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A conference about the strategy for APIs? APIs need a strategy too? Those are the intriguing thoughts on my mind as I walked into the 2016 API Strategy and Practice conference -- APIStrat at the Marriott Long Wharf in Boston. Gartner Fellow, Peter Sondergaard characterizes APIs as the synapses of IoT -- a point reinforced by Gartner Analyst Mark O’Neil during his keynote at the conference. There was a general ambiance of openness, inclusion and collaboration which can only be realized if the organizers, coordinators and attendees collectively share that mindset - a mindset that can only stimulate innovation that is relevant. Even though I came in with an intent to exchange ideas on the technology of APIs, I came out with other supplementary but powerful thoughts that I share below. APIs may be the synapses of IoT but conferences like APIStrat are those critical junction points experience based insight is shared through beautiful real-life stories by knowledgeable practitioners.
The APIStrat conference itself was unique in its own way for multiple reasons. There was a general ambiance of openness, inclusion and collaboration which can only be realized if the organizers, coordinators and attendees collectively share that mindset - a mindset that can only stimulate innovation that is relevant. Even though I came in with an intent to exchange ideas on the technology of APIs, I came out -- victorious! -- with other supplementary but powerful thoughts that I share below.
Purpose. API Evangelist, Kin Lane’s insightful quote still rings true in my mind -- “It’s not the APIs, guys! It is what you do with it.” The sessions at this conference were unique in nature with a story to tell around how and why APIs were used. Most of the sessions had a real-life story that connected with the audience. Life can be better with APIs -- if they are used the right way with the right purpose in mind. Devices, machines, gadgets can come together to connect themselves to write a story of their own. Hello IoT Summit!
Consistency. Connect .. don’t Collect. These were the words that Chief Gartner Fellow, Darryl Plummer shared loud and clear in his keynote at the ITXPO Symposium. Connection across the ecosystem of partners, systems, devices and applications is vital for enterprises to continuously evolve the digital world. Consistency is vital for these connections to be effective. A consistent interface is a fundamental tenet of APIs that encapsulates any variations in the actual implementation. The APIs shared by this bank are very common in the financial industry -- even though each institution may have its own variation behind the scenes.
Management. Don’t build an API Management platform of your own -- use one that is already available,” said Jeremiah Lee, Product Manager at FitBit in his keynote. Having an API management platform is not only essential but needs to be in place before APIs start to proliferate and grow across the enterprise. Management entails the policy enforcement, collection of usage metrics and other aspects that contribute to the overall governance around APIs. Hello Governance!
Governance. Asking the Why? question is important when introducing APIs. Even better, if you have a functional interface, what are the gains from introducing an API? Every company may be a technology company in today’s digital world but that is no license to introduce technology for technology’s sake! Having the appropriate governance levels that best fit the enterprise is essential to ensure that APIs are used in alignment with the business objectives and the culture of the enterprise. And thus, we come to culture!
Culture. It shouldn’t take patients to open data sharing. The challenges of interoperability and data sharing experienced by the Healthcare industry have less to do with technology and more to do with the mindset and culture of collaboration. Enterprises that have an open mind to share their good work with the community are more likely to realize tangible benefits in the world of APIs. And I did come across such enterprises at this conference. There is a college near the venue of APIStrat that is looking to go Open Source with its platform for student enrollment. Checkout the first bank that went open source with online banking. The Vice President of one of the sponsors of this event went on record saying that the API Management product they recently acquired would be open sourced -- all of it! Culture matters. The mindset to share matters.
And this applies to IoT devices too. Devices are what we make them out to be as humans. As long as humans program the devices, the prevalent biases are likely to creep into the DNA of the devices too! (Why are all the Visual Personal Assistants to date female personas?). Unless of course, IoT devices have a mind of their own -- something I will find more about in Chicago in a few days.
There you have it. Those are the thoughts I walked away with after my first APIStrat conference -- feeling a unique sense of gain and victory. And it is those very victorious APIs of feeling that I take to the town that Sinatra referred to as “my kind of town”. A town that almost brought Harry Caray back to life with the historic win of the Cubs.
And en route to Chicago, I am thinking … IoT is a small (API) world after all!
What say you? How do I access the API for your thoughts? Please let me know.