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Building an Open API for Smoother Workflows and Closer Connections with Your Partners and Customers

Head of Business Analysis, ScienceSoft

6 min read

Editor’s note: Tatiana talks about the business potential of providing open APIs to business partners, vendors, and customers as well as highlights key peculiarities behind API design and implementation. Read on to discover useful tips from ScienceSoft’s experts, and should you think that API-based integrations can be a cure to your business pains or an enabler of new opportunities, consider our custom API development offering.

APIs have been widely used in the IT world as one of the cheapest and fastest ways to integrate dispersed business operations and communications. And now, businesses start to employ APIs to open new revenue streams and to strengthen the connection with their partners and customers.

In the article, I’ll answer some burning questions about open APIs and new business opportunities they bring.

What’s an API, and what’s the business goal of building APIs?

An API (application programming interface) is a set of rules, classes, methods, functions, and procedures that allow third-party systems to communicate or integrate with your software. The API describes the language which a third-party application should use to request certain data or actions from your software.

APIs can be internal (for in-house access only) and open. Open APIs come in two types - partner APIs that are exposed to a certain group of people and public APIs that are available for anyone. I’ll talk about the two types of open APIs since they both can be used for connecting with your customers, vendors, and partners.

According to The State of API Integration Report 2019, 55% of surveyed companies see API-based integrations as critical in their business strategies, and 28% of companies – as somewhat critical. Businesses mostly code open APIs to:

  • Automate data sharing and transactions with their partners (Amazon API strategy is probably the best example here).
  • Collect and aggregate status data from connected IoT devices.
  • Integrate enterprise systems with social media to get real-time customer analytics (behavior, transaction, etc.).
  • Monetize on the existing data and functions, letting external developers use them for building third-party applications (Google API strategy is the best example).

How to make confident investments in a new API?

Though passionate about digitalization and automation, we at ScienceSoft firmly stand for only meaningful and beneficial tech initiatives and, of course, the same applies to any API product we create as a part of our application development services. The following practices will help you build APIs that really bring value.

ROI-driven design

The cost of an API can easily go up to $15,000-$25,000. The operational costs of a single API integration will be around $500 a month and $6,000 a year. So, before embarking on any API development and implementation journey, we recommend you to involve BAs to analyze your business processes, identify possible revenue streams, prioritize the best API opportunities, and plan API features. They can also estimate the potential API ROI and adjust the development process to maximize it.

Incremental development

We recommend designing mock APIs with basic functionality to engage users and obtain early feedback. Then keep evolving the capabilities of your APIs iteratively and safely – until they fully satisfy the consumer needs – to avoid “overdos” and useless features. To keep an eye on the API’s quality, you should integrate testing early in the development process.

Doubt Your API Investments Will Bring a Sound Return?

ScienceSoft’s BAs conduct a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis considering API features and business processes so that you could make the right decision regarding API development.

How to make APIs that people want to use?

Good supporting API documentation

To a large extent, the number and smoothness of API integrations – and thus the revenue you can get - depends on how quick your APIs are to plug into and how easy they are to use. Make sure you provide well-structured documentation for external users for your APIs and keep it in sync with updates. You can also offer dedicated developer portals, forums, and interactive guides for better API adoption.

Planning for scalability and performance

When your APIs start to gain traction, there will be more and more requests coming simultaneously. To ensure they all will be processed properly and timely, make sure to build performance monitoring modules in the API solution architecture to take care of performance spikes and issues without disruptions and slowdowns in your critical business processes.

Back-up means of validation for specific requests

We recommend introducing the ability to manually accept, correct or deny high-risk API operations (e.g., when a purchase order exceeds the threshold), as well as ensure complete manual processing for the operations transactions that cannot be safely standardized.

A sound security model and access control

Securing APIs is essential, especially when it comes to high-value API operations. API misuse and cyberattacks can lead to the disclosure of sensitive data (financial, personal, medical) and significant business disruption.

Our standard API security checklist includes:

1. Establishment of a strong authentication/authorization mechanism.

2. Exclusion of Insecure Direct Object Reference (IDOR) / Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) vulnerability via strict session and user roles/groups control.

3. Proper configuration of security headers.

4. Whitelisting of API requests.

5. Validation of each request to keep users safe from client-side injection attacks.

For stronger protection, the API security strategy should be implemented jointly by the infrastructure team, developers, security testers, and the compliance team.

Uladzislau Murashka, Information Security Consultant at ScienceSoft

Who can build APIs?

Simple data access APIs usually can be implemented by in-house IT teams. To code more advanced transactional APIs, plan for potential high load, and empower the APIs with informative analytics, you’ll need a team with comprehensive knowledge of best modern API technology and API design. This team should also be well-versed in:

  • Security and QA (with experience in API specifics of different business fields).
  • Performance engineering.
  • DevOps and test automation (to ensure stability in the context of evolutionary development with frequent releases).
  • Data analytics.

Thus, you should be prepared to provide additional training to your in-house team and hire dedicated professionals. Otherwise, you can turn to professional API development services providers and get your API fast and hassle-free. My colleagues at ScienceSoft will be happy to help you with the best and newest practices of API design, development, and monitoring, so you’re welcome to reach out for any assistance.

We’ve already successfully undertaken ~3000 projects. Leverage our all-round software development services – from consulting to support and evolution.