Print Media is somehow still a thing
Even print media about rich people making more money is still a thing, which probably says something about who those people are and their attitudes to change. Yes, that’s an Old White Men joke.
But print media knows the end is nigh and has moved online as well as being available in print, and Fortune magazine is no exception! It’s even writing articles about these shiny new technical whatzcalits, like a recent article, ‘Why APIs will save your business from getting “Uber-ed”‘.
Oh, sweet fish sauce, that article. It’s… you don’t… I started making fun of it on Twitter then quickly realised there was just too much and you, Dear Reader, would be better served by a blow-by-blow commentary. Fair Use Away!
Why APIs will save your business from getting “Uber-ed”
It’s no longer about what you build alone. It’s about how you smartly incorporate what others have built.
I am seeing a technology shift that only happens every 10 to 15 years – one in which companies will become “composites” of other companies.
(Like how, 10 years ago, Apple become a composite of Swarovski, Swatch and 90s era Sony, or how Alta Vista became a composite of Betamax and Crystal Pepsi)
Uber is a perfect example. It didn’t have to build its own mapping, payment, or communications services. Instead, Uber is a composite of what it considers the best of those programs and more — Google Maps, Braintree (payment), Twilio (for mobile SMS), Oracle, etc. Uber was able to quickly connect to these systems using little pieces of code called APIs.
(Yes, the API itself is a tiny chunk of code you just put in your own code and magically, billing happens)
MuleSoft is in the business of APIs, and today’s announcement of MuleSoft’s latest $128 million financing round at a $1.5 billion valuation is evidence that this trend is more than gathering steam. [Disclosure: I am an early venture investor in MuleSoft.]
(Disclosure: The only way I can made money from my API middleware As A Service investment is convincing you all that your existing APIs are in fact legacy ‘integrations’ instead)
Companies pursuing API-led connectivity strategies include MasterCard, Unilever, Nestle, Tesla, Intuit, BSkyB, Verizon, News Corp and Sutter Health. This shift it is only possible because of a once-in-a-generation convergence of megatrends: cloud, mobile, and the “Internet of things.”
(API-led connectivity strategies: much better then those old ‘protocol’ and ‘carrier’ based ones. Also mega is _last_ generation’s slang. The hipster generation prefer ‘whatevertrends’)
If you’re not taking full advantage of this trend, your organization could be “Uber-ed” and out-innovated, just like the taxi companies have been. Uber has upended the global taxi industry in large part by using APIs masterfully. In just a few short years, Uber has become seemingly ubiquitous and is reportedly valued at $50 billion. The old-world taxi companies are struggling to compete with this API-savvy juggernaut. You don’t have to be in the transportation industry to be Uber-ed. Any business without a viable API strategy stands to be altered on this scale.
(This is so blatantly wrong it’s being funny _for_ me. Taxi services weren’t out-innovated because of Uber’s mystical oneness with the API universe. They were out-innovated because they didn’t try to innovate at all. They still don’t; Their reaction has been to try to legislate, sue and bully Uber out, not try to fix their product and compete. This is like saying a greasy sidewalk hotdog grill gets less customers on a date then a fancy restaurant because the restaurant’s supply chain is faster)
Why CEOs Should Care
Companies are currently spending more than $590 billion per year to integrate existing, disparate systems. Traditional businesses rely on large sales forces, paperwork, and fax machines to generate revenue with customers and through partners. This is expensive, time consuming, and scales only as fast as the sales force grows. Today’s startups eliminate much of this friction, time, and cost by building their solutions with best-of-breed components, which they access via APIs, or “application program interfaces.”
(So existing disparate systems, they don’t have APIs, they have ‘integrations’. Because they’re old, see? APIs are jazzy and sexy and new. So new, we only literally just now got a definition for them, halfway through this article! Until APIs were invented last year, absolutely every business was unscalable and did everything with FAX.)
Using APIs as building blocks, Uber was able to go to market far more quickly and nimbly than its competitors. What’s more, in August 2014, Uber launched a publicly-accessible API that would become the foundation for their digital ecosystem, allowing companies like OpenTable, Google and United Airlines to embed Uber into their apps.It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement: Uber reaches more customers and establishes new revenue streams, while app providers like United Airlines, Open Table, Google Maps and others can offer a transportation service to their customers and profit from it at the same time.
(Again the fallacy that sexy startup VC backed API based data-viagra, and not being thoroughly better, are what made Uber work. This time, thought, it’s because you can get a pizza on the way to the airport. What’s the deal with Airline food AM I RIGHT?)
Contrast this with Hertz, Avis, and other rental car agencies that have been United Airlines partners for decades, but are nowhere to be found in the United mobile app. That’s because these rental car companies don’t have an API (or at least not one that’s public). OpenTable, Google Maps, Starbucks, and dozens of other apps offer the Uber service — but not services from Uber competitors like Lyft — so there is definitely a first-mover advantage in each market.
(…You literally just said that lack of an API is why United’s business partners aren’t in their mobile app)
Another simple but enormously successful example is UPS, founded 108 years ago. UPS has captured a large share of the parcel-shipping market for the burgeoning online commerce sector by publishing an API – just a few lines of code – which makes it easy for shopping sites to integrate shipping seamlessly into their online check-out process.
