A few key reflections from the early adopters of API Management Technology that businesses must consider in their quest for digital transformation.
IT departments across Organizations are now tasked with the complex chore of helping businesses transition digitally. This includes not only applying new technologies, for instance accommodating Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud platforms, but also finding innovative solutions to incorporate existing business systems with the latest digital solutions.
Many established large scale Organizations are teeming with dozens of outdated systems, also known as Legacy Applications. These applications have an enormous amount of data stored within. That’s invaluable information with the power to accelerate a business’ digital transformation. Provided it is easy to integrate the old system with the new. And that in my opinion is essentially the core challenge involved in an effective digital transformation today.
API: The bridge Between the Old and the New
How to unlock and make this valuable information available to a broader audience within your organization, while maintaining a system of governance on its use?
The answer, as many IT pioneers will confirm, lies in a simple solution called Application Program Interface (API). An API defines how different technologies should interact with each other. An almost ideal solution to facilitate data utilization.
The appealing simplicity of the solution meant companies could create several APIs for their different needs. However, governing multiple APIs and ensuring its adoption across the Organization, were points of concern that most adopters missed.
API Management Technology – Solution or Problem?
In their enthusiasm to make the best of the digital transformation, the early adopters made the novice mistake of jumping onto the bandwagon without a cohesive strategy or vision in place. The lack of organization wide buy-in and the utter chaos of managing multiple APIs resulted in businesses investing in additional technical capabilities – API Management Technology.
Unfortunately, the answer wasn’t in buying more technology. Organizations soon realized the error when their Line of Business (LoB), Partners and IT showed a lack of willingness to use the APIs.
The fact that companies did not think through the transitional nature of digital was glaringly obvious when I recently met a large pan-European government institution. One of the early users of API, they fully adopted an organization-wide API Management solution. The initial business and technical benefits they experienced soon gave way to a messy and a costly campaign of managing point-to-point connections with back-end systems to provide connectivity to the APIs. This unforeseen expense eventually deteriorated the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the initiative.
Managing API Lifecycle: The Way Forward
The initial setback observed with the API and its management solution confirms that it is neither an exclusive remedy by itself for digital transformation nor a standalone software category. API management must and should be a part of a larger and more comprehensive connectivity strategy which companies undergoing digital transformation must adopt. This is evident in the latest stream of acquisitions of API management pure-play vendors by large software organizations: Oracle-Apiary, Google-Apigee, Tibco-Mashery to name a few.
The early adopters of API management solutions started exposing existing endpoints as APIs. People liked it and APIs became more widely used, which in turn brought more complex requirements to the table. Soon organizations discovered that when change happens they need to evolve their APIs, compose APIs together, and build new APIs for new situations. This predictably led to governance as well as integration, design and developmental challenges.
This emphasized the importance of investing in a complete API lifecycle, not just an API management tool. It highlighted the need to have a proper architectural approach and an operating model to truly effect a digital transformation.
In recent times, MuleSoft, a software integration company based out of San Francisco has successfully managed to develop a strategic solution centered on a different Operating Model. This Operating Model is powerful because it uses technology in a way that is aligned with key business outcomes. It provides quick value while supporting long-term aspects such as self and reusable service.