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In this article we take you through the connected world of APIs and how you can reap maximum value

The Omnipresent World of APIs

These days, APIs have become an integral part of the digital transformation journey for all enterprises. Every digital innovation story is connected to APIs . But have you ever pondered over to know what are the source of these APIs?

Let me explain - APIs sources can be varied, internal or external, solving different purposes, but mostly categorized into the following two categories:

  • Data lakes is a term used to represent disconnected but relevant data that are used by various business units within an enterprise.  APIs are created as the easy access points for these siloed data lakes.
  • These days, organizations put in  conscious efforts in designing meaningful and pragmatic APIs for all the apps that get developed internally.  API-First or API Driven Development, where APIs are the first app artifacts to be generated, are adapted by enterprises as a part of their app development efforts.  In modern app development, as much as the apps share APIs generated internally, they also have to deal with a plethora of external APIs.  These external API are fed from SaaS services (eg. Google Calendar), API marketplaces (mashape) and integration clouds(e.g. Zapier).

With new technologies like IoT gaining traction,  there is going to be a proliferation of  APIs very soon.

API Management tools
How do enterprises manage these flurry of APIs that get generated?  How do they leverage these APIs to make them as easily accessible touch points for both internal and external stake holders, complete with security, subscription, plans, API rate limiting etc?  The answer is enterprises use API Management platforms/tools for the said purpose.

API management platforms help enterprises manage all aspects of APIs as defined above, ease the process of API access to all stakeholders and in general address all the management aspects of the entire API lifecycle.

Typical API sharing and consumption process
API Management tools typically take as input, all the APIs at its disposable and attaches multiple attributes like security, rate limiting, subscription plans etc. to each of those APIs.  These tools also provide something called as an API or a Developer portal.  This portal is a one point portal for searching and subscribing to APIs.

The typical process looks like as is shown in the following set of images for a fictitious company called Movi.  We have also used screens from WaveMaker low code platform for some illustrations.

This is a templatized approach followed by organizations who try to share their APIs with external (as well as internal) stakeholders.  But is this  process as shown in step 4, effective? Do organizations get the RoI from their investment on APIs quickly?

Loopholes with the current API management setup - Low RoI
The fact is that APIs, at the end of the day, are entities consumed inside an app.  With that in mind, consider some of the glaring issues with the current API consumption model, as listed below:

  • There exists competitive barriers for rapid proliferation of these APIs by enabling a much larger audience to build apps using those APIs.  Competitive barriers are because of  of a big super set of users with great ideas but no app coding skills than there are users with app coding skills.
  • Turnaround time from when APIs are published to when the API is really consumed in an app is longer due to the complexities surrounding the API documentation and consumption related technical intricacies.

What we need is to :

  • Remove the technical friction for anyone wanting to start building apps
  • Make it easier and faster for anyone to build apps to your APIs to increase the RoI faster

Let's fix it.  Remove the friction between app building and API access

The issues seem to have a very easy solution but probably needs the enterprise move up in the value chain of becoming a "Digital Enterprise".  The answer lies in adopting a low code development platform that can work out wonders in solving these issues.  Let me explain these in simple visual steps below:

1) Let's start with a simple change to the existing process as shown in figure-1, by adding an app creation step.  This will help in users to not just subscribe to an API plan but also start working on app instantly.  More details in the next steps will make this simple addition work wonders.

2) Start the developer portal registration exercise as always...

3) However during the registration process, we make sure to add an instant app creation step to facilitate users.  The button click will lead the users to a low code platform for visual app creation.  It's all in the mind!  This simple change in the registration workflow allows the user to instantly start creating an app and the exercise is not just limited to API access.

4) Once the users clicks the button, they get logged into a low code platform.  Note we have used screen mocks from WaveMaker low code platform.  But the user is not left in lurch.  He is not left to the mercy of documentation and forums to start integrating the APIs into the app.  A templatized app pre exists inside the platform with all the relevant artifacts for consuming the APIs and this  can help users to significantly speed up app creation.

5)  Inside the Movi app, pre-integrate with the most commonly used APIs in the application.  This will take away all the complexities associated with the API, like documentation, parameters, headers etc. and lets the user focus on just app business logic and end user experience

6) A well defined templated app inside a low code platform would also provide pre-existing drag-n-drop components like search widgets that have pre-built integrations to the search APIs.  This is value addition beyond just simple API integration.  Now we are talking about UI components that will let you build the customer user experience in front of your eyes using in-built WYSIWYG screens.  This is powerful, since you are not focussing on technology anymore, but business imperatives.

7) Low code platforms doesn't stop there.  It will not just let you build your app easily, but also test them take them to delivery fast.  It covers the entire app delivery life cycle.  Check out the 1-click testing and deploy features highlighted in the below figure.

If you noticed in the above article, it was the low code platform which is the unsung hero solving the bigger problem of API RoI.  Low code platforms in one swoop through its easy drag and drop based visual coding and app template based approach put a clean facade over technical complexities associated with APIs and coding and app.  Low code platforms lets you make an app from an idea in a matter of days instead of weeks, months and in some cases more than a year to create an app.

Benefits of the new API consumption model

The below picture captures all the benefits of the new model succinctly.

Conclusion
In the modern digital world, it's imperative for organizations to move up in the digital value chain.  Investing in a low code platform is one good way to do that.  What we discussed today is one such value proposition for companies with existing investment in API infrastructure.  But low code platform based solution can be successfully  applied for various other scenarios like faster response to the needs of the customer, enabling 3rd party digital channel stakeholders, and even empowering employees within a company.

More Stories By Karthick Viswanathan

Karthick heads the Products, Marketing and Evangelism efforts for WaveMaker. As one of the original product managers at WaveMaker, he led the technology and design for WaveMakerOnline, WaveMaker's PaaS offering. He also established the Customer Success practice for WaveMakerOnline. Prior to WaveMaker, Karthick occupied various roles in engineering and product management at PegaSystems, IBM and Oracle. He can discuss in-depth, code-level details and just as easily shift focus to business and go-to-market strategies. He was one of the seeders for the product management teams for PegaSystems in India and also a key technology contributor behind Oracle Warehouse Builder features. He writes and blogs about modern app development methodologies, including Rapid Application Development, digital transformation, and the API economy.

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