API management: The heart of modern digital architecture

“What’s a quick and easy project we can do that will generate some new profits?” … “How can we implement omnichannel features when our back end legacy system is so outdated and siloed?” … “There’s so much opportunity in untapped markets—where do we begin?”

These are common questions for businesses looking to make an impact in the digital space, and on some level, the answer to each of them is: APIs (application program interface). APIs are crucial to giving modern businesses a way to be digitally nimble without going “all in” by dismantling their legacy systems first. But getting to where we are today took time, and has been a learning process for the IT world.

With the recently announced partnership between Mindtree and Apigee, we thought this was a good opportunity to look at the brief history of omnichannel development and the rise of APIs.

Why we are where we are

Most enterprise systems were built over a period of many years, with a focus on building web experiences and closely linked business services. Many of these enterprise systems adopted SOA architecture to clearly define and expose business service contracts while integrating downstream systems.

But as we know, a number of other channels have emerged in recent years, and they have become more prominent in their need to access enterprise services. Mobile has truly exposed how inflexible enterprise systems can be when it comes to making business services available on new channels. Other devices with varied form factors—like health-monitoring devices, smart watches, tablets, Google glass, and emerging technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality—are posing increased pressure on businesses to make their presence available in all these channels anytime and anywhere.

Moreover, businesses have adopted a number of SaaS products, like Salesforce, Demandware, etc., that need integration with traditional on-premises systems. On some level, the chance of success for companies started with their outlook. Rather than treat these hybrid systems (on-premises and cloud) as a tedious integration challenge, wise companies considered it an opportunity to provide seamless experiences and business services to customers.

First steps toward omnichannel

Initially, some companies built wrappers around their business services (SOAP web services) to expose RESTful services, which could be consumed by mobile apps. But this approach was still limited to their own channels, like mobile or emerging rich client side browser based experiences.

But businesses felt the need to do more than just expose these RESTful services to new channels. They also wanted to make them available to developers and the partner community. This would require increased security, request throttling, monitoring, and metering, as well as charging for service access. It demanded more than just a service exposure; it called for a gateway, which can inherently manage these complexities, provide scalability, security, and insights about access patterns.

Then came the industry focus on APIs and API Gateways, which decoupled channel access from business critical services.

APIs in action

Consider a bank that allows bill payment services to its customers through an internet banking portal. The bank then needs to extend the internet banking ability and bill payment services through a mobile app. They also want to monetize bill payment services by exposing an API to its business partners. The bank has a legacy core banking system, with traditional portal access. How could this bank make a transformation from traditional to digital banking services?

The bank can deploy an API Management Software which enables exposure of core banking services for its mobile channel, secure bill payment service through token/certificate generation, self-service for its partners, a real-time monitoring dashboard, and bill/invoice generation—all based on API access.

After onboarding of an API Management software, the bank can quickly transformed itself from delivering traditional services to delivering digital banking services across channels, while also will monetize their deep expertise in ancillary areas like bill payment, tax payment, personal loan application, etc.

Scaling out

“Scaling up” is a common term for businesses that want to grow. But APIs allow businesses to “scale out”—growing without adding new physical locations, no costly promotions and no significant investments in human resources. For businesses looking to transform digitally, it often turns out to be priorities 1, 2 and 3. And with Mindtree now part of Apigee’s Digital Partner Program, our ability to fulfill these priorities quickly and efficiently just got more powerful.

Learn more: Download our executive brief “Embrace API Strategy to Scale Out Business and Drive Revenue.”