API Management

Leveraging APIs to create value for telco ecosystems: STC's digital transformation

#api

Editor's note: Today we hear from Haitham AlFaraj, Senior Vice President of Technology and Operations, Yazeed Alfaris, Vice President of Application, and Faisal  Alhatlani, Applications Planning & Control GM from STC, which does business as “STC.” Since 1998, STC has been a telecommunications leader in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding region. Learn how STC uses APIs as part of its digital transformation strategy to expand business and connect with partners and customers more effectively

The world is changing for telecommunications operators. We live in a digital age when people, information, and services are more connected than ever, and people expect virtually any service on demand, at their fingertips. STC is already a telecommunications leader in the Middle East, but to remain on top in a competitive field, we must continue to grow and provide valuable experiences for our customers.

We adopted a four-pillar strategy to prepare our company for the future, supporting the Saudi 2030 Vision. Our “DARE” strategy is built around the core goals to digitize STC, accelerate core asset performance, reinvent customer experiences at world-class standards, and expand scale and scope. We strive to become the digital platform for youth and entrepreneurs and build a vibrant ecosystem to modernize many daily activities in Saudi Arabia.

Digital transformation is at the heart of each of these pillars. When looking at all of the ways that we want to grow, change, and evolve digitally, we recognized that APIs are essential to our transformation. By adopting APIs at every level of our business, we can make our digital services more secure and accessible to consumers (inside and outside of our organization), connect with our partner ecosystem more effectively, and quickly deliver new customer services. 

Embracing APIs across the company

To realize the full potential of APIs, we started pushing an API-first strategy, even for internal groups. Rather than creating numerous potentially redundant single-use features and point-to-point integrations, we instructed teams to create APIs as products that can be reused by internal teams, partners, and other STC group subsidiaries. We’ve already deployed over 100 API products across various use cases, and we’re continuing to double down on expanding.

Because of the growing API program’s  requirements for security, runtime governance, and a seamless onboarding experience of our API products, we needed a robust, scalable, and flexible API management solution. Selecting such a critical component of our digital architecture was not easy. We went through a comprehensive evaluation process, inspecting multiple solutions.

In the end, we chose Google Cloud’s Apigee API Management Platform. We appreciate not only that Apigee has strong security and functionality, but also that the platform is very easy to use. The strong support and thought leadership that we have received from Apigee since implementation has helped us feel even more confident that we made the right choice.

Apigee has helped us drive our API program towards success by enabling us to take on innovative digital transformation initiatives, such as participating in the TM FORUM Open API, which aims to enable service providers to improve their IT and operational agility and customer centricity.

The success of our API program can also be seen in our API traffic volume, which has increased by over 300% from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021, driven by usage from our subsidiaries. 

Prioritizing developer success 

Developers are key to the success of our API-first mindset, as developers are the ones who consume our APIs and bring new services to STC customers. To ensure that developers are successfully utilizing our APIs, we believe building a seamless, self-service onboarding experience via a centralized developer portal is crucial. An API developer portal not only offers a 360-degree view of digital assets and the value they provide but also helps accelerate adoption of APIs and simplify their discovery 

STC has set foot in this direction by creating a unified API developer portal that leverages Apigee. The Apigee Developer Portal is very straightforward, with fast and simple onboarding. Developers can read about APIs, test them, and easily subscribe to them, all in a single location. With self-service experiences in place, we can encourage more members of the developer community to explore our APIs, no matter whether they work with a major corporation or as an independent app creator. This will lead to more diverse services and greater value for our customers.

We have already launched our developer portal with several dozen internal developers onboarded. We have released internal APIs that power key initiatives, and we have also released some APIs to our partner ecosystem. We expect the number of developers and APIs to increase dramatically when we launch it publicly. With Apigee, we have confidence that our system will continue to scale and provide all of our users with excellent experiences.

Delivering new customer services

One of the first APIs that we released for our partners is the Direct-Carrier Billing (DCB) API, which enables STC customers to pay for partner services via their STC bill. Instead of creating unique integrations for each partner, partners can now connect using our DCB API. This has allowed us to onboard new partners such as Netflix, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon in record time. Customers have reacted very positively to these new services, with subscriptions rising steadily.

We also used Apigee to manage creation and delivery of the APIs needed to launch STC Pay, a secure digital wallet solution from STC Group. Before implementing Apigee, it might have taken us close to a year to create the foundation to run this offering, but by implementing API-first strategies and powerful API management capabilities, we launched STC Pay in just three months. This shows how APIs can help us reach new lines of business and grow the reach of STC.

Exploring the digital future

We’re currently working with business units to understand how we can use APIs to monetize STC assets and create new revenue streams. We also plan to start opening up API management to subsidiaries across STC Group, such as STC Kuwait and STC Bahrain. This will open the doors to more collaboration and sharing through APIs.

We see our current API management program naturally evolving into a federated API platform that serves multiple business segments. As API adoption increases within the organization, we anticipate increased focus on public APIs and connectivity with mobile / standalone apps, as opposed to server-to-server communications. These initiatives will make API security more important than ever.

At STC, we believe that a continued focus on digital transformation will have a positive impact on the growth of our company. API management will continue to play an important role in our transformation by helping us use APIs to create value for our company, our partners, and our customers.

To learn more about how APIs and Apigee API management are used by many other companies like STC, read the Telecom State of the API Economy 2021 report.