A Public Self-Service API Platform as a Competitive Advantage

When it comes to providing data, content, and even ML and AI models via APIs, having a public platform will become a competitive advantage. I know that many companies see it as giving away something, especially when your resources and business model are not defensible, but in reality having a publicly available, 24/7 operational, self-service solution will give you an edge over your more proprietary approaches to making resources available on the web. Sure, your competition will be able to often get in there without friction, but so will your customers–how many customers vs. competitors do you have?

I know many companies believe in the power of a sales team to be able to squeeze every last penny out of would be customers, but a sales only approach leaves a significant amount of self-service revenue on the table. Throughout the course of our busy days, many IT decision makers just do not have the time for the phone calls and lunches involved with the traditional sales process. Sure, there are some IT decision makers who fill their schedule with these types of conversations, but there are a growing number who depend on self-service, SaaS approaches to getting business done on a daily basis–look at the growth of Amazon Web Services over the last decade if you need a reference point.

If you think a public API platform involves giving away your intellectual property in 2018, you are severely behind the times on where the sector has been headed for about a decade. Far enough behind that you may not be able to play catch up at the speed in which things are shifting. A public portal, documentation, and other resources does not mean you are giving anything away. Even having a free tier doesn’t mean that you are giving away the farm. Modern API management solutions allow you to generate leads, let developers kick the tires, while also still being able to charge what the market will bear for your data, content, and algorithms. You can also still have a sales force that will swoop in on leads, and close the deals when it makes sense.

Even with a self-service API, and robust documentation, code samples and SDKs, API providers still have to work hard to reduce friction when on boarding–providing OpenAPI definitions, Postman collections, connectors, plugins, and platform specific development kits to make integration quick and painless. If you don’t even have a public self-service presence you are just getting in the way of integration, and a growing number of your customers will just choose to go with your competitors who have opted to get out their way. The companies who don’t have self-service in their DNA won’t be able to compete in the new landscape, making it essential to be able to do business out in the open, in a self-service way, essential to staying competitive in the new API-driven landscape.