Explaining APIs To Senior Leadership: Access To Company Resources Without The IT Hassle

One question I get pretty frequently from my readers, is about how they should explain APIs to their senior leaders, specifically the non-tech savvy executives. In my opinion, these conversations can be some of the most important ones, not just for a single company, but potentially an entire industry. To help support this effort, I’m working through several stories that anyone can put to work when trying to convince their senior leaders that APIs are a thing--this week is about access to resources.

APIs are all about making vital company resources available in a self-service, and secure way over the open Internet. Despite popular belief, most APIs are not publicly available, just the overview, documentation, code samples, and other building blocks are publicly available. If a developer actually wants to use an API they have to register, and be given access to API endpoints, before they can do anything with them. There are some pretty proven approaches to API management out there, which include a centrally located developer center, simple API registration form, and potentially multiple service levels, that all help manage how APIs are accessed and put to use.

API resources can be anything from a company directory, to details of specific projects, or possible access to company compute, storage and other common IT resources. Anything you do on your computer at work, or have published via your website, can be made available via APIs, and easily accessed through a public or private portal, in a 24/7, self-service manner--all without needing to make a request for IT resources. This type of efficiency is what every company needs to be competitive in coming years, ensuring that every employee has access to the resources they need to get their job done.

Access to corporate or organization resources via APIs doesn’t have to be something just for programmers. It is pretty likely that you already have web services at your company, but these APIs have been designed just for IT and geeks, where modern APIs come with supporting building blocks like widgets, spreadsheet connectors, and other tools that make API resources accessible and usable by anyone. This is an important distinction, one that is democratizing vital resources, and putting them into the hands of people who can benefit the most, and not restricted by classic IT bottlenecks.

IT, and developers will often say APIs aren’t for the average business person, and many business folks are used to this type of rhetoric and have been trained to avoid anything API related, feeling this isn’t for them—something tech folks like, because it keeps them in control, feeding into classic IT power structures. However, for the last 14 years, web APIs have been making vital resources available to internal and external developers who are building web and mobile applications, as well as the internal power user, and are something every company should consider, when looking to help everyone in a company do their job better.