Customers often have simple needs. Unfortunately that simplicity can look very complex underneath the hood.

Whatever the business, customers increasingly demand the opportunity to engage with brands on a variety of devices and across channels including in-store, web, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even connected devices in the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT).

And woe betide the business that loses track of their customer as they transition from one state to the next.

As if this didn’t produce enough heartache for the typical CIO, technology leaders are also required manage the transition of their IT organisations towards more efficient, agile development frameworks.

These customer and developer expectations are increasingly driving enterprise IT to employ new approaches to serving the needs of a diverse mix of users and experiences. That’s where application programming interfaces (APIs) come into play, as a new paper called The definitive Guide to API management from Apigee explains.

The foundation stone upon which a digital business is built is the API. It allowing app developers to create apps that can serve the needs of a specific segment of users, say the authors. APIs open the door to agile and scalable innovation, improve the ability to adapt quickly to market changes and new competitors. and create the opportunity to gather a wealth of data about app developers and users.

“APIs are not new in many industries, “ according to the paper. “But with the explosion of apps and experiences required in the digital world, and new customer-centric IT organisations, companies across industries need better solutions than ever to manage their APIs and API-driven businesses. API management enables you to create, manage, secure, analyse, and scale APIs.”

The paper identifies five capabilities that any API solution must include;

  • Developer portal to attract and engage application developers, enabling them to discover, explore, purchase (or profit from), and test APIs and register to access and use the APIs
  • API gateway to secure and mediate the traffic between clients and back ends, and between a company’s APIs and the developers, customers, partners, and employees who use the APIs
  • API lifecycle management to manage the process of designing, developing, publishing, deploying, and versioning APIs More sophisticated API management provides additional capabilities including Backend as a Service (BaaS) capabilities that enable developers to develop and extend apps with modern features. This can include social graphs, user management, data storage, push notifications, and performance monitoring
  • An analytics engine that provides insights for business owners, operational administrators, and application developers enabling them to manage all aspects of a company’s APIs and API programs.

“APIs have become a requirement for building digital businesses. They enable companies to quickly devise new approaches to serving the needs of a diverse mix of users with a whole
new set of expectations,” say the paper’s authors.

“In many industries, APIs aren’t anything new. However, to think of them as a continuation of the integration-based architectures that have long been used within enterprise IT is a narrow view.”

Indeed they have become a foundational technology for the development of scalable enterprise applications.

This is true irrespective of whether they are used on the backend for integrating with internal systems, “on the sides” to enable other applications to access internal data and processes, or on the front end for connecting to rich clients.

The paper says, “APIs have become central to the application development process and key to competing in the digital economy. With the new requirements of the digital world, customer centric IT organisations, and the ever-present need to connect disparate internal systems, managing APIs and API-driven businesses becomes increasingly challenging.”

About the Authors

Craig Flatt is the country manager of Apigee Australia. Andrew Birmingham is the Director of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit.

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