Pushing Us To Think Externally Is The Most Important API Lesson

I see it over and over—organizations learning new ways of thinking, moving beyond their legacy constraints by investing in APIs. This is one of the disruptive powers of APIs which can be all about making good things happen, or bringing unintended negative consequences, depending on the state of an organization, and the industry it operates in. This is why companies should be doing APIs, but they should always be approach them with a plan, starting small, and learning in a controlled environment before going to big. Making sure that an organization is ready for the changes being introduced before moving too fast, and going all in on participating in the API economy.

API are all about entering an agreement with other parties regarding access to a particular resource. Even if this other party is just another internal group within our organizaiton, we are now being pushed to think externally outside our group. If you are even braver and will be opening up an API for partner access, the external forces being let in will be even greater. With the publishing of public APIs, you are pushing your organization even further when it comes to thinking beyond your own echo chamber. Not every organization will actually open up and immediately change as a result of opening up to the world, but the impact will still be there, even if not consciously realized. Making for a pretty interesting mix of how API providers dip their toe in the water, wade in, or just dive straight into the deep ened of the API pool. Resulting in a diverse range of outcomes that may or may not benefit the organization or group exposing the API.

For many, the sunlight entering the room once an API is exposed will be swift and painful, resulting in a backlash, and the API in question being severely limited, left idle, or completely walked away from. Most organizations had no idea what they were doing by opening up their APIs, and are not equipped to receive feedback from other groups, or be able to respond to common support requests. Others will endure, and learn to adapt, grow, and evolve within this new environment. Being shocked by the sunlight entering the room, but eventually understanding its disinfecting qualities, and the potential for change it brings. Seeing APIs as something that is letting in some much needed change, altering organizational behavior, and allowing new ideas in, and maybe, just maybe allow them take root in this new environment.

Pushing us to think externally is the most important reasons for doing APIs. Forcing us outside of our bubbles is where the real API value is at. Enterprise firewalls don’t just keep malicious actors out, they also keep us in. APIs push us to enter into agreements with outside parties, and establish feedback loops that let outside ideas flow. APIs do not guarantee change, let alone positive change. However, they do have the potential to poke holes into our impenetrable exteriors and let some light in. What we do next is up to us. Whether we heed the lessons that we are presented with will depend on why we are doing APIs in the first place. Whether we see them as lessons or unnecessary noise will depend on the internal culture of our organizations. Unsure about how your organization will respond? Then dip your toe in and begin offering some simple APIs for use by other internal groups, external partners, or if you are brave expose some resources to the public. You just might be surprised what you’ll be exposed to and learn along the way.