#53 What are the roles of APIs in the data economy?

APIs were on the lips of all business decision-makers couple of years ago. Now APIs are part of everyday business development and life in companies. We can hardly imagine modern applications and architectures without APIs. Some of the customers I’ve discussed with have asked me about the role of APIs in the Data Economy. Are APIs now obsolete or less important? They want to know what are the touchpoints in which both of the realms collide and benefit each other.

In the discussions, I hear from them that product thinking has sunk in and APIs are treated as products. This is the first thing I say that they should adopt from API development to data monetization as well. Treating data just like any commodity requires a change in thinking and focus shift from a purely technical approach towards business-driven management of data value chains.

After that topic, it’s natural to think of the role of APIs in data monetization in a bit more detail. To broaden the horizon in the topic I discussed this issue with a long-term friend of mine, Marjukka Niinioja from Osaango Ltd. Marjukka is an internationally recognized professional in the API Economy and thus the perfect person to give some insights here.

API offers access to the valuable data product content

APIs offer the expected delivery method for data product payload - the actual content from which value can be created either by analyzing, visualizations, or combining it with other data. Modern architectures expect APIs and more often want to consume data events. In an event-driven model, the consumer application receives changed information as a push from the provider instead of the customer application polling and asking if something has changed. If you provide data products internally, for your value chain partners, or ultimately for the public, be sure the offer data via productized APIs.

APIs enable data servitization

In some cases, companies start by productizing data sets into data products. In those cases, we are talking often about a batch of data for example CSV file containing company or inventory data. Those CSV files can be downloaded directly from the given URL. The next step is the servitize the dataset with help of APIs. The most obvious step in the servitization is to build a simple API in front of the dataset and offer dataset content to the consumers via a well-defined, managed, and documented API.

APIs enable data product discovery and product management

Once you have the data product and you have API to access the payload, it’s time to solve at least one more thing and APIS are there as well. The consumer needs to discover the data products, manage the data product orders, upgrade and downgrade plans etc. APIs can be used here as well. The API can directly offer the endpoints to do product discovery, order subscriptions to one or more data products, and so on. The other option is that API enables the functions needed for the mentioned operations behind a graphical user interface used by the customers. In either of the cases, APIs are there and have a significant role.