How to develop an API Ecosystem

APIs can deliver new value to payments companies and support innovation, but developing and managing APIs requires a strategy. Learn how a strong strategy can make resources, data, and business value available to all key stakeholders.

As digital transformation takes hold at the enterprise level across payments companies, new digital interfaces are emerging to empower enterprise IT to become faster and more agile. Application programming interfaces (APIs) can deliver new value to payments companies and support innovation. The need to modernize has driven many to develop and manage APIs that make resources, data, and business value available to all key stakeholders.

The effectiveness of APIs is dependent upon a company’s ability to build and manage them effectively. This requires visibility into individual APIs and over the entire ecosystem. As this ecosystem grows, management becomes increasingly involved, so having a comprehensive API ecosystem strategy in place can yield the greatest benefit.

Hamstrung by Legacy Systems

Enterprise IT that facilitates business functions can look a lot like a tangled mess. Most organizations have implemented a bespoke mix of software and hardware with a variety of interface protocols. Enterprise value chains are connected by the internal wiring of protocols, payloads, regulations, and functions. Tapping into the business value throughout has become a convoluted process that involves navigating disparate systems, interfaces, and user experiences.

As the rest of the connected world continues to optimize and standardize — enterprise IT finds itself moving at a snail’s pace because of the risk, cost, and disruption involved in a wholesale overhaul of legacy systems. Early efforts at remediating this resulted in highly technical integration layers meant to help existing systems better communicate by centralizing integration to one application. Instead of improving the development lifecycle, this actually complicated and encumbered it further, making enterprise systems less visible than before.

Today, we have technology interfaces that work with much simpler protocols, help organizations transform more quickly, and deliver incremental value over time. This equates to less risk and an increasing ability to future-proof systems.

APIs Change the Game

APIs represent a composable unit of meaning. As a unit, it facilitates business value chains that can transport data, processes, or experiences seamlessly. APIs also allow for the standardization of digital IT assets, mitigating more risk, and increasing speed. APIs also don’t require working knowledge of the underlying system complexity, so stakeholders can seamlessly utilize business meaning and value.

Using standard protocols and sockets, payments organizations can quickly connect various existing enterprise systems in order to create and improve value chains and support new digital experiences. To be able to do this effectively, understanding the vision of what the future may hold is essential. In other words, it requires an API ecosystem strategy.

The API Ecosystem

Developing an API ecosystem strategy begins by evaluating which internal stakeholders, external partners and vendors, customers, and other participants will need access to business meaning and value. Each of these members will have a nuanced set of circumstances and objectives around how they use business meaning and value.

In evaluating participants and their business objectives, the next step is to build a roadmap that connects capabilities to objectives. In other words, which processes, data, and experiences will each participant need access to, how will they need access, and how quickly? These insights can guide iterative development that unlocks capabilities according to the priorities of leadership. This roadmap will also need to address any overlaps and conflicts with existing systems so that they can be resolved.

As APIs are created to meet the needs of each participant and stakeholder, they will begin to form an ecosystem. That ecosystem can then be analyzed from the perspective of each API’s different applications. Those applications provide the foundation for future applications. In other words, APIs can be reused many times over to maximize ROI. Planning an API ecosystem strategy is what makes this repeatability a possibility.

Over time, the API ecosystem will mature to a point of unlocking significant business meaning and value. The ability to plan for the future and consider how digital assets can be used to achieve future business objectives will become a reality. This, in turn, leads to new experiences as well as new business models. The ability to migrate legacy systems becomes a simpler affair and the ability to build new experiences and new business models becomes less disruptive to operations. Business continuity, resilience, and agility are the pleasant byproducts of this ecosystem — an ecosystem that simplifies enterprise IT for payments companies and eliminates unnecessary complexity and cost.

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