(Again this ‘few lines of code’ thing. Every word in the phrase ‘an API – just a few lines of code –’ is bullshit. APIs can take thousands of lines of code to write and powerful ones, hundreds of lines to consume. That’s completely ignoring that APIs aren’t actually code, any more then a delicious cooked steak is DNA)
The “Connected Era” is Happening Now
There are progressive management teams productizing their company’s value-add as a service via APIs now, allowing any connected business to instantly become a customer or partner.
(I think I just went partially blind from buzzword poisoning)
Everything and everyone will be connected digitally – including customers, employees, partners, and even “things” like appliances and cars – all through APIs. How a business wins or loses is increasingly dependent on how well they connect to external third party apps, devices and services.
(Connecting to things now acceptable as a substitute for competence, performance, price, utility or human rights)
News Corp Australia’s CIO Tom Quinn last year declared a “cloud first” strategy that gets rid of hundreds of applications residing in the company’s data centers. This shift requires big changes in the way IT is delivered. Said Quinn: “Technologies are changing so fast, and new systems are coming onboard so often, that you don’t want to be locked into a big monster piece of tech. We are not holding the business ransom to detailed, intricate, costly in-house development in order to get things hooked together.”
(No, now you’re holding it to ransom with services you can’t customise, by forcing (possibly good) process change on unwilling staff and by risking services being sold, absorbed or shut down.)
With APIs, you can hook, and unhook, to the best available software and services on your own timetable.
(Making in house systems talk uses ‘big monster piece of tech’, is very hard, messy. Making cloud services talk uses APIs, is somehow much easier despite doing the same thing, simple. Providing those services don’t go bankrupt, don’t have downtime, support the operations you want via API, are reliable, don’t break the API randomly, don’t communicate insecurely, have well managed downtime, support request caching and retries…)
Sutter Health is a large hospital network in California serving more than 10 million patients each year. It created an app in three months with APIs,
(Did they build an app which they built an API for, or did they build an app that used existing APIs?)
versus nine months without, to help diagnose and better treat an autoimmune disease.
(Were the time savings due to actions Sutter Health took, or just made possible by the systems they’re using being more modern? Also, how do you know how long it would take them without the APIs? Do you have an API to contact the parallel universe where they don’t use APIs to ask Sutter Health how long their app took to develop, and if so, how do the people in that universe communicate with your API, given they don’t use APIs?)
Previously, accessing information across multiple data sources used to be a huge challenge. Now it’s possible to get real-time access to healthcare data. The Sutter Health app connects disparate data—from EMRs to administrative systems—and can display this data on any device.
(Some false correlations here. News Corp moved its support software into the cloud to avoid lock in and APIs let you connect different apps which might avoid lock in SO NEWS CORP USED APIS! It used to be hard to access multiple sources of data (apparently) and now you can get real-time access to data and Sutter Health’s app was delivered 6 months faster (apparently) SO APIS LET YOU MAGICALLY ACCESS ANY DATA IN REALTIME!)
So whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune-500 company or small business, building a company from scratch or reinvigorating a well-established one, you owe it to your stakeholders to explore what APIs can do for your business.
(So please go shout at your CTO to buy the first _enterprise grade_ API-based product he can find: mine)
Gary Little is a general partner at Canvas Venture Fund, an early-stage venture-capital firm based in Menlo Park, CA. He serves on the boards of Adara, Evernote, MuleSoft, PeopleMatter, Sonatype, and Totango.
(And yet he still doesn’t seem to fully grasp what an API is.)
This article, man. It seems to fundamentally misunderstand what an API is, treating them like a chunk of code that can be applied to any system to make it vomit money. All of the effort of making or implementing to an API is handwaved away. It draws this imaginary distinction between system integration of older & non-cloud products (which apparently don’t use APIs for some reason) and integration with cloud products (which do).
Plenty of older systems have APIs. They’re just shitty. Even if you use a modern service it’s not like lego; you have to tell the API what to do, and if you are linking cloud products you often need a 3rd party system to host the glue code linking them together and implementing your business rules. And there’s going to be just as much business rule logic for a new API as an old one; It’s only things like data marshalling and synchronisation that most truly non-API based legacy integrations are bloated by. There’s just often a LOT of that.
That’s disregarding that you need to have APIs offered by the systems you want to integrate. If your core business app is from a 3rd party and has no API you’re screwed. If your billing system isn’t out of contract for 15 more years and doesn’t have an API you can’t exactly add one without assistance. There’s no magic panacea for crap systems. Good systems have good APIs, but lots of otherwise perfect systems don’t. You can’t forcefully add them. The better version of this article avoids treating APIs like a miracle (and all the logical fallacies). It focuses on flexible and well-written systems, with open APIs and data formats forming one part. But it also focuses on using industry standard business processes, the importance of offering an API to, at least, your business partners, and providing enough value through it that people want to consume it.
The entire article reads to me like a PR piece, trying to get CEOs in a buying mood for ‘APIs’ like they’re pieces of hardware, in the hopes that they’ll investigate the author’s VC baby as an ‘Enterprise’ option. Even if this isn’t the case… It’s just a load of bollucks.