Work With Your Partners To Iterate On Your APIs

I received a press release from AT&T last week, about a new partnership with Sabre to develop what is called location information services (LIS). Ben Kepes has a good summary of the partnership over at Forbes, so I won't add my own analysis of what the partnership means. After speaking with the AT&T team today, and I’d prefer to focus on the importance of partnerships when developing your own APIs--sharing AT&T's wisdom with my audience

When listening to Laura Merling and Chris Aron of AT&T talk about the Sabre partnership, I couldn't help but think about the importance of working with trusted partners, in developing your valuable API resources. In the open API world, many companies open themselves up to iterating on API resources with a large group of public developers, a process that can make your API strategy feel very schizophrenic—in contrast making designing, developing and iterating on API design in closed environment with trusted partners much more, well sane.

Location Information Services With Transportation and Travel Partners
The location information services that AT&T is partnering with Sabre on, began as a set of location services they first worked with AAA on to help them locate drivers in need of roadside assistance. Now AT&T is working with Sabre to evolve these same location APIs and expand not just to new business sectors like travel or retail, but improve accuracy of a mobile user's location by not just using a cell signal, but also wifi and bluetooth.

Mobile Identity Toolkit With Banking and Financial Partners
In addition to location APIs, AT&T recently developed a mobile identity toolkit and what better way to help define the most valuable toolkit possible, then to work with banking and financial partners to design and deploy a toolkit that reflect exactly what they need. The result is a set of API fueled services that makes apps more secure, and reduces fraud via mobile devices.

Sponsored Data With Multiple Partners
Beyond location and identity, AT&T has also been working on the APIs that drive their new sponsored data initiative. This new program is much more sensitive than other API resources, as it directly touches AT&T user's bills, and required working with trusted partners to define a set of services that worked properly. AT&T worked with existing partners in defining everything from how the APIs will work to how these sponsored data services would end up looking on AT&T customers bills.

These are three examples of how AT&T is leveraging partners to plan, design, develop and evolve their catalog of API resources. While AT&T has their open developer ecosystem, a partner centric approach keeps things on track, by defining APIs that have proven needs, via existing partners, and represent expanding on existing revenue streams.

As with the rest of us in the space, AT&T is working to figure out the best path forward with APIs. Their approach to leveraging their partner ecosystem to provide fuel for their API initiatives is something we can all learn from. I’m not saying stop evolving your public APIs out in the open, but for newer, or possibly higher value API resources, you may want to consider kicking things off with your trusted partners.