In early November IBM announced an API Economy Journey Map. This is a maturity model representing how we see companies progressing through various stages of maturity in using, exposing, and consuming digital assets to enhance their business. When the model was introduced, I wrote, “The API Economy Journey Map: How Are You Doing?
” describing the structure of the model. If you have not previously read this, please read this first. I’ll wait...
In early sharing of the model with customers, analysts, and IBM reviewers, a few questions came up that I thought might help with the understanding of the model if shared with a larger audience: Q1
: Many businesses start with internal use of APIs, progress to using APIs with Partners and eventually move to also provide Public APIs. I
was surprised that this was not the levels of maturity shown in the model. Aren’t these levels of maturity?A1
: This is probably the most frequently asked question. As we looked at maturity for the API Economy Journey Map, we defined stages of maturity related to how
the API initiative affects the business and provides value. We defined higher levels of maturity based on the degree to which the API initiative is ingrained into the business as a channel and the way they operate. The model is focused on how things are accomplished, rather than what is accomplished. Repeatable methods, degree of business impact, and the business results are indicators of higher maturity, not single specific activities.
Looking at the first level of maturity – “Learning using an unstructured approach” describes a level of maturity that could make APIs available to any audience - internal, partner, or public. However, as each of these APIs is created, it is done with a unique effort at this maturity level. Setting up the API, making it available to the audience and applying security are all implemented on a unique basis for that API. There is no common methodology or management around these interfaces. And, launching the next API is yet another unique effort.
An enterprise that has a business driven repeatable methodology that has measurable impact on their strategy even if only providing internal or partner APIs is more mature and more easily able to progress and obtain business value than a business with an ad hoc approach to each API delivered even if the latter publishes an API to a Public audience.
Back to the question about the progression (internal then partner and then public) and how this relates to maturity. This is a progression that is followed by many businesses and the progression is often intentionally linked to increasing maturity. As businesses are starting the API journey, they are not yet mature. They do not initially feel comfortable making APIs available externally, so start with an internal audience. As they learn and make improvements gaining maturity, businesses feel more comfortable adding audiences further outside of their domain of control. Q2
: Where is the IBM API Management product in the model? How does StrongLoop affect the model? A2
: Product functions are not represented in a stage in the model. The stages represent maturity levels. Product capabilities along with process changes, organization and role assignments and other techniques are how a company can move to higher levels of maturity. IBM acquisitions like StrongLoop or new releases of products are constant. These add to the tool box of capabilities to help transition to higher maturity levels. IBM will continuously enhance our recommendations as to how to become more mature using the latest capabilities available. Q3
: How do activities like Hackathons relate to the model? A3
: Hackathons are a great technique to use in API initiatives and something that again can help with transitioning to higher levels of maturity. As companies begin in the early stages with views of their own assets they are at lower levels of maturity. As they bring in external views (i.e. what the consumer wants vs. what we have) the hackathon approach can help the company mature. Executing a hackathon could be a recommendation to move from Stage 2 - Discovering & Experimenting to Gain Market Understanding to Stage 3 - Implementing Targeted Market Solutions for several of the factors – the Perspective factor under Business Approach and the API Identification factor under Processes & Methods could benefit from a Hackathon. Effective use of Hackathons could also be a tool used to extend the maturity to Stage 4 - Expanding to Full Digital Market Solutions. Q4
: Where does Monetization fit in the model? Is this a sign of maturity? A4
: See answer 1 above. Monetization as an accomplished activity is not a sign of maturity in itself. However, approaches to monetization are related to maturity. Monetization is one of the factors evaluated in the Domain called “Business Approach”. Early stages tend not to focus on monetization, while middle stages of maturity may have several defined models progressing to dynamic pricing at the most mature levels. Note that not all APIs should be priced/charged for and direct monetization may not always be applicable. However, even non-priced APIs have a purpose and indirect benefits can be achieved. I am planning to cover monetization in a future blog. Q5
: Where are most enterprises as far as maturity? A5
: The model evaluates maturity across dozens of factors and each factor can be judged to be at different levels for the same company. So, there is no single answer as to a maturity level for an enterprise, some factors will be less mature and other factors more mature. Many businesses are in the early stages of maturity in many areas as they learn, experiment, and get started with APIs. However there are some enterprises that are very far advanced as well.
The API Economy is taking off like nothing I have seen since the web in the 1990s. Debating whether to start to use APIs for your business is equivalent to debating whether or not you should get on the web in the mid-1990s. You will be using APIs in your business. If you have not yet started, the time is now.
If you have other questions, please let me know. Connect with me through comments here or via twitter @Arglick
to continue the discussion. You can also read my earlier blogs