December 19, 2012

API Strategies for Achieving Platform Business Goals, Part II

 

Last week, Mashery Platform Strategy Director, Chuck Freedman, wrote about a few strategies to help your API platform achieve its business goals.  This is part two of that post, covering strategies 4-6 from Chuck’s Business of APIs talk, which he presented earlier this fall. 

4.  Establishing Effective Partner Engagement

Often, API programs are launched with partners in mind.  A business partner or customer requesting an API to get your data faster is a great incentive to build out an API program.  And if that partner wants your API, there is a good chance others will as well.  You may just have to find the right potential partners and use your API as a business development tool.

How do you do that?  Take it step by step.  You need to think about your business goals and what these new API partnerships will accomplish.  What will these partnerships bring to your business?  You may need to do some research to find start-ups, apps, established businesses, etc. that help you meet your goals.  And think about what you can bring to these partners.  Why do they want to work with your API: your data, content or services?  What makes your platform unique? “Partner mapping”, a valuable service our Strategy Service team performs, matches your platform up with apps and businesses to form new partnerships.

Once you have found partners, make sure it is easy for them to work with your API.  Consider implementing single sign-on to allow users to login once and use your data within your partner’s app.  Intuit Partner Platform provides a great example of this – they have a single sign-on process, which allows users to use one login to access any app that has been built off of the Intuit Platform. 

5.  Consider ROI and Generating Revenue

Creating an API is a business decision.  You have to see some benefits in order to make it worthwhile to keep the API up and running.  One major benefit that we see a lot here at Mashery is that opening up your data through an API allows you to better control that data.  If you don’t have an API, your customers, competitors, partners, etc. are probably scraping data off your site.  By creating an API and putting an API management layer over it, you can actually control who has access to your data, how much of the data is available to each user and how often a user can get your data.  Cisco actually implemented an API because some of their major customers were scraping data that they needed from the Cisco site.

Once you have control of your data, you can begin thinking about whether or not you can or should charge for your data.  If the data/content/services that are offered through your API are big differentiators for your business, then charging for your API is a clear next step.  Make sure that the way you set up your pricing scheme makes sense for your business and is clear to developers and partners.  Putting your pricing right on your portal, like SportsData and Pipl do, is a great way to communicate clearly with your API customers.

If direct revenue generation from the API doesn’t make sense for your business, consider how the API can add incremental revenue.  ESPN has had great success with this strategy – they have been able to use their API to develop new business development partnerships and add value to their ad sales.

6.  Fueling Outside Innovation

Many companies decide to open up their platform because they want help building out their tools and services.  You don’t have unlimited resources, so open up your API and allow others to help add value to your platform.  Other companies look to 3rd party developers to drive innovation.

To make sure the outside developer community is successful, provide code samples and SDKs for your API.  Make it easy for developers to create with your API.  Remember that they have never worked with your API before and lay everything out for them.  It’s better to have a developer focus on user experience in app as opposed to spending time figuring out your API.  Simplicity and stellar support of your platform will increase the number of outside apps that are created.

Select events that will give you maximum exposure to the right audience. Events and conferences can also be used to drive your platform deliverables. If you’re looking to have your API featured at a hackathon, ensure it is ready for developers. Have good documentation in place, explore ways to incentivize development and offer as much on site support as possible.

These are just some of the key strategies to making your API platform effective.  There are a lot of aspects to keep in mind to make sure your API program is a success, but these should help you stay on the right course.  And of course, you can always engage with our Strategy Services and Developer Outreach teams to help you along the way.