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APIs Are the Conduits That Can Accelerate Digital Transformation
January 4, 2022 News

Written by: Martin Dale Bolima, Tech Journalist, AOPG.

Digital transformation is a key differentiator in this highly digitalised world. But more than a few companies are hindering their own digital transformation efforts by not making APIs a central part of their ongoing initiatives. An API, or Application Programming Interface, is a building block of digital products, according to Degui Xu, Senior Solutions Engineer, Kong Inc., thus making it indispensable to digitalisation.

Kong, a domain expert in the API space, describes an API as a conduit or intermediary between two applications and uses this phone weather app analogy to explain its function: When you use an application such as your phone’s weather app, the application on your device connects to a server and sends data to it. The server then interprets this data and sends the required information back to your phone’s weather app, in turn giving you the information you needed in the first place. To put things simply, said process does not happen without the help of an API.

APIs: Pushing Innovation, Driving Businesses Forward

And now you are probably asking, “What does that have to do with an organisation’s digital transformation, and how do APIs drive business value?”

The simple answer is innovation—the kind that can reduce the complexities of your organisation’s IT operations and give your business the ability to be consumer-centric.

“As the building blocks of digital products, APIs are an extension of business logic that helps modern organisations innovate faster, become more agile and evangelise new markets,” explains Xu in an exclusive email interview with Disruptive Tech Asia. “In abstracting away the underlying complexity of a service and presenting it as a well-defined product, APIs provide enterprises with secure access to data, services and key operating systems that drive change and digital innovation for internal partners and third-party consumers.”

Xu adds: “APIs are used within a great variety of sectors, as they provide useful business opportunities to enhance customer requirements and relevance. For instance, insurance carriers could use APIs to give controlled access to third-party agents to get policy quotes. Instead of needing the carrier to process the request manually, APIs automate it for the agent to display quotes to the potential customer.”

A perfect example is First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), which, according to Xu, leveraged Kong Inc.’s solutions to migrate away from legacy systems to “embrace an API-first model and enhance service orchestration within the containerised architectures.” As a result, FAB cut down operational costs by 57% and dramatically reduced the need for developers to write infrastructure code.

Misconceptions to Clear, Challenges to Meet

But, as with many (relatively) new technology approaches, there are plenty of misconceptions surrounding APIs and their place in business. Two, in particular, that Xu identified are:

  1. Most people assume APIs are the responsibility of IT teams only.
  2. Businesses are not establishing APIs as critical assets in digital transformation.

“Most people assume that APIs are an IT-only responsibility, leaving many IT and business teams in disagreement in the past. In today’s business environment, not establishing APIs as a critical asset can hinder a company’s digital transformation initiative aimed at becoming more customer-focused and reducing system complexities,” Xu points out. “With APIs becoming increasingly sophisticated, businesses need to discard these misconceptions to benefit from leveraging an API-driven strategy and reduce the time-to-market of products. Business leaders must lead with the mindset of incorporating technology into their business-driven roadmaps to uncover new opportunities to enhance customer experiences and drive the business forward.”

Slowly but surely, though, more and more businesses are discarding these misconceptions and are now putting APIs front and centre into their digital transformation. Even so, this development is not without challenges, the most notable of which is security, says Xu.

“While API transformation invites boundless opportunities, it also introduces potential security risks. API integration with off-site data introduces security vulnerabilities due to the remote nature of servers, making physical security precarious,” explains Xu. “Companies are vulnerable to breaches as API technology is dependent on web-based programs. It is critical for companies using APIs to implement a zero-trust security model out of the box with stringent observability of strategic API integration projects to protect businesses from data breaches.”

Another of these challenges is the need to embrace a new “App Store approach” culture that, when done right, will allow an organisation to maximise its API strategy.

“Companies are building thriving internal developer communities around the APIs they define, design, implement and catalogue,” says Xu. “Done well, the business is able to move at a far more rapid pace than ever before, by allowing business and domain owners to discover, re-use and rapidly compose new digital products and capabilities, perhaps leveraging modern low or no code tools, much faster than they ever could before, without much or any involvement from IT.”

Carrying On With Kong

According to Xu, the average enterprise today uses 1,950 cloud services but less than 10% of them are enterprise-ready since many are still hampered by informational silos. API integration, though, seamlessly connects disparate data and enables the communication between platforms and applications, Well-managed APIs then result in accelerated software development and make high-value digital assets more consumable and reusable.

Additionally, taking an API-first approach enables the support for new innovative projects and increases agility while cutting down costs. Developers can accelerate software development without building new feature functionality from the ground up, and instead assemble parts to integrate with technology that fulfils customer needs and user experience.

This, says Xu, is where Kong comes in.

“Kong makes connecting APIs and microservices across today’s hybrid, multi-cloud environments easier and faster than ever,” Xu notes. “Through our technology, we are able to power trillions of API transactions for leading organisations globally through our service connectivity platform. This is particularly critical in the rising need for digitised services and increasing customer demands.”

He adds, “We support businesses in the changing digital landscape and create an ecosystem around their services. As the API economy exponentiates, companies must reconsider their strategies to achieve the agility they need to achieve digital innovation at a business pace.”

Indeed, digital innovation is the future of business in this highly digitalised and still digitalising world.  And data-rich, intelligent and automated digitisation is, ultimately, the tipping point that will usher businesses from the Fourth Industrial Revolution to the Fifth. Empowering that march to Industry 5.0 is—you guessed it!—APIs.