Companies need to wring value out of their investments; find new ways to serve customers or create new value with their current systems, products, supply chains and partnerships.
I keep going back to water analogies. My house has a plumbing infrastructure that was paid for a long time ago. I recently found new value in that infrastructure, an automatic sprinkler system. Again the system reminds me of an API. Through this one common interface I can connect many endpoints (sprinkler heads) and my yard has never looked better. I have some endpoints that cover the lawn, some that concentrate on shrubs, others take care of the plant beds. The point is that I tapped in to my existing water pipes and found new value in a 35 year old system.
Can you do the same with your enterprise systems?
Let's take a common strategy like a mobile device strategy. First we have to understand what information customers need when using a mobile device like a smartphone. Certainly location and product come to mind. Maybe information about their account or orders. These little gems of information can be exposed through the API interface and carried to many different endpoints; today a smartphone, tomorrow a tablet PC or connected car. Let's call these 'functional APIs" since they carry a function to the user through a mobile device.
The next step to realizing a functional API is to map the data elements and functionality of the new API to their location in the existing systems. These data elements may map to databases, ERP systems, other internal services, etc. In fact, a single API may map to one or more internal systems. Any holes that are discovered will have to be filled.
For example, if you are designing an API and define features or data that aren't available through existing systems, you will have to provide that new system or new data set. But, in the interest of embracing the legacy systems, you should be able to reuse the majority of what you have by extending it outward through the new abstract API.
Leveraging what you have through an API can reduce your development cost, give you speed to market and also give you more flexibility in the future to integrate with more devices and partners. Leveraging my existing residential water system yielded a "yard of the month" award, perhaps this strategy can beautify your business as well.
Next we'll talk about the details of integrating with existing systems. And ots on this in our recent whitepaper "APIs: A Profit Interface - using APIs to grow your business.