Chuck Freedman | Director, Vertical Insights
September 24, 2012

Essential API tools for fueling outside innovation

 

Open APIs allow partners, developers and entrepreneurs to innovate with your data, content or service from outside the walls of your company. Startups on a strict VC budget crave outside innovation as much as the Fortune 500 companies challenged with limited product or engineering bandwidth. Through this proven platform strategy, companies can invoke new partnerships, watch their brand proliferate to new users through cutting edge apps & devices, and discover ways their APIs can fulfill previously unknown, but desirable user features. 

However, it’s not enough to just put our API ‘out there’ and show up at a developer conference, event or hackathon. Essential API tools, many of which you’ll find are out-of-the-box companions of a good API Management layer, make fueling outside innovation much more effective. Understand that the consumer demand for Apple iOS, and all flavors of Android, including Kindle Fire and Nook, has created an incredible surge of developer talent.

The current generation of mobile app and web developers is out to do more than demonstrate their skills and network – they have a flair for the entrepreneurial approach. Priming your platform for easy onboarding of these developers positions you to attract more activity, generate the outside innovation you need and establish methods for partnering with developers and businesses.

Here are some of the essential tools to have in place to maximize your platform return on pursuing outside innovation: Developer portal A well-maintained and active developer portal greets developers.

This site, often found at developer.yourcompany.com, is the drawbridge for developers:

• Market your platform like a product – developers and partners can access your API documentation and obtain keys and authentication to securely access your platform.

• Ease of discovery – use the site to make it easy for developers to discover capabilities/features of your APIs and unique value from documentation. You can go the extra 9 yards to offer code samples of the kind of apps you want to see built to inspire development in a certain direction. At the very least, demonstrate fundamentals of your platform through code samples and blog posts.

• Showcase – use the site to showcase apps that have already integrated with your platform.

• Share information – the developer portal is where you post support information, including well-kept forums to show developers you are responsive to their issues and are there to help them innovate. Reporting A valuable bi-product of issuing developers keys is the metrics and reporting generated from their activity:

• Track – access reports frequently to track your community growth.

• Communicate with active developers – monitor reporting to learn which developers and apps are the most active. Reach out to the most active developers to offer direct support and get feedback from them on benefits and pitfalls of your API.

• Monitor traffic – check reports to see if anyone is exceeding the amount of traffic you expect them to be at.

• Gauge event effectiveness – observe usage before, during and after events to gauge effectiveness/value of sponsorships, presentations and appearances at hackathons and conferences. Management controls Often called a console or dashboard, API management controls let you command who has access to your platform and what they can do:

• Access automation – make getting access to your platform easy by automatically issuing keys.

• Cap usage – put a cap on API usage, making it harder for apps/developers to overburden your service.

• Throttling – be prepared to throttle usage for individual developers/partners to allow them less or more use of your service. Putting many of these tools in place should be easy.

Check with your API management service provider to ensure your tools are setup to perform all the functions outlined above. They are essential to engaging partners and the developer community. If you host and/or manage your own platform tools, make sure your portal is optimized to embrace developer activity and give you the data you need to control and monitor the outside innovation your platform deserves.