Intro To APIs: Why You Should Care About APIs

Continuing our series centered around introducing APIs to our more mainstream business users, we wanted to go beyond what an API is, and what they are used for, and focus a little more on why you should care about APIs in the first place.

Developers understand the relevance of APIs when it comes to developing web, mobile, and device applications, but we also want to make sure our business users understand the importance of not just knowing what an APIs is, but also having a strong grasp on the value APIs can bring to their organizations. With this in mind, let’s explore some of the most critical reasons why business stakeholders should be engaged with what is happening as APIs move towards being more mainstream, and work to raise the bar when it comes to business users’ participation in all things API.

To help reinforce why you should care about APIs, we’d like to begin with some of the fundamentals of APIs, then incrementally ratchet things up when it comes to exposing you to more of the technical details of how APIs work (or don’t). Everyone involved in the API lifecycle needs to be open to learning new things, and be fearless when it comes to regularly brushing up against the more technical aspects of APIs.

With this in mind, let’s walk through some of the fundamental reasons you should care about APIs, while also turning up the heat on what is expected of you when it comes to your mastery of the technical details of building, maintaining, and using APIs properly.

Access The Data You Need

APIs are not just for building applications. They’re commonly used to provide access to a wide variety of data sets ranging from the US Census and Medicare healthcare data, to social, financial, transit, sports, and other information that you might be applicable across your professional world.

API access means you have access to the data you need without the developer middle man. Understanding of how to use an API allows you to gather, crunch, and make sense of the data you find relevant and will need to be successful across the projects you are responsible for.

APIs can be connected directly to spreadsheets and other existing business applications, or simply outputted as CSV, JSON, and other machine-readable data for processing locally, or importing and working within other 3rd party systems. There are plenty of common data formats that anyone can put to use – you just have to be data curious and not afraid of playing with how various tech platforms work. APIs can ensure you have access to the data you need, when you need it, directly from the source. With the proper knowledge, you can avoid relying on other individuals and service providers to get you what you need.

Master Your Service Integrations

Visit your favorite Software as a Service (SaaS) provider’s website, then look around for an integrations page. Likely, you will find an entire page dedicated to many different (API) integrations with other useful and common platforms. Integrations enable seamless platform integrations that anybody can set into motion.

APIs can make work and your life easier by connecting the applications and services you are already using together, allowing you to share and sync data and accomplish tasks across disparate providers. APIs raise the bar when it comes to the services we adopt. It’s important to spend time on the integrations page before signing up to ensure you can orchestrate your tasks across and between all of the business services you depend on.

Taking the initial time to research and set up integrations can significantly reduce friction in how you operate business. Using many different platforms and services to get work done without being locked into any single vendor allows you to be the master of how your services work together.

Increase Agility Across Internal Operations

Publicly available APIs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what API-driven resources are available out there today. Most available API resources are put to work within an enterprise firewall and are used by internal groups. These APIs and microservices are not just available to developers. They are also accessible to non-coders via API client tooling like Postman, which doesn’t require code.

In order to access an API, you’ll need to know where to find the API and the authentication required to access it. Then you can begin putting data and other resources to work – saving results locally or integrating them into spreadsheets and other common applications using standardized machine-readable formats like CSV and JSON.

APIs increase the speed at which you can get access to read data, content, and media available across an enterprise, and add, update, and delete information. These capabilities allow you to easily orchestrate common business tasks across enterprise systems – all because you know where the back door is. APIs allow you to be more agile in how you conduct your business across the systems you already depend on each day.

Strengthen External Relationships

Beyond internal agility, APIs are often leveraged to strengthen new and existing partnerships, provide access to data, content, media, and other digital capabilities in a commonly-defined and secure way.

APIs return preferred and potentially personalized access to valuable digital resources. You can leverage modern API infrastructure to also measure, quantify, and optimize exactly what has been accessed and made available. This makes it possible for business users to actively engage with partners with limited or no assistance from IT and developer groups, maximizing the impact that business users can make when it comes to moving partner conversations forward.

Knowing where the valuable APIs are across your organization can give you the edge when it comes to getting business done with your most valued external partners. Knowledge of APIs and how to perform basic tasks with them can help strengthen your existing relationships while also allowing you to scale and onboard additional partners with very few resources.

Become An API Stakeholder

This is where we begin raising the bar on what is required of your participation in the API conversation across your organization. Let’s push your knowledge and awareness of what it takes to use APIs effectively and begin to increase your stake in what is happening.

There is no reason for you not to be an API stakeholder. Taking an active role in requiring that your organization’s applications, services, and systems all have APIs can speed up internal daily tasks and free up time for you and others to focus on more crucial work.

Playing an active role in how APIs are being delivered within your organization means you can help define how they should behave. It also means you get a say in how and when these APIs should be deprecated and replaced by the next generation of API solutions.

By simply knowing what APIs are and what they are used for, you can define better workflows for your organization and raise the potential of your business. APIs are currently a part of most modern businesses, and likely a part of the framework of your competition. Becoming a stakeholder in the API world allows you to be a part of these critical conversations and define API functionality and workflows in ways that can benefit you and your peers the most.

Know All of Your Capabilities

Can you easily articulate everything your organization is capable of? Do you have one place where you can go to find these organizational capabilities and demonstrate each capability to other team members, business stakeholders, or partners?

If you are talking about digital transformation within your company, organization, institution, or government agency, this is your destination. It is extremely useful to be able to call up any of your organization’s executable capabilities. It is even more useful to be able to define, design, and deliver new capabilities within as short of time as possible – and this is all possible with APIs.

