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6 Takeaways on Digital Success: Heard at the Conference

Hello, and welcome back — we’re just catching a breath after last week’s ignite API Product Management User Conference, held at the chic-edgy Convene Center, just south of NYC’s Grand Central Terminal.

To provide a little background, we hold ignite User Conferences to bring customers and prospects together to discuss a.) what the digital business vision actually looks like and b.) how to successfully execute on API strategies that deliver real value (and how to communicate that value).

Our customers traded success stories, sometimes even surprising us with newfound returns and value-adds, while giving others a chance to ask any questions they had around digital transformation, implementation, and full-cycle API Product Management.

Over the course of our two-day conference, we gathered the following takeaways:

  1. API Product Management unlocks business capabilities and is the only way to digital business.
  2. BiModal must be achieved in the modern enterprise.
  3. Governance can actually produce speed & innovation while aligning Business & IT.
  4. With digital, new roles emerge: API product managers and digital product managers.
  5. Leveraging APIs for customer-centricity and using API Products to support customer journeys.
  6. There are many paths to the monetization of APIs.

From here we’ll expand on each, and along the way we’ll thread in a few customer presentations available for download, as well as an infographic with key concepts and diagrams.

1. API Product Management unlocks business capabilities and is the only way to Digital Business.

If you know digitalML, you’ve heard this one before. At the conference we touched on how market attitutudes are catching up with this line of thinking; the S-Curve is settling in after the hype of API Management. As Gartner’s Hype Cycle shows, public web APIs are heading for the Trough of Disillusionment, as internal APIs are speeding right into the Plateau of Productivity to take a seat next to private APIs.

This is what we’ve seen in the field for some time now, as our customers continue to find greater value in the business capability layer of internal and private APIs. They use our ignite platform to build out an API catalog for visibility, as in the case of the taxonomy view (Fig. 1), to show the coverage and gaps supporting their core business functions while helping prioritize and plan.

healthcare api strategy api portfolio by business capability
Figure 1: The taxonomy view of business capabilities in a sample healthcare API Catalog; one of ignite’s several powerful portfolio views.

We also discussed how ignite is helping large enterprises get tangible results from their API Product Management strategies, and how they’re beginning to see wins in the form of governance, speed, better data, task automation, and the removal of bottlenecks through baked-in data governance. But most importantly, ignite gives them the ability to get Business to think a bit more tech, and IT to think more in the mindset of business initiatives.

Which brings us to our next conference takeaway: BiModal.


2. BiModal must be achieved in the modern enterprise.

The thing is, digitizing your core business functions into a catalog of internal APIs is only half the battle. Or, it’s a bit Mode 1, you might say. You need still need to be moving towards that Mode 2 approach of agility/innovation/MVPs, market testing, and continuous delivery.

That’s where we find Gartner’s BiModal concept very applicable.

We’ve already seen how Mode 1 looks by itself, and it doesn’t work —  it’s the essence of handing an idea to IT and hearing “Okay, we’ll need to build an entire application for this, that’s going to be a massive project and we predict it could take up to two years….” Business just got this idea, and just wants to test an MVP before scaling. They don’t want to take two years to find out it’s not a success.


Digital Success depends on BiModal


Conversely, Mode 2 products could never scale without the governance, categorization, standardization, and process design your organization gets from Mode 1.

BiModal, or the enablement of Modes 1 (think: traditional/waterfall/Samurai) and Mode 2 (think: brave new world/agile/ninja) to work in tandem, is essential to digital success.

3. Governance can actually produce speed & innovation while aligning Business & IT

We’ve talked before about the Business drivers behind microservices adoption, which stressed three main categories: digital transformation, IT modernization, and growth. But there’s a new (old) driver in town, and his name is… Governance.

Governance for Speed & Innovation

No one in IT likes the G-word. Maybe the CIO… perhaps the Information Analysts and Architects…. but the rest of the IT crowd are not fans. But the truth is, when governance is baked into the API lifecycle where you can automate as much as possible, you’re actually able to use governance to speed things up.

Citi’s SVP, Service Catalog Product Manager of GCB Platforms presented on how governance was the key driver behind the move to build out an API Catalog, and how the level of governance they’ve achieved is enabling their teams to reach global visibility, reuse, and automation. All perfect conditions for innovation at speed.

By building data validation fields into the steps of their service building lifecycle through our customizable ignite accelerators, they’ve cut their sprint time in half.

To view Citi’s presentation, download here.

When everything is labelled the right way, you can capture significant metrics, such as the number of:

  • Touchpoints along your customer journeys you’ve enabled
  • Direct return to bottom line
  • Core Business Capabilities digitized, in progress, and accessible
  • How many ^ you’re missing
  • Reuse your teams have
  • Services you’ve exposed, consumed, and made available
  • Months you’re cutting down on time to market.
  • The list goes on…


Aligning Business & IT

So we’ve covered the enablement of BiModal for true digital transformation… which sounds like a dream state, in theory. But, where to start? And then, once you do have a plan — and here’s a question we heard often at the conference — How do you communicate the critical value of good API Product Management to Business?

After all, Business wants to go fast. But IT needs API Product Management needs the right platform. Some prospects said our technology was ahead of its time; as one account predicted, by four years. But our customers certainly don’t seem to think so. At the rate of disruption, four years is four too late to start planning out a future-proof API strategy.

