But while flashy new hardware and software capture headlines, sometimes it’s the simple technologies which operate behind the scenes that are the most important. In the digital world, a humble piece of software code known as an application programming interface (API) must not be underestimated.
Consider Apple. Why did the company pull its new Healthkit apps from the App Store before the iOS 8.0 launch last year? The APIs weren’t ready in time.
It’s an example of the increasing importance of this “digital glue,” which is beginning to touch virtually every interaction and transaction imaginable. If building relationships with a wider ecosystem of consumers, clients, partners or even employees is important to your business, your API strategy will help determine whether you become a digital enterprise or a disconnected enterprise.
Do you speak my language?
Software comes in many shapes and sizes. It is used for a huge variety of purposes and can be coded in a variety of languages. Businesses wishing to fully exploit the digital world therefore need to ensure that their systems are ‘multilingual’ - so their software can ‘speak’ to third party software.
The winners in this world of digital transformation will be master orchestrators of services, connecting consumers and other stakeholders to their business in all manner of innovative ways.
This is where APIs prove their worth. APIs sit between enterprise and third-party software, allowing the two to interact. APIs in effect provide the digital glue that binds connected people and devices together, enabling enterprises to add their own digital identities to the online world in a way that is intelligible to others.
Engaging developers and customers
Organisations that are serious about transforming into true Digital Enterprises, fit for our digital future, need to look at deploying an API tier across their systems. A tier system unifies disparate end-points and clients, allowing everything from simple web browsers to digital and wearable devices to integrate seamlessly with the organisation.
However, an API tier requires serious work if it is to deliver real value. In particular, you’ll need to be committed to creating a flourishing ecosystem around the APIs you use. Creating a series of services based on APIs which no one else develops for is essentially a useless exercise.
The first step is creating an API directory, including apps that have been built using your APIs, as well as simple documentation to encourage more developers to build connections.
Accessibility without vulnerability
With an active API community in place, all that remains is to protect your organisation from the security threats inherent in opening up to the online world. The wide variety of access points that are so appealing to the hyper-connected consumer – mobile, online, wearable, and social – also provides cyber-criminals with a greater number of avenues for attack. Identity management is crucial to ensure that anybody accessing your systems has your permission to do so.
Integration with existing identity and access management systems will help enforce uniform user access policies across the network and in addition to basic authorisation and authentication, will allow administrators to enforce API subscription approval and expiration policies.
This is a security layer that helps you protect your enterprise at the point of interaction with the wider digital world.
Next: The glue in the digital supply chain
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