Five Things to Tell Your CEO about APIs

APIs have been strictly part of IT’s “inside game,” providing the glue for data and software integration within the enterprise. No more.

Guest post by Tyson Whitten, CA Director of API Management Product Marketing

In the application economy, APIs (application programming interfaces) are central to the exchange of value between companies and apps. So, if your company wants to deliver value digitally, APIs will often provide the mean by which it does so.

Because APIs are so central to digital value exchange, C-level leadership needs to understand at least five key points about them:

1. The value of APIs

C-level executives need to understand how APIs empower companies to monetize digital value. APIs were the fuel for web pioneers Amazon, Google and Salesforce. However, established industries are also getting into the act. Alaska Airlines has opened its airline business to travel partners through the technology while Rogers Communications uses APIs to deliver an omni-channel experience to NHL customers. APIs also greatly enhance IT productivity by empowering multiple development teams to work in parallel as they seek to leverage existing architectures and coded business logic across the enterprise.

2. The state of the enterprise API portfolio

Many companies don’t think in terms of an “API portfolio.” But as APIs become more prominent in a company’s value chain, they will need to be thought of in the same way as product patents and distribution agreements. No CEO would consider it acceptable to not have an accurate inventory of those two assets. APIs are no different.

3. Why API quality is important

APIs must do more than just provide access to data. They have to meet customers’ and partners’ requirements for speed and throughput. They have to be secure. And they have to offer external developers sufficient ease and flexibility. APIs that lack these qualities will impede a company’s ability to quickly form profitable digital relationships.

4. How APIs need to be exposed

To effectively market API-based value, you must be able to judiciously expose your APIs to prospective customers and partners. This is not something most companies have historically had to do. Any company that wants to succeed in the API marketplace will therefore need to develop a disciplined approach to API exposure. Most likely, this will entail some form of service virtualization that enables prospective API consumers to “try before they buy”— outside of the production environment.

5. How APIs need to be protected

Because they represent high-value intellectual property, APIs need to be protected. That doesn’t just mean ensuring that they prevent unauthorized parties from accessing the data they provide. It means properly securing the API code itself.

These points don’t comprehensively describe how companies leverage APIs to make money. But they are what every C-level executive needs to know in order to make smart decisions about allocating resources to API development and management in a rapidly evolving application economy.

If you’re an IT leader and you want your API efforts to get the funding and executive support they deserve, have a conversation with your CEO about these points sooner rather than later. And if you’re a CEO, start asking questions. APIs are that important.

Tyson WhittenTyson Whitten is a CISSP with 15+ years of product management, solutions marketing and operations management experience within the IT and Security industry. Prior to CA Tyson held positions at SecureWorks, VeriSign, Guardent and Cambridge Technology Partners. Tyson earned a MBA from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and a BS in Finance and Information Systems from Boston College.