Chuck Freedman | Director, Vertical Insights
December 11, 2012

API strategies for achieving platform business goals


Companies that back their API offering with a strategic approach can experience a measurable success. We guide companies with existing and new APIs to understand their business goals and implement or create strategies that drive success.

As more companies and developers join the API conversation, there have been many takes on what API Strategy is. I don’t think you can define one thing as API Strategy, and I don’t think it represents a particular mindset or approach. If we take stock of all the ways we, at Mashery, help companies drive success with their APIs, it becomes clear that API Strategy is rather a set of strategies deployed based on the unique value and positioning of an API.

For our Business of APIs conferences this year, I gave a talk focused on various effective API strategies. The session was entitled “Strategies for achieving platform business goals”. The goal was to offer companies a sampling of effective strategies that we have seen work. With many videos of BAPI presentations now posted, I invite you to watch the video of my presentation and other talks from the incredible event. Here are some notes on 3 of the 6 strategies I presented to achieve platform business goals:

1.  Drive your platform as a product

It all starts with how you position your platform, both internally and externally. From the moment you start planning it thru launch, you must consider your APIs as products. From the get go, consider the engineering of your API comparable to new software with dedicated engineering resources. Establish a launch date for your API, and get proper support and marketing efforts behind it.

Evidence of good API productization can be found in some of the better developer/partner portal sites. In these, you’ll notice API groups are well presented with individual value propositions, showcased apps and API specific branding. TomTom and Aetna Carepass are excellent examples of this.

2.  Champion your API vision

For many organizations, the value of the platform may not be well understood. It helps to promote and evangelize the platform within your company, as you will likely do externally among developers and partners.

Holding frequent stakeholder meetings keeps everyone in the loop. Secure executive sponsorship of the platform as early as you can. Keep your teams updated on events where you’ll be promoting the API.  Announce new and exciting app integrations – consider bringing in 3rd party developers and partners to demonstrate what they are doing with your API. These strategies can keep the momentum going and ensure the right people stay involved and interested on the company’s platform initiative.

A great example of championing an API within a company can be found in ESPN’s internal hackathons. These events have become so successful in driving appreciation and innovation with an API that several hacks have graduated into consumer facing app features.

3.  Understand the landscape

Understanding the landscape can get you ahead of competitors’ platforms and drive new partnerships. The better understanding you have about what other APIs are out there, the better value and competitive edge your platform will have. In our strategy engagements, we help clients understand what other businesses in their industry are offering. From this landscape, you can understand what is working and the data/content/services that attract partners.

We often find it equally important to examine the complimentary landscape. These are APIs that developers and partners will likely want to use (mash up) when building apps in conjunction with your platform. They are not necessarily other APIs found within your industry, but represent data that works well with your API to create a more complete and valuable user experience.

The exercise of reviewing the landscape often evolves into an effective business development strategy as well. To American Express, understanding how complimentary their data was with Foursquare led to an incredible partnership and an excellent example of how APIs from different industries can compliment one another.

These are just a few of the strategies I presented this year at BAPI. Our Strategy Services team guides companies with the strategies that work specific to the unique value of their API. Across industries, there are exceptional strategies we have seen implemented time and again that usually lead to incredible platform success. I will offer more in future posts. Feel free to contact us with questions or to share what strategy has been most effective for your platform.