Posted on September 12th, 2019
Publishing data externally as a public API (Application Programming Interface) can pave the way to innovation with your partners and customers, leading to more business opportunities and business development. Whether it's store locations, product lists, prices, or other proprietary data, exposing a data asset as a standards-based API makes it easy to integrate the data for use into Websites, applications, business processes, systems, mobile devices, or other devices where it will be of interest. This of course can lead to more store visits, product inquiries, more partnerships, and ultimately more revenue.
Of course, APIs can be private as well, where access is controlled or only available to a pre-selected set of partners, employees, or customers, enabling them to integrate real-time data from your organization in customized ways. The process and benefits are generally the same, just limited in scope either for competitive or proprietary reasons.
The Cloud is what makes modern data publishing possible. While you can do the necessary technology build out yourself, alternatively all of the infrastructure, scalability, usage management, analytics, monitoring, and business models are available pre-built to leverage for your needs, making it quick and easy to take advantage of the benefits of data-as-an-API publishing. Also, additional capabilities such as data quality control and enriching of existing data can be utilized to deliver an even better product than just your raw data assets. Leveraging API design and architecture expertise can yield significant long-term benefits as well. And of course, ongoing management of an API is conducive to its stability and success.
Once you have decided what internal data would provide business benefit to expose, the next step is to define the universe of access to the API, the productization and packaging of the data within the API, and finally the distribution and monetization business models that support the API. Questions to ask include whether the general public will have access to the resultant API in an unlimited manner, or should there be a requirement to sign up and agree to terms prior to accessing the data? Should a user's access be rate-limited, even if anonymous (via IP address or API keys as examples), or instead should it be freely available as broadly as possible because it drives downstream business action? Is the data itself valuable without context, in which case paid subscriptions should drive the access?
For purposes of distribution targeting, is there a short-list of third party applications that pre-integrating this data as an offering might be useful? If so, it is generally straightforward to build a third-party application hook around a standards-based API to deliver the data into a desired application to reach a specific audience. This should be an important part of a long-term strategy, as use of an API will be an indicator of its success and third party integration is a way to drive that usage, and through an application is an easier way to reach mass audience.
If you choose to work with a turn-key, third-party provider, what kind of business models do they offer that align with your business strategy? It is crucial that this alignment exists for success. With this route, you should be able to get a prototype up in running in a few days.
These are some early questions to consider if you have been thinking about the benefits of publishing data via the Web to partners, customers, and potential customers. Have more questions? We would be happy to discuss any requirements or needs at firstname.lastname@example.org.