We can learn a valuable business lesson from the past. The distant past, that is. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…
Traditionally, businesses have leaned towards building products and services from the ground up, thinking this made their offerings stronger and more unique. But the inhabitants of the Star Wars universe knew a thing or two about leveraging the strengths of others to reach their ultimate purpose – even if the writers weren’t talking about business.
For example, C-3PO is a protocol droid – fluent in over six million forms of communication at last count. In a nutshell, if you need a translator – whether for words or etiquette – C-3PO is your man. Okay, droid. Similarly, R2-D2 is a general utility droid for spacecraft, though arguably with far more capabilities that its specifications imply. And yet both can communicate and cooperate with each other, with other machines and with their masters. And it works.
The point is that you wouldn’t design C-3PO to repair your X-Wing, any more than you’d expect R2 to understand the customs of the Ewoks. You build each one to perform its function and perform it well. Then, by leveraging them all together, you can orchestrate something wonderful – and fulfill your mission.
The Rise of the API Economy
Information is the raw material, the product and the currency that drives business. But there’s so much of it, in so many forms and with so many possible uses – it’s easy to lose focus on exactly what business value you’re trying to realize from both the information and its derived insights.
Adding to the complexity is the reality that in digital environments, companies rely on multiple systems from multiple vendors to manage their information. And while it’s easy to put these systems together into one ecosystem, the real question is: How do you get them to elegantly work together to meet your business’s unique requirements?
That’s where the API economy comes in.
Enlightened companies these days realize that the goal is not to build or procure one-size-fits-all, do-everything products. (Well, some still try, but they’re struggling.) Instead, they concentrate on the business algorithms, insights and know-how that make them unique in the market – not on re-inventing the wheels someone else has already built very well. By combining their own special building blocks with APIs – application programming interfaces – from other companies, they can create unique and differentiating offerings for their enterprises and customers.
We can’t afford to keep and maintain closed, monolithic applications that collect and impede the use of our critical business information anymore. We need to focus on how our solutions can intelligently communicate to create efficiencies, drive value, inform prudent business decisions and enable the innovative use of our information.
Not surprisingly, a well thought out API is to our systems what a well-designed UX is to our end users. It offers an abstraction tier that gives us the control and agility to conceive new business opportunities and deliver value-add in our digital businesses. An information panacea is not going to be achieved in a closed solution. Our individualized success will instead emerge from the interoperating digital ecosystems where systems and end users get the curated information they want, the way they want. And that’s worth paying for.
Build only what makes you unique
The Empire kept building these gargantuan, monolithic Death Stars – and look what happened to each of them. The Jedi, on the other hand, didn’t try to build one massive droid to do the job of protecting the Alliance. No, they built on the individual strengths of others. Look at how the Force combined the skills and strengths of Skywalker, R2, 3PO and countless others.
Which strategy won?
So it is in the API economy, too. The API economy is about agility in leveraging proven technologies, identifying how insights can make your organization unique and competitive, and creating those business algorithms that pulls together all of the strengths in order to uncover real value in your information.
In whatever information services you deliver, don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, combine a unique business proposition – what sets you apart from the pack – with the APIs from different technology vendors. The result will create true value for your customers. And with that kind of strength, the Force can’t help but be with you.
Keep a look out. In January, Systemware’s Director of Development, David Zhang, will be blogging about what makes our approach to interoperability unique. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in learning more about how a comprehensive ECM strategy can help you navigate through API economy, download our white paper below.