APIs, microservices and the changing role of IT in 2017

From the changing role of IT to chatbots, learn more about five technology trends that will impact businesses in 2017.


To succeed in today’s digital economy, organizations need to drive at a very different clock speed and embrace change in their customer’s market, competitive landscape and products. Below are five technology trends that I predict will have a major impact on businesses in 2017.

1. The changing role of IT

With new digital disruptors knocking down the door and competition growing fierce across all industries, I predict 2017 will see an uptick in organizations making an effort to change the way they operate internally to innovate more quickly at the edges. The role of IT is fundamental to this organizational change, as it starts with IT unlocking core systems with APIs and then working cross-functionally with development teams to encourage and empower them to build some of their own solutions using IT-provided, self-service assets like APIs and templates. The broader development team is also encouraged to add new assets or improve existing assets, scaling the network effect of these assets.

Aligning the broader business around the same mindset fosters a collaborative environment, where teams will automatically inquire into what assets exist that can accelerate their current projects or what assets don’t exist that they can create for others to reuse in future projects. As the asset base grows, more teams become self-reliant and can drive new products to market faster. With consumer expectations changing frequently, organizations require a new IT operating model to build and iterate faster to stay competitive. Taking five months to build a mobile API that adds a customer-expected service and then another five months to implement the change won’t cut it any longer.

2. The rise of internal API economies

In 2017, I predict we’ll see more organizations participate in the external API economy by opening up services to third parties via APIs in an effort to drive revenue by joining as many value chains as possible. According to a Harvard Business Review article, Salesforce generates 50 percent of its revenue through APIs, Expedia generates 90 percent and eBay generates 60 percent, showing that APIs are real revenue drivers if leveraged properly. Many banks, for instance, are starting to leverage APIs to not only unlock data from core systems but also to build whole ecosystems around their product offerings. With ProgrammableWeb’s directory now surpassing 16,500 open APIs, the opportunities to participate in the external API economy are only growing.

However, in order to participate in the external API economy, organizations first need to establish an internal API economy. This is accomplished by using APIs to help remove the limitations of legacy systems and empower the broader organization to be self-reliant. As a result, organizations can move faster, be more agile, deliver products and services more cheaply and quickly and react to changing market conditions.

3. API security is now a top-level concern

The role of APIs in securing enterprise data is hugely important, yet undervalued. Imagine a house with many closed doors and windows that represent access to enterprise data. Over the years, people have likely opened up most of the windows, the back door and even dug tunnels to gain access. With all these visible and hidden points of entry, it’s extremely difficult to lock down the data, understand who uses it, where they use it and where it goes when it leaves the four walls of the enterprise.

The internal value of APIs is to provide a single entry point for all data sources, removing any unwanted back doors, windows and tunnels. IT can make sure access is only gained through the front door, or the API, which is secured by design. Secured by design means an API would never be released that doesn’t have credentials that are signed and regulated. While it’s beneficial to have data move around the enterprise freely to speed up efficiency, IT needs to govern and control it and even shut it down if the information has been syphoned out without proper authority. In 2017, I believe more companies will start to mitigate data risk internally with APIs.

4. Microservices architecture keeps gaining traction

The challenge for organisations is understanding how they will build and leverage their microservice architecture. Do individuals build the exact services they need every time they need them (e.g., Netflix)? Do organizations form small teams around bits of code that operate independently (e.g., Spotify)? Or some other variation that mixes-and-matches microservices with other architectures?

Microservices are great at early-stage implementation. However, as teams build microservices that could be beneficial if leveraged by a broader set of people, those microservices should graduate into APIs, which have interfaces and are discoverable. A microservice is not meant to have an interface but rather serves a piece of functionality in an application. If teams open that microservice up to a broader audience internally or externally, they should put an API on top of it and start managing that as a reusable capability. In 2017, I believe more companies will start to bridge the gap between microservices and traditional systems with APIs to promote development speed and agility.

5. Chatbots for customer service

2017 will see a lot of experiments focused on figuring out how best to fuse automation and human control to provide better customer service and support. How much can organizations actually automate without driving the customer away? What’s the right balance between automating something through software versus getting humans involved? How do organizations change the interaction model between their customers and partners to help them find information quicker without pointing to a representative?

In the near term, chatbots need to quickly understand intonation to determine if the caller should go to a representative or stay on the line to answer a few more questions. If the caller gets frustrated because too many questions are being asked by the chatbot, the system should recognize the frustrated tone and push the caller through to a representative. The representative should then be equipped with all the caller’s information so the caller doesn’t get more frustrated at having to repeat everything (we’ve all been through this). Balancing chatbot automation with human interaction won’t be successful if the two worlds don’t hand off well to each other, and APIs are at the core of accomplishing this.

What do you think? Are these five trends impacting your organization? And what other trends should we watch out for?

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.