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API Strategy 2012: For the Cloud, by the Cloud

A time-to-market pressure for APIs accelerates API Management in the Cloud

In 2010 Delyn Simons, formerly the head of eBay's highly successful developer program stated, "Behind every good app is an API."

In 2012, the projection is that "behind every successful app there will be a number of APIs that power it." Apps are becoming big business, with more than 250 million app downloads on Christmas day alone and a record number of Android, iPad, and iPhone sales during the holidays. The world has been mobile for a decade, but now the mobile world is so omnipresent and dynamic that it is altering business and culture at impressive rates.

With the explosion of tablets and smartphones, the web browser is being complemented (if not soon dominated) by the mobile browser, where consumers and B2B users increasingly consume data via thumbs, index fingers and touch screens. Most users will not be aware that what powers this data agility is not microprocessors, enterprise software, nor a legion of mice, but global APIs (application programmable interface). What was once an esoteric IT term will become the dominant business mandate for any business to win in mobile for the long run. App success is iterative, experiential, and data-dependent. Therefore, any business approaching apps without APIs is going to experience mobile app logjams in their IT departments and mobile app lethargy with their design firms.

Managed APIs Are Not an "Implementation." They Are a Launch of a Business
A company without an API strategy in 2012 is a company without a mobile strategy. Unlike most other technology initiatives, successful API programs are managed as a launch, not an implementation. The ongoing blend of marketing, usability, design, promotion, and pricing all factor into whether a business can compete well in the mobile space with their data, goods and services. Business leaders that purely leave it solely to the IT department to manage these elements of a an API launch will soon hear the crickets chirp as their APIs sit in a disjointed bubble, poorly competing with the API programs of competitors that see the business of APIs, not just the technology of APIs. A true cloud based, multi-tenant model offers business and IT leaders the flexibility, scale, and adaptability to compete in the markets of big data, mobile, and social.

The successful businesses with APIs, such as Klout, Expedia, ESPN, USA Today, and Best Buy, regularly assess their API potential by evaluating the uniqueness and breadth of their data assets. The more refined the data, the more easy for developers to access it, the greater the chance that the branded APIs will find their way into a multitude of apps. Take, for example, Yellow Pages, which programmatically and strategically exposed their data location assets in order to become an open data source for over 1,400 developers and be embedded within over 350 apps (in just the first year of launching their public APIs). The success of the API program led to highly visible mash-ups and mobile apps with companies like Facebook and Foursquare, two major players in the API trading market and complementary to Yellow Pages business goals of being the business location platform, a complete transformation (if not salvation) of their core business.

Without a diligent and regular discovery process for assessing data assets and exposing new web services, business leaders will not get market-based feedback on the appeal and uniqueness of their APIs, thus paving the way for a competitor to insert themselves into a new data relationship with a business' channel partners - and worse yet, mobile customers. Any business that loses a mobile customer in 2012 has a 50% chance they have lost the customer altogether.

Think Cloud Based API Management, and Win
Over the last five years the cloud model has spoken and the cloud model has won.

The ever-increasing mobility of consumers and the emergence of data-as-a-service models means that any business building or installing their own API management technology is wasting their time. The multi-tenant, SAAS, model has proven to win in CRM (with salesforce.com), HR (with SuccessFactors), and now ERP (with Netsuite), so why any business would install custom code or "appliances" for managed API's goes against the grain of software trends over the last five years. API management built on a cloud platform offers the best recipe for success within a very dynamic space. Lesson from enterprise software 1995 - 2005: You build or install your own API management system and you own the cost, complexity, risk, and unknown ROI for a mobile market that demands scale and speed.

Launch, compete, win. The fundamental strategy of businesses like Expedia, American Express, Klout, Nordstrom's, and Cap One is to compete in the API market by leveraging the agility and rapid scale of cloud based API management platforms. To win in the API market demands a continual approach to data innovation that sows the seeds of new platforms for years to come.

More Stories By Drew Bartkiewicz

Drew Bartkiewicz is founder of Apinomic, a NY agency that specializes in the business of data platforms and digital channels that leverage managed API's. As a former VP Strategy Services at Mashery, and alumnus of salesforce.com, BroadVision, and The Hartford, Drew has helped build over 25 successful data platforms (3 he founded) and was selected for several Future of the Internet initiatives with the World Economic Forum. Drew has previously founded two successful companies in NYC, CyberFactors and CloudInsure, and is often sought as a speaker and writer on technology trends and their impact on culture and business.

Drew possesses a Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from the Yale School of Management. He speaks four languages and is an advisor to several early stage NYC start ups. In addition to consulting brands for API Strategy, he is also the Founder of wwww.lettrs.com, the cloud platform for letters, after spending time with youth organizations, technophiles, and his kids discussing ways to elevate their impact in life through the thoughtful fusion of technology and letter writing as a timeless and necessary craft.

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