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The “API Economy” is much more than just a buzz phrase. It’s become a key enabler of digital transformation and agile businesses. In a recent report, McKinsey explains, “As the connective tissue linking ecosystems of technologies and organizations, APIs allow businesses to monetize data, forge profitable partnerships, and open new pathways for innovation and growth.”
Businesses of all shapes and sizes are reaping benefit from APIs. According to a Harvard Business Review article, Salesforce has generated half of its revenue to through APIs, while Expedia.com has generated a whopping impressive 90% in recent years. APIs have become so essential to businesses that 85% consider web APIs and API-based integration fundamental to their business strategy and continued success. Before implementing an API, it’s important to carefully consider what’s entailed in a successful API strategy.
Disseminating up-to-date, accurate, and easy-to-grasp documentation
Clear, easy-to-access, and easy-to-grasp documentation is a prerequisite for API success. Documentation quickly becomes stale and out-of-date. When it does, users fail to derive value from it and, worse yet, lose trust in the company.
API customers demand top-notch documentation. According to the 2018 State of API Integration Report, improved documentation represents the second most common customer request. The best companies are laser-focused on ensuring documentation is accurate, up-to-date, and easy to digest. They embed documentation into the user onboarding experience. They carry out a thorough review process each time an API change occurs. They also establish channels that allow users to point out mistakes and ask questions. Equally important, they create sandbox environments that allow users to vet and test the quality of API documentation prior to purchase.
Perhaps even more importantly, top-tier API companies focus on documentation digestibility and relevancy. API documentation isn’t accessed only by highly skilled developers. It’s accessed by PMs, CTOs, and others during the evaluation phase. To ensure relevancy to coders and decision-makers alike, top-tier companies emphasize the importance of embedding real-world API use cases into their API documentation (rather than creating a laundry list of technical information that merely describes what the API does). Twilio, for example, offers a full page of examples as to how their API can be leveraged in the context of real-world use cases.
Far too many companies measure the success of their API strategy using vanity metrics—number of developers or number of API calls. The most effective companies go far deeper. They track the effectiveness of their API strategy diligently and holistically. According to research by Apigee, successful companies differ from lower performers in that they clearly define and measure a combination of business success metrics. These include revenue and consumption metrics such as the number of developer calls. The importance of measuring success is underscored by the fact that more than 80% of the top-quartile of API-ready companies in Apigee’s customer base believe their organization measures the business success of their APIs, compared to only 50% of companies in the bottom quartile.
At a minimum, companies should measure, track, and evaluate three types of API metrics. First, it’s important to monitor revenue metrics such as direct and indirect revenue, ROI, and CLTV per developer. Second, it’s important to measure operational metrics such as uptime and error. Third, it’s important to measure developer metrics such as NPS, community engagement, documentation engagement, and churn. Without a holistic appreciation of how successful your API program is, you’ll be unable to optimize it.
Building a strong and engaging developer community
Building and implementing an API is no longer sufficient to ensure your business reaps benefits from APIs. We’re living in the age of the customer. In the API realm, the customer is the developer. The most effective businesses empower developers to thrive using their APIs.
The rise of APIs is fueling a new business model — B2D, or “business to developer”. A cornerstone of a successful B2D business model is the creation of a thriving and engaged developer community. This community can—and should—involve many channels. A monthly newsletter can be an effective way to disseminate news. A chat portal can function as an effective hub for developers to chat and engage with each other. A developer blog can be a powerful means of spreading educational content, case studies, detailed release information, coding suggestions, and best-in-class implementation strategies. Explaining how integral Twilio’s blog is to the company’s overall API success, Devin Rader, Twilio’s Director of Developer Evangelism, has said, “Our blog content is some of the most trafficked content on [its] website, especially blog posts that show you how to build new products and cool things with Twilio. We tend to find new developers to the Twilio platform arrive at our blog content first.”
A Twitter account is also another key component of a thriving API developer community in that it enables quick responses to issues. It also offers a powerful means of alerting developers on any API status updates. While many companies overlook the importance of face-to-face channels, these channels can also fuel a thriving developer community. Hackathons and conference booths, for example, can help establish a personal touch and drive a stronger pulse point into the customer. Research by Apigee has found that more than 75% of the top-quartile of API-ready companies in its customer base believe that their organization invests in developer programs, compared to less than 50% of bottom companies in the bottom quartile.
APIs offer a lot of potential. In April 2017, research by Forrester revealed that 55% of companies planned to invest in API during in the following twelve months. Sensing the importance and urgency of implementing APIs, many companies have understandably jumped on the bandwagon and put together an API strategy and roadmap. Unfortunately, many of these plans were designed without careful thought. These creators approached API implementation with the mindset that the task would be similar in complexity and scope to that entailed in building a website. This line of thinking is a recipe for disaster. APIs should be like products. A successful API strategy requires a wholehearted investment of time and resources.
April 30, 2019 at 03:15PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs