The Case for Building an API Inventory

Guest post by Cameron van Orman, Senior Vice President, Product and Solution Marketing of CA Technologies

Shoe companies don’t sell leather. Instead, they develop unique IP that transforms raw leather into shoes with market appeal. The best ones differentiate their IP enough to sell more shoes than their competitors—often at a significant premium—through whatever channels make the most sense to reach buyers.

Shoe store
Is it this easy for your customers to see what you’re selling?

The same holds true in the application economy. Digitally astute companies don’t sell data or code. Instead, they develop unique IP that transforms raw data or code into compelling value-added offerings. The best ones differentiate themselves enough to deliver more value than their competitors—thereby fetching optimized revenue—through whatever channels offer the best opportunities for monetization.

APIs (application programming interfaces) play a key role in this monetization. APIs are specifications that allow organizations to share data, intellectual property, content and functionalities with others to build new services and applications. They help determine the nature of a company’s digital offerings—including how easy they are to consume, how flexibly they meet customers’ needs, how well they scale, and how confidently they can be trusted. APIs are also what enable companies to package digital IP either directly to corporate customers (B2B) or through ecosystem partners’ apps to consumers (B2B2C).

APIs, in other words, are the new SKUs.

“Do you have that in a 9½?”

It may seem odd to think about an API as an SKU—but it’s worth considering. At a shoe store, a salesperson has to find the shoes you want in inventory. If you want the beige Rockports in a 9½, the salesperson looks up that SKU to see if it’s in stock. If it is, you can try it on and decide if you want to buy it. If it’s not, the salesperson can check related SKUs (the same shoe in another color or size) to see if they’ll do the trick.

Unfortunately, few companies bring this same discipline to their APIs. Most don’t have a complete and accurate API inventory. Nor do they possess sufficiently accurate descriptions of their APIs.

This makes it harder to open conversations and close deals. What APIs should marketers and salespeople promote? How do questions about APIs get answered? Is there a way for potential partners to “try on” an API before making a commitment? Which APIs are hot sellers? Which are moving slow? And why?

The API showroom

Of course, APIs aren’t exactly like SKUs. They are sophisticated code that typically supports a contractually formalized B2B engagement—rather than simple identifiers of B2C products that consumers buy on impulse at the mall.

The analogy, however, is instructive. A complete, well-taxonomized API catalog will help your marketers know what to market and your salespeople know what to sell. Your customers (i.e. downstream ecosystem partners) will more clearly understand what you’re selling and what it can do for them. Your internal API consumers will benefit as well—because they will gain greater clarity about what’s available for them to re-purpose and re-package.

So maybe APIs aren’t really the new SKUs. But it wouldn’t be a bad idea to use them more like SKUs as you try to more aggressively monetize your digital IP.

Cameron van OrmanCameron van Orman
Senior Vice President, Product and Solution Marketing
CA Technologies

Cameron van Orman is senior vice president of Product and Solutions Marketing at CA Technologies. In this role, he leads a team of talented professionals to transfer knowledge and create excitement, clarity and endorsement among market influencers. He and his team understand their markets, and they work to communicate CA’s differentiation and value proposition to drive awareness and consideration among CA’s customers and prospects.

Prior to CA Technologies, Cameron was Channel Chief at BlueArc and was recognized as a 2010 & 2009 CRN Channel Chief by Everything Channel.  Cameron also has held executive positions at Pillar Data Systems, Sun Microsystems and StorageTek and previously had a successful consulting career. In addition, Cameron worked in the Federal Government as part of President George H.W. Bush’s Council on Competitiveness.

Cameron earned an M.B.A. from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and a B.A. in Economics from Dartmouth College.