It’s easy to think about API’s as a technical solution to exchange information between systems and applications. But the true benefit from API’s come when you use the to help the business.
As an industry veteran, I have seen IT move from really simple (one mainframe) to the most complex infrastructure ever. With hundreds of thousands of components, hardware as well as software, networks (virtual and wired), complex security technology, multi-cloud and on-premise servers and connections to everywhere and everything. In the past decades, we have added more than we removed and we ended up with many ICT silo’s that have major issues exchanging information.
Most of this complexity exists because of the technical decisions we made in the past. The new systems we bought were incompatible with what we had, communication, integration and network protocols changed year after year, mergers and acquisitions added more incompatible components and religious wars over programming languages, databases and operating systems added to the mess. For years, we tried to pick the best solution for a particular problem. Not the best solution to build a flexible IT Infrastructure.
Change comes unexpected
In the past years, we experienced that changes will always come unexpected, with Covid as one of the most impressive and disruptive change seen in a long time. And where the business responded with quick and sometimes overwhelming actions, IT had issues supporting them because of a complex ICT infrastructure. And where a business can should ask itself “Where are we going”, IT should be able to respond with “We are flexible, as far as we are concerned, you can go anywhere!”. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Integration to the rescue
For the first time ever, it looks like “ integration” is now an accepted term with our management. Everybody understands the need for integrated systems. It makes ICT silo’s disappear and helpt to create an environment where it’s much easier to implement new business initiatives with IT. Many of these integrations are created by individual developers using a variety of API management tools. Often, as a result of a pull request (citizen developers needs access to ABC from low-code tool XYZ) and we build a quick implementation. But soon, companies end up with many API’s doing many things to/with many systems and when an auditor has questions about ownership, privacy data, data retention, security etc. trouble starts.
Only a true integration strategy can help us survive the coming years where integration efforts (and the use of API’s) will explode. Solid definitions of important business functions that must be accessible, which data can be exchanged and by whom, who owns access, who secures, who monitors and in what way data is presented to applications all needs to be defines in a pragmatic and simple way. Only then will we finally be able to build the flexibility in our ICT infrastructure that allows up to help the business in the way they expect.
Using an API with the right suite of tools is important, but dong so with “the business” always on #1 will truly show the power of API’s.
Author: Marcel den Hartog, Trend & Development Expert, Enable U