Why API-first is the best approach to application integration
Director of Product, Business Application Platform, Google Cloud
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Enterprises need to move faster than ever to gain a competitive advantage in today’s customer-focused environment. Time-to-market for products and services has shortened dramatically, from years to days. IT teams must move fast, react fast, and enable business strategies via constant innovation.
All of this digital transformation is about more than adopting the latest technologies. It is also about maximizing the use of existing data and services to improve efficiency and productivity, drive engagement and growth, and ultimately make the lives of customers, partners, and staff better. Connecting existing data and services and making them easily accessible via APIs promises a path forward, empowering enterprises to extend the value they already possess with new technologies, managed services, ecosystems, and support.
In addition to the challenges of legacy data and systems, today’s organizations are overwhelmed by the variety of cloud applications to meet their business needs and deliver innovative services to their customers.
Managing all of this data, connecting sources, integrating applications, and surfacing them as easy-to-use APIs for development is a crucial competency for any IT organization.
Design APIs with an Outside-in Approach
Many IT organizations have focused on solving this challenge with an “inside-out” approach: starting with the integration layer, building the flow, and then developing the APIs. But this approach is inefficient and fundamentally flawed because it looks at the problem from an “exposure” model; rather than designing for the business use cases of developers and other API consumers. Leaders in the organization end up seeing all of this data, connectivity, and integration as the “table stakes plumbing”, and thus do not seek inputs regarding business value from key business stakeholders.
The key issue is not exposure but rather how you leverage your data, services, and systems to drive impact across your digital value chain. Goals such as meeting your adoption or sales targets, reducing costs across lines of business, speeding up time to market, and reducing time spent supporting your customers may all be within reach. Easy-to-use APIs, rather than crudely exposed systems, are foundational enablers of this impact, and they are almost always designed from the outside-in, from the perspective of teams that are consuming the APIs to achieve a business goal.
Embrace API-first Integration
To accelerate the speed of development, enterprise IT teams need to take an API-first approach to integration, starting with the consumers' use cases rather than the structure of the data in their systems.
The notion of outside-in thinking should be familiar to product managers, who routinely have to demonstrate customer empathy and put themselves in their customers' shoes. If your team has a product owner, be sure they are empowered to decide what functionality is needed from their data.
Maximize your APIs with the right technology enablers
An API-first strategy treats the API not as middleware but as a software product that empowers developers, enables partnerships, and accelerates innovation—a big shift from integration-first operations in which APIs are typically exposed and then forgotten.
Possessing APIs is only part of the equation. If a company is going to share valuable digital assets with outsiders, it needs API management tools to:
apply security protections, such as authentication and authorization
protect assets from malicious attacks
monitor digital services to ensure availability and high performance
measure and track usage of the assets
With the right tools in place, APIs can unlock incredible business opportunities—which is a reason for every enterprise to aspire to be API-first!
Visit our website to learn more about API management with Google Cloud.