Working in technology and change these days seems like a perpetual race to stay ahead of a rapidly changing world. Almost daily, you see buzzwords and announcements that talk about new paradigms. So, deciding a strong strategy that drives your company forward now and doesn't become a barrier in the future is key to scaling successfully.
In May 2017, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that he would stop thinking 'mobile-first' and would instead look to be 'AI-first'. He said that Google will succeed by creating services that are so targeted, appropriate and responsive that they become part of a user's day.
AI-first is a powerful idea but requires a fair bit of preparation as well as clever people and systems and lots of data. So how do you respond?
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are a way to deliver exactly and only the data requested and separate out the presentation of that data. They mean that you can change the way the data is used and shown without having to change the way you store, manage or deliver that data. In practice, you use the same infrastructure and systems to provide data to users through a rich web site, a chatbot or an Alexa skill. The cleverness of how the data is accessed and consumed becomes specific to each interface. This allows you to change the Alexa skill or to add an iWatch App without impacting your chatbot.
APIs therefore allow you to respond swiftly to changes in 'fashion' without forcing you to have a crystal ball for how the market wants to consume your products and services. You can be part of big shifts like the huge take-up of Alexa and other voice interfaces. APIs allow you to use your data in more situations and get more benefits for your investment. In effect, your unique DATA becomes the valuable asset rather than your products.
Another powerful benefit of APIs is that you can open up your ecosystem to build on your data which creates value for you and puts you in the centre of your market. Effectively, your users and partners take on some of the cost of delivering services for specific sub-segments of your market. How many apps are there that allow you to access your Google email, each of which has a unique twist that appeals to a different segment of users. Google doesn't have to build 30 versions of their app, they keep an eye on the apps that resonate with the market and copy or buy that functionality.
To tie back to the title of the article, APIs are also the best way to deliver data into your AI platforms!
APIs deliver data, they are very powerful, they allow you to stay relevant and responsive to market changes. Start building APIs for your data now and once you are ready for AI, your data will be waiting for you.
Chris B Lord is Group CIO at Collinson, the customer loyalty experts operating in the travel and insurance sectors through brands like Columbus Direct and Priority Pass, and has previously written about Why Shared Knowledge is Power for CIO UK