Omni-Channel Digital Products and the API Economy
Over the many years as an executive tasked with delivering software products for service-based organizations, I’ve managed development of all sorts of cool things that helped our customers make their products consumable on multiple channels.
Given that one of our current projects involves exposing an Application Programming Interface (API) to provide a non-GUI (Graphical User Interface) way for our customer to provide services to its customers, I wanted to share a few tidbits of knowledge about a technology that isn’t as nascent or sexy as AI, but every bit as important to today’s service-based companies. More and more, CIOs will have their bonuses tied to thinking like business strategists by creating new business models within their organization.
Wait, you say — a CIO should only be expected to guide implementation of business models dreamed up by the CEO and/or Board. Well that is very short sighted in today’s age of digital products. There is also a trend at foot where we are seeing more technology savvy CEOs starting to seep into the mix because they have a more informed vision of what can be done with technology. Exposing APIs should be considered low hanging fruit for the executive who is looking for new ways to provide services to their customers.
As of late, we have seen a proliferation of APIs rise from the biggest Internet companies, which is good for my teams as there are really no true standards for developing APIs other than the use of HTTP. But patterns have emerged, and tools are starting to mature that expect patterns that Google, Twitter, and Facebook follow. Furthermore, newer front-end Web development technologies such as AngularJS and mobile can and do make use of APIs that are designed using these common patterns.
I’m reminded of the days when we constructed a multi-channel marketing (that’s MCM, not MLM) application for a large bank services company that could look at a customer’s auto buying habits and provide precisely-timed and appropriately-messaged loan marketing at the ATM, Website and phone systems (channels). The system could define when to show the ad and rotate messaging based on ads already shown on other channels. The product was very successful and not allowed to be deprecated when the company no longer wanted to support it a decade later. It was too valuable to the banks…
Omni-channel selling is a popular buzzword as of late because it provides customers that same seamless experience when purchasing products over Web, Mobile, phone or social media. This can be accomplished much easier when the backend architecture remains the same for all channels of communication. The User Interface is the only thing that needs to be different.
So what is the API Economy? It is simply the realization of revenue that is provided by allowing your customers to seamlessly use your software and services within their software, thereby creating more stickiness to use of the services you provide.
The good news is that an API can easily be created that leverages existing software, as long as it was developed in “Tiers”, a software development pattern that has been a standard for decades. So, an API strategy could be that low hanging fruit that an executive who wants quick wins can leverage. The creation of an API is well within budgetary reach of a services company who is looking for strategic wins to gain or maintain an advantage within their perspective industry. This is exactly why the term ‘API Economy’ was coined and why many organizations now begin their product development roadmap efforts with the API at the top of mind rather than an afterthought.