If you’re trying to make a business case, the list of metrics above is a great place to start. But it also takes a level of communication over what APIs actually mean for a business.

Communicating that value while aligning IT to business goals is a key focus of our offering. At the conference, we discussed how our latest release took significant measures towards this goal of alignment, particularly in the form of 3 features:

  1. A self-servicable interface that bakes in the right level of data governance to build informative dashboards that deliver immediate value to stakeholders.
  2. Internal marketing materials to help publicize your team’s wins through events and newsletters, ultimately spreading enterprise adoption.
  3. The right visualization to enable communication of APIs at various granularities, a usually abstract concept. This is possible via an API catalog with several dashboards and views that allow for quick portfolio reporting. Particularly the Browse View:


When you click on a Business Capability Building Blocks, a window expands to reveal its components


The key push is to expose APIs in a business-friendly way that hides all of the complexities on the backend that Mode 1 is responsible for. Ultimately, it’s about wrapping our heads around the concept that we should really start treating digital products like the physical. Which brings us to the next buzz topic heard at the forum: API Product Managers.


4. With Digital, New Roles Emerge: Digital and API Product Managers.

If someone were to call you up and say, “Hey, how many stores do you own?” Would you be able to tell them an exact answer? Why not your internal APIs and services?

As we achieve BiModal, we’re beginning to see new roles emerge to own and manage these realms. Many companies have introduced Digital Product Managers and/or API Product Managers to manage both, external API Products and core Business Capability APIs. And we suspect the next stage will be the management of even third-party APIs.


Though many enterprises haven’t reached this state of maturity, the need to bring in API Product Managers as you build out your API Catalog to hundreds, or perhaps thousands of business capability APIs, facade APIs, experience APIs, integration APIs, and third-party APIs. And as your API strategy develops into new complexities, it only makes sense that you might want to start assigning ownership to those domains and products. This will help to standardize enterprise practices and actualize the value of that standardization.

After all, you’re likely consuming more APIs than you’re selling. In a perfect example of why your third-party APIs need controlling/managing, one of our customers made reference to the time their company was hit by a huge charge by Google Maps — someone should have caught that before it reached a million, right? Even third parties need a portal – and so the dev portal concept often gets extended to API portal. All the better for ideating your next innovative product.


5. API Products for Customer-Centricity.

But innovation for the sake of innovation will only get you so far. Enter the concept of customer-centricity, or building API Products from the outside-in, with the customer in mind.

Greg Osborn, Director of Enterprise Services and Architecture Solutions at Anthem, gave a fantastic presentation on the subject of Business-Driven API Product Management in Healthcare.

He made an observation that really struck a note with us, that the real competitors in healthcare are not in healthcare at all, but the digital forerunners — companies like Amazon, eBay, etc. — that are raising customer expectations across the board. He spoke to us about 4 Business Objectives these digital drivers have put on the map for the healthcare industry, including:

  • Customer-Centricity
  • Cost of Care
  • Provider Collaboration
  • Quality

The key focus for this presentation was that first pillar: Customer-Centricity. How that’s enabled by APIs, or at least to get business thinking about how to enable it through APIs (bingo).

We really loved their slide that broke down Customer Journeys storyboarded into a series of Touchpoints. For each, an API Product was required to extend the right business capability to deliver a perfectly seamless customer experience (CX).

What this looks like: Picture you have a series of customer journeys you want to guide your customer through. For example, Create an Account, or Choose Policy. Let’s use the latter example — say Choose Policy were storyboarded into a series of moments, such as Browse Existing Plans, Compare Plans, Select Plan, etc.


Each touchpoint needs to pull information from the right databases, or Lines of Business, across your enterprise (or from third parties) to create a seamless journey from one moment into the next. And so many of our customers are building an API Product to support each touchpoint along these journeys.

Having an ignite API Catalog has also given Anthem the enterprise-wide visibility to see what they have versus what they need, while also enabling better communication across departments and teams.

For more info on leveraging APIs for customer-centricity, see Greg’s presentation. The download is available here.


6. There are many paths towards the Monetization of APIs.

Up until now, many have seen the solution to API Monetization as charging APIs per call. But that’s hardly moving the dial in terms of revenue. So we’re beginning to see new strategies behind API monetization.

Ajmal Syed, Chief Architect at ACI Universal Payments, presented on this subject. ACI Universal Payments sends 14 Trillion payments a day, all across the globe, 24/7. So it’s easy to see how the nimble nature of RESTful APIs could be a huge value to the enterprise.

In another example, ACI is selling payment products to their customers. To sell those products at a greater quantity and quality, they’re wrapping them in APIs and services, giving customers more access and more coverage. Their use of API Products makes it easier to connect to, use their products, and get them to market faster. This means more revenue for them, but also greater value to their customers.

One slide from his presentation was the “What does API enable for ACI?” slide, which included the following pillars (all of which would make a great business case, with the proper marginal analysis):

  • Time to Market
  • Ease of Access
  • Ease of Integration
  • Core Development Focus
  • Potential New Customers
  • Value to Existing Customers
  • Future Proofing
  • Value to Future Customers

To view Ajmal’s presentation deck, download here.

Infographic Download


That concludes our ignite User Conference Recap! Download our Digital Success Infographic to get a more visual representation of our 6 key themes. Do you have any questions about any of the above trends? Let’s chat. Schedule a call with us today.



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