API Management Enables Dynamic Systems of Engagement

When I first heard the term API Management, my mind went back to the mid 1990’s when I was neck deep in object-oriented programming.   Ugh, I remembered combing through reams of documentation about application programming interfaces, object structures and the like. It wasn’t necessarily the fun part of developing applications. Back then, the context was connecting core application systems together, exchanging transactional and master data between applications such as CRM, ERP, and Supply Chain.

Nowadays many of the underlying technical details remain relevant, but the context has changed from API’s as a systems development concern to API management as a business model consideration and key topic in the board room. With innovation and speed to market as primary concerns among executive ranks, key enablers such as API Management solutions are getting due attention to help unlock the creative potential of next-gen application developers, both internally and externally, and to even develop new revenue streams.

From an external perspective, API management solutions can provide a welcoming experience for customers, business partners, and communities. Hackathons have exemplified the notion of turning loose a group of talented individuals to bring a fresh perspective on how core IT assets can be turned into something new and useful in ways that perhaps would have never been conceived internally. These new systems of engagement need to plug into core IT assets in a way that is securely controlled and measured, yet easy to access and understand in a self-service approach. Done well, API management provides the virtual welcome center for a self-guided tour.

From more of an internal approach, one of the trends that reinforces the need for API management is the growing tension between line-of-business and IT, which is typified by LOB-lead projects that attempt to minimize dependencies on the core IT organization. This has been described by industry analysts, such as Gartner, as the emergence of Bimodal IT where the business intends to drive more dynamic systems of engagement that give them some degree of freedom from the back-end systems of record that are heavy and slow to change. In this case, API management serves as the clean hand-off point that can help streamline the relationship between LOB-lead projects and core IT.

As with most any technology solution, realizing effective API management requires careful planning and perhaps some non-traditional IT skills. The rendering of IT services as API’s is not necessarily the hard part. Defining internal and external-facing processes to manage the lifecycle of API usage will be an important factor in the long term value proposition. What’s more, solid technical writing skills can be crucial to making or breaking the developers’ experience as they discover and embrace the IT assets that are made available. Nonetheless, a simplified pilot can be an effective entry point to get started on the journey.
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