Cloud API integration platforms make the digital economy work

APIs make 'getting to market' happen faster, and they make continued engagement more likely.

api talks
American Presswire/Ahsan Awan

In the digital economy, integration and collaboration involving platforms and applications is essential for success. Whether with a startup or a mature enterprise, one of the most important strategic initiatives a business puts forth is the design and implementation of a clean and efficient SaaS-based application programming interface (API) integration system.

“APIs are important because no man is an island,” says Matthew Woodget, CEO of Go Narrative, a Seattle-based marketing consultancy specializing in storytelling for business. “We are interconnected and our technology needs to be too.”

As noted previously in CIO by me and journalist Andre Bourque, APIs are the building blocks of collaboration; they facilitate connectivity and functionality between applications. In fact, the successful integration of APIs into a customer’s ecosystem is precisely what allows long term value to be derived from the relationship. Smooth integration of applications reduces the likelihood of a customer leaving in order to use another product or service that might do what he or she wants more quickly, accurately, and efficiently.

“Applications that are not integrated represent the single greatest factor resulting in lost sales and unrealized revenue potential faced by a business operating in the digital space,” says Neil Manning, a manager of professional services at a large, publicly traded, Fortune 500 FinTech firm. “If your applications don’t work with the ones the customer is using, they will likely move on to another provider whose applications do.”

As the broader market begins to understand this, many companies have begun looking to see what they can do to simultaneously increase revenue and improve customer satisfaction. Questions have been raised: how do you create, implement, and manage a successful API strategy? Moreover, how do you do so without compromising time to market, and how do you do so without breaking the bank?  

One company, Cloud Elements, has launched a national series of talks focused precisely on these questions. The 2017 series debuted in San Francisco on May 23 as a combination of keynote presentation, panel discussion, and informal social interaction supported by a generous selection of food and beverages for attendees. In fact, a fair examination of these supplementary offerings confirms that Cloud Elements has raised the bar and redefined the gold standard for hospitality, but for good reason.  Said one attendee who preferred to remain nameless because he was technically working, “liquor is an API.  It facilitates smooth interoperability of all these attendees from different companies.”  No disagreement there – and the APIs of choice included a top shelf whiskey, gin, and tequila tasting sponsored by Bruichladdich & Westland Distilleries.

In regards to the digital conversation, “Cloud Elements will be producing API Talks in 2017 in different cities across the U.S.: New York City, Boston, Austin and Portland,” said Ross Garrett, Cloud Elements’ head of product marketing. “As with API Talks: San Francisco, each event will feature a panel of Cloud Elements’ customers discussing their integration challenges and what they’ve learned about creating stellar SaaS-based API integration strategies.”

Not only does Cloud Elements believe in the basic need for APIs in order to facilitate integration and smooth interoperability of applications, they also believe there’s been a deluge of API publishing over the past few years.  This has inundated developers and counterproductively caused more work as engineers look to create bridge code to make not only their applications, but also the APIs themselves, work together.

Cloud Elements has assembled catalogs of pre-built integrations that work out of the box. In doing so, they make it faster to get to market, and they make staying in the market more likely through reduced customer attrition due to technical dissatisfaction. Essentially, when a customer buys and installs a product, they expect it to work. Furthermore, they expect it to work smoothly in conjunction with whatever else they’re using. They don’t want to have to experience further cost and delay while they wait for a third party integrator to implement bridge code to make things work.

“Customers expect the products they pay for to work as advertised,” says David Baldeschwieler, a senior software engineer and veteran developer. “In the software world, the stakes are much higher for a business to deliver due to broad competition from both startups and tech giants, and the relatively low cost of development.”

As Garrett pointed out, Cloud Elements recently announced collaborations with IBM to expand SaaS Connectivity in IBM App Connect, as well as with Amazon’s AWS focused on offering API connectors for SaaS business apps from the AWS Marketplace. At the San Francisco meeting, representatives from Box, one of the leading secure file sharing, storage and collaboration platform providers, Medallia, a leader in Customer Feedback Management (CFM), and Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), the iconic hi tech commercial bank that has helped fund tens of thousands of startups, talked about their strategies and experiences.

Keynote speaker Ken Yagen, VP of platform product at Box, explained how Box utilizes Cloud Elements’ OpenAPI Specification in order to make Box’s API more open and consumable. Box’s strategy is fully aligned with Cloud Elements’ intention: strategic open sharing of APIs on the web so the pattern of will be repeated and used by other API providers. In other words, Cloud Elements’ strategy is to change the way the world causes integration by allowing integration tools – APIs – to be freely available in hopes that others will, in turn, do the same.

Box did exactly that.  They made their API freely available, and the results are reflected in their sales and in the documented integration of their product by others. Case in point, I use box. I use it because it’s clean and easy to use, and my clients and team members agree.

Yagen's presentation was followed by a panel conversation featuring him alongside Ali Sadat, VP of product at Medallia, and Mark Vermeersch, head of API Banking at SVB. Their panel discussion was focused on the SaaS-based integration strategies occurring in those enterprises. Cloud Elements’ Ross Garrett moderated the panel.

Medallia has embraced the API economy; in fact, they’re considered one of the early movers. They opened their platform and released their first major developer-focused API nearly a decade ago allowing integration of Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) tools and insights. They also have a developer site, a thorough ‘how-to’ guide, and a GitHub repository where code can be found.

SVB has also embraced the API economy. They have a branded API banking service that enables clients to directly integrate their own platforms & fintech apps by way of SVB’s data and payment operations. SVB also has a developer site where complete API documentation is located.

The grand takeaway is that APIs are being developed and deployed everywhere. There’s a clear need to have them in order to facilitate integration and smooth interoperability with client and partner systems. However, there’s also a need to identify and use the right APIs, ones that have been developed in such a way as to work with each other. That’s because it’s not just a vertical relationship between enterprise and client applications that exists, there’s also a horizontal relationship that involves multiple applications interacting with one other application, and multiple applications interacting with each other. The alternative is bridge-coding integrations as issues come up, but the risk of system failure and downtime is too great given its translation to lost revenue and lost customers. The answer is pre-integrated, pre-bridged API bundles, and those can be obtained from Cloud Elements.

A recap of the panel discussion can be found here. Full detail regarding Cloud Elements’ API Talks series can be found here.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.