This article was originally published on Forbes.
As business and technical leaders, I’m sure you have seen your fair share of buzzwords come and go, especially when it comes to digital and the API space. However, there is always a handful that comes to fruition and becomes an integral component of our strategies. Here are eight digital buzzwords and why they are worth caring about.
With application programming interfaces (APIs) now widely embraced as a key part of successful digital transformations, the first buzzword to discuss is API-first. While the meaning of API-first is often debated and can mean different things to different people, a generic definition we can work with is:
API-first is a combination of business and technical strategy whereby APIs are treated as first-class citizens and strategic business assets within the organization. APIs are designed and defined outside-in with reusability and product-centricity in mind.
But API-first has been around for years, so why should you care (or still care) about it now? The answer is simple: the value of API-first is finally being demonstrated. Both externally from a market perspective; the top ten API-first companies and products have a combined value of over $1.56 trillion, and internally too; Postman’s 2022 State of the API Report finds success in API First leaders producing APIs faster and with fewer failures.
2. IT Complexity
As we grow the number and type of assets in the integration layer (the layer of capabilities required for different systems to interact with each other) to become a digital business, so grows complexity. IT complexity comes in four key areas:
- Sprawl across a distributed landscape: assets of different design patterns and architectural protocols, running across multiple platforms—and those that are in-flight and not yet deployed
- Lifecycle complexity: all these assets are constantly moving through iterations and lifecycle changes, and there are dependencies and relationships between them
- Ecosystem complexity: ever-changing providers, consumers, partners and priorities
- The need to minimize new and manage existing technical debt: integration spaghetti is a real hindrance to agility.
So why should you care about IT complexity (even if you’re on the business side)? Because your digitally native (and most transformed incumbent) competitors can move faster than you—into new channels, with new services, with adopting new technology. A great first step to de-mystify complexity is to catalog everything that’s in your landscape right now and start prioritizing retirement of any redundancies.
3. The Composable Enterprise
Composability is fast becoming a modern goal state for enterprises—think Amazon-esque; business capabilities that are modularized and reliably exposed for reuse to rapidly deliver customer-centric products and services. Gartner has some excellent resources on composability, but the reason you should care about it right now is because of the need for composability and consistency.
Enterprises are working hard on how to make composable business blocks consistent (and therefore actually reusable). Done right, differentiated products and services with faster time and volume to market is a genuine opportunity.
4. Shift Left
Shifting left is a concept that’s been circling in the security space for a while now, but its reaches are much further. We’re now seeing this buzzword applied to mindset, processes and tooling across the software development lifecycle (SDLC), and especially to API programs. It means focusing on and catching issues in design-time phases, i.e., before they become a problem.
Shifting left can help create an end-to-end framework for development that drives consistency and reliability, and ultimately unlocks many of the other buzzwords we discuss in this article.
5. Flexible/Open Enterprise Architecture
Enterprise architecture is back at the forefront of the CTO’s mind as a way to build the connective tissue between what the business wants and what IT has in place to deliver it. Flexible enterprise architecture is where many enterprises are aiming to get to with their EA approach: a plug-and-play landscape where technologies and platforms can be switched out easily, and assets in the integration layer are managed in a vendor-agnostic way.
The outcome? Digital efficiency and business agility, and a more responsive technology landscape.
6. API Taxonomies
With the ongoing proliferation of APIs comes the need to organize them in a sophisticated way, leveraging API taxonomies. This means going beyond basic naming conventions and aligning your APIs to your business capability model and/or relevant industry domain models (e.g., BIAN in banking).
The outcome is APIs organized as business building blocks that are discoverable, standardized and rationalized, with accurate coverage reporting and improved prioritization and planning for future development.
7. API Governance
API governance is another term that’s been around for a long time, but we’re now seeing governance being used to weaponize enterprises’ API architectures, amongst other benefits. Though it’s traditionally thought of as a handbrake to development speed and an arduous, manual task, it is necessary for ensuring quality and consistency.
Fortunately, mindsets are now changing along with the tooling front to support a modern and mature governance strategy. The goal state is adopting a model that’s configurable and automated, with a balance between centralized and federated rule sets. Think standards that are flexible based on API design type, architectural pattern, region, use case and more.
Done in this manner, API governance actually helps support the value of the functionality being exposed: it’s consumable, reliable and predictable.
8. Data As An API
Data is an asset in every organization. Heavy investments have been made to bring data into data lakes and warehouses. However, in my experience working with enterprises, only a minuscule amount of this data has been made consumable. There’s a massive opportunity to move from SQL and batch processing (reliant on hard-to-find technical talent) to data made available through your virtualization layer and exposed as ready-to-consume APIs.
Embrace these buzzwords in your enterprise where relevant for you, and work toward gaining digital differentiation through efficiency, business agility and successful transformation.