January 09, 2013

Enterprise Needs for Enterprise APIs

 

Large companies have been a part of the API game from the start.  Ebay and Amazon have had APIs since the early 2000’s.  And now, more and more enterprises are developing API programs.   Large companies in industries as varied as retail (BestBuy), hardware (Cisco) and distribution (Coca-Cola Enterprises) are all creating successful API programs. 

Enterprises however, have to approach their API strategy differently than smaller companies.  For startups, getting recognition, traction and customers is most important.  Allowing as many people as possible to use their API makes the most sense, and therefore, Open APIs are often used. 

For enterprises, the goal is to increase internal efficiency as well as expand brand presence without diluting it. Their API strategy, therefore, has to be segmented. 

So, what makes these enterprise APIs different from what most people think of as APIs, is that they aren’t necessarily Open APIs.  Cisco created its APIs to make it easier for their customers to interact with Cisco.  This is becoming more and more true across many enterprises and other large companies.  To date, Coca-Cola Enterprises has been using APIs internally to improve efficiency.  

To tailor an API strategy to their needs, large companies need to think about what data/services they can provide to all of their audiences, then segment accessibility of the API based on the audience. For example:

  • The Open API tier: This tier could contain data that is easily scraped off of a company website.
  • Partner or Customer Only API tier:  This tier holds the more sensitive data such as customer transactions or information.
  • Internal Only API tier: This is the proprietary data tier that makes up a company’s “special sauce”, or is simply only helpful for internal use.

This is, of course, a simplistic overview of how companies should look at their API strategy, but the basic concepts are there.  Not all companies will have data that fits into all three of the above-mentioned tiers.

However, the concept of determining who should have access to your API, depending on how important or sensitive your data is, is applicable to the majority of enterprises. 

This strategy allows enterprises to have a multi-faceted API program: they can have an “Open” portion of their API while also having internal and customer only APIs, making data available to all their users without compromising security or brand.  This is a winning approach.  You can always  ask us for help.