Apigee kicked-off its inaugural “I Love APIs” conference in San Francisco this first week of November; the event was oversubscribed with 800 attendees. Accenture made a large presence demonstrating just how much we love APIs: We had leaders from across the firm including Mobility, Communications Media and Technology, Emerging Technology Innovation (ETI), and of course TechLabs who delivered key talks and Internet of Things demos.
Apigee CEO Chet Kapoor kicked-off the conference with a familiar theme “Every Business is a Digital Business” from our very own Accenture Technology Vision 2013. Labs’ Mike Redding’s keynote brought this message to life: that the concern around APIs is not just for “digital natives” but may even have broader impact for “digital immigrants” like those from retail, healthcare, and fleet management in keeping their businesses relevant and helping them tap into new capabilities enabled by analytics and connectivity.
To enable the digital business, my panel discussion “From Projects to Products: Innovation in a Digital World” explored the importance of thinking of the API as a product. Not contained to the realm of geeks, but today’s APIs are business-level artifacts that help connect new partners and unlock efficiency and innovation.
I shared an example from the telecommunications industry where we built an API for device activation first targeted at retail partners – so when you buy a phone at a store, the retail partner can activate connectivity on the spot. We initially focused on this partner on-boarding use case to gain excitement about the possibility of the API which allowed us to speed-up the partner integration process from 3-5 months to an order of days.
But the same on-boarding API may spark other innovations. When someone buys a phone from Craigslist or Ebay, external developers can use the same API to activate the device. Or device activation also applies to the M2M (Machine to Machine) based communications in the Internet of Things. The point is to pick a relevant use case and get started developing an API product, and then build on that success.
Getting started with APIs was covered in the “API Journey: A Story of Technology, Organizations, and People” keynote panel. Here ETI’s Adam Burden identified the confusion between the SOA and APIs as a key question he faces from many of our clients many of who have made significant multi-year SOA investments. SOA and APIs are complementary technologies where SOA focuses more on integration whereas APIs are that product in the digital business.
John Elliott in the closing keynote panel “Decision Making for the Digital Transformation” addressed how the move to digital changes traditional product strategy to an ecosystem based perspective. John brought up the Phillips Hue programmable light bulb as an example where with APIs even a decision around capturing value of the Hue becomes more complex: Do we monetize at the point of sales of bulb? Or assess as a driver of brand awareness? Or value as an enabler to play in the digital ecosystem? The API brings about the marriage of the physical and digital footprint which in turn unlocks an ecosystem strategy based on allowing others to tap into programmability and data.
What is clear from this conference is that APIs are a key component of digital transformation for many businesses. API success is not ad-hoc and it is not just about technology, success elevates the role of the API as a product that drives new business outcomes. APIs unlock new opportunities around efficiency, innovations, and ecosystems.