APIs can change your perspective on what an organization is capable of and what you, yourself, are capable of because APIs speed up the software cycle. Enabling yourself and your team to utilize APIs allows you to be more confident in how you do business and gives you more granular control of the direction of your business in the future.

Tune Into Relevant Events and Signals

The API journey always begins with simple, effective request and response API infrastructure, allowing consumers to request what they need, and get the responses they need. As most API providers evolve their services, they tend to start developing webhooks, publish and subscribe, streaming, and other event-driven approaches to delivering API infrastructure.

These adjacent services up the ante when it comes to how data is moved around. Instead of just relying on being able to request what you want from your API infrastructure, you can be notified and push data, content, media, and other resources when things change. In such a fast-paced industry, getting timely notifications of meaningful events can prevent services from breaking and mean that your business can maintain a reliable quality over time.

Introducing APIs and setting up your infrastructure to work for you can take things to the next level when it comes to understanding your organizational capabilities. A great API infrastructure allows you to tune into what is happening and when things happen, understand what capabilities are possible, and orchestrate solutions in response to meaningful events in real-time.

Engage with Developers

With your heightened API awareness, we have a big ask of you – for you to start working to lower the barriers that exist between your business world and IT or developers in your organization.

As a more engaged and aware API stakeholder, you will be able to not just understand what is being said during API discussions with developers; you will begin to be able to contribute, direct, and lead these developer conversations.

There are many reasons for the canyon that exists between business and technical groups across an organization and APIs help bridge these gaps. APIs ensure we can all find common ground for how organizational capabilities meet business needs. The more engaged you are with developers, the better chance you will be able to strike the right balance when it comes to getting things done consistently at scale – with a velocity you’ve never been able to achieve before.

Tune Into the Details of API Contracts

Without a fear of the technical details, we can now begin giving you access to OpenAPIs, Postman Collections, and the JSON Schema definitions for API infrastructure.

We will provide you with access to the technical details of the API contracts that are already driving your desktop, web, mobile, device, and network applications. With these technical details of request and response APIs and event-driven API infrastructures, you’ll begin ascend to a new level of understanding of how information is transmitted internally across your organization, with partners, and via 3rd party applications.

As you continue learning, you’ll soon be not just aware, but will be able to actively contribute to how your organization delivers the next generation of your applications and integrations with other services and systems.  This is something that should be enabled by IT and development groups across your organization, but it is also something that you can lead.

If you aren’t tuned into the technical details of the API contracts your organization provides, then you can’t sit in the driver’s seat when it comes to the details of what your organization actually delivers. Empowering yourself by learning how APIs are used in your company can make you more valuable to your company and make your company more valuable to consumers.

Define the Details of API Contracts

Once you are tuned into the details of the API contracts your organization provides, you can begin contributing and defining what those details are. You don’t have to be the one rolling up your sleeves and writing code, but there is no reason why, as a business user, you can’t dictate the terms of each API arrangement.

You can define exactly what data is being made available, how requests are made, and which events trigger and push to consumers. Just because you don’t have the ability to write code doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to define how APIs are delivered across your organization. The ability to define the details of your API contracts is within your reach—you just need to step up and join the conversation.

Govern Across All Operations

APIs are a journey. You can’t achieve API reliability, awareness, and consistency overnight. It takes time. Governance is something that few developers care about but is something that many business stakeholders will have a vested interest in.

Business stakeholders are closer to the real-world problems that are being solved via APIs and connected services. This puts business users in a prime position for understanding what is at stake and what kinds of solutions are needed. There is a great opportunity to standardize and govern how organizational capabilities are defined, delivered, maintained, evolved, and ultimately deprecated.

API and data governance enable organizations to scale and bring teams into an alignment that can help move projects, applications, and integrations forward in ways that you never imagined before.

Why You Should Care About APIs

APIs have been behind every shift in the technological landscape during last twenty years. Commerce and payments — APIs. The social revolution introduced by Facebook and Twitter — APIs. Cloud computing — APIs. Mobile — APIs. Internet-connected devices — APIs. Machine learning — APIs.

It is all APIs. If you are looking to be the one who defines the future of how business is conducted, you’ll need to be API-aware. You should care about APIs because it will play a role in defining almost every aspect of how you get business done in the next decade.

APIs are how you stay ahead of your competition. APIs are how you move forward with confidence and agility as an enterprise entity. APIs are how you know what you are capable of, and how you define what your next generation of capabilities will be. Doing business in the next decade will be API-driven, so it’s very likely that you’ll want to play an active, competent, defining role in all of this.

APIs are a priority. This is what most mainstreams enterprise organizations have come to realize in the last couple of years. Our goal here at Postman is to make sure you realize that APIs represent the future of how you do business and aren’t just something for developers. They are relevant to everyone.

This is the purpose of this ongoing series introducing business folks to what APIs are, how they are used, and why it is critical for you to truly care about the details. At Postman, we are serious about opening up the playing field and making sure business leaders are equipped with what they need to be competitive, and hold their own throughout the API lifecycle—even when things get a little technical.

We’ll continue to work to help you become more confident in your API knowledge. You don’t need to understand every technical detail, but you will need to be aware enough to command a seat at the table and play a strong role in how APIs are consumed, delivered, and put to work as part of your wider organizational digital transformation.

Author: Kin Lane

I am the chief evangelist for Postman, helping our community see the larger API landscape, and understand how Postman can help you be more successful across multiples stops of a modern API lifecycle.