"A company without APIs is like a computer without the Internet."
With that analogy, Brian Koles (head of business development at ChallengePost) makes the case for getting corporate APIs out where they can serve the enterprise. In fact, anyone not working with APIs is likely to find themselves in a backwater, akin to still running a company with a bunch of DOS computers. (Okay, harsh analogy.) But as Koles puts it: "if your company doesn’t seek new channels for integration, then it will stand alone on a digital island, which is no place to be in the connected future. I’m not just talking about enterprise ERPs aligning myriad business processes either."
In a new report published at ReadWrite, Koles provides eight essential rules for any API effort. And it should be a no-brainer for any organization that has built and deployed software before:
1) Uncover needs to gain early support: Get the executives involved by finding out where the pain points are and proposing ways for APIs to address them.
2) Build as if the ultimate audience will be external users, even if it isn't: While APIs may get designed and built for internal users, it may only be a matter of time until they are made available external. Always assume that they will serve outside audiences, and build accordingly, in terms of security, connectivity, uptime, etc.
3) Get buy-in: Koles makes the case for buy-in: "Exposing assets is a scary proposition. Dirty laundry could be aired, and loopholes will assuredly be abused before patched. You’ll need some champions to help you endure the bumpy road."
4) Look to outside expertise and templates: No need to struggle to build the build the whole thing from scracth, and more than you wouldn't want to build an ERP system from scratch.
5) Provide documentation and code samples: Documentation -- what a nice concept.
6) Dedicate staff: Designing, building, deploying and maintaining APIs isn't something that can be done in just a couple of hours a day. While you're working with the documentation, you'll need someone -- or a group of someones -- to keep the project rolling, and continue to monitor the site and make improvements. Not a part-time job.
7) Surround the API with communication channels: Koles suggests discussion forums, blogs and even a dedicated Twitter handle to reach out to developers and end-users. Also, stay close with developers through conferences and workshops.
8) Create a gallery or marketplace: Help developers who do build on the API to get notice and recognition -- or even a revenue-sharing arrangement if they've built a public app offered through an app marketplace.