple of examples from very different market sectors. Each of the companies below uses the power of APIs to reconfigure existing assets in new ways.
CloudHawk is a GPS-monitoring tool for truck fleets. As a technology leader in an industry with a lot of physical assets, it helps clients use APIs to offer new viewpoints on old problems. Rather than relying on manual vehicle inspections, for example, fleet managers can combine data from multiple APIs to monitor wear and tear on individual trucks and gain a better ability to budget for long-term fleet investments. APIs are providing an easy-to-access data point with meaningful financial impact—the ultimate “do more with less” goal.
HBR also points to a transportation example. Pilot Flying J truck stops offer essential services for a customer base that prizes efficiency. They use the “jobs to be done” approach to keeping their APIs lean and predictable. Mobile app developers can use those APIs to create intuitive digital interfaces for shower reservations, parking availability updates, and prepaid fueling, among other practical options.
In a very different industry, Refinitiv provides use-case-driven APIs for financial services. Modern markets create a volume of data that is simply not human-scale. APIs combine and process information behind the scenes so that users get what they need in a meaningful, manageable format. A risk management API, for example, could move a new customer through document verification, screening, data collection, and customer relationship management nearly instantaneously—a process that might take a person hours and that would be subject to human error.
Companies across industries are using APIs to evolve into “leaner, meaner” businesses by focusing on the specific needs of their customers. An “outside-in” view of your business can help you identify similar opportunities.
Future-Proof with Sound API Investments
If the last few years have taught us one thing, it’s that we can’t predict the future—but we can still prepare for it. Well-designed and sustainably supported APIs are a sound investment that can help you adapt to whatever comes next.
Certain trends are almost guaranteed to continue. Refinitiv cites a survey suggesting that 40% of respondents plan to shop only online in the future, and 45% plan to do all of their banking digitally. The exact form of online transactions will also change. Subscription-based businesses took significant hits in 2021, and inflation is pushing consumer spending towards essentials. The beauty of APIs is that they allow you to invest in that overall trend without committing too deeply to a single path forward.
Now is the time to make your move. An API program doesn’t require an enormous cash investment up front, and it can create tremendous efficiencies, especially in your time-to-market for new services. MuleSoft’s annual Connectivity Benchmark Report demonstrates the gap between investment in APIs and their potential for growth. It notes that, “Since the API market is gaining momentum, those who move quickly to develop a strategy and monetization model, ensure the right governance, and drive adoption can experience immense revenue growth.”
Stoplight customer wefox, Europe’s leading online insurance company, endorses the idea that a sound API program allows rapid adaptation: “Reducing the integration time in moments of the economic downturn is key for a company. Maximizing the ROI on the company APIs can be the difference between becoming a winner or going bankrupt.” Implementing Stoplight tools throughout their API lifecycle, from design to documenting updates, has helped wefox stay nimble enough to stay at the forefront of their industry.
We know lean times can feel like a reason to hunker down, but we also know the future will bring great opportunities for innovation and expansion. Tools from Stoplight can help you get the most out of the resources you have. Matt Lockyer from Fiserv is enthusiastic about his company’s efficiency gains: “Stoplight is the all-in-one API design tool that enables our API Product Management team at Fiserv to design and deliver high-quality APIs for our customers. Before Stoplight, designing a new API meant using our time writing API specifications by hand. Now, we can move more quickly.”