On Tuesday, May 23rd, local API and integration experts from Box, Medallia and Silicon Valley Bank joined us for our API Talks event in San Francisco. During the panel session, we were able to pick their brains on the API economy and how APIs are affecting their businesses today. Here is what they had to say:
Q: What are your passions around APIs and market outlooks?
Ken Yagen, VP Product Platform, Box - From an economy standpoint, the growth of APIs is pretty amazing. If you look at the growth curve on sites like ProgrammableWeb, you will see that the growth of APIs keeps growing exponentially which causes a lot of interest in the space.
Mark Vermeersch, Head of API Banking, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) - The way SVB thinks about the ecosystem is that we have seen a lot of banks that are investing heavily in APIs because they recognize the need for customers to interact with banks on a digital level.
Banks historically are a relationship based business, but FinTech businesses are changing interactions to digital or online interactions which is changing the way banks are now interacting with companies and people. Historically the API strategy at banks was internal and it's only been in the past five years or so that banks have thought about exposing those interactions externally. It is all about making the experience simpler for your customers and focusing on running your business instead of dealing with the complexities of a bank.
Ali Sadat, VP Product, Medallia - At my past companies I had to have a strong focus on evangelizing for an API first strategy. At Medallia, I don’t have to worry about evangelizing API first because we are already there. One of the things we are realizing is that everything we need work on and build in the application internally, customers need to do also. Because of this, we are focusing on rebuilding our app from a monolith to microservices. The core APIs and resource APIs are going to be public for our customers to be able to use the app the same way we interact with it internally.
API TALKS IS HEADED TO A CITY NEAR YOU
Q: What are the lessons you’ve learned on developer experience?
Ali - For a long time people thought that developers only worry about the API not the UI. Medallia, being a feedback company, we collect NPS feedback from our own developers to make sure the app is usable from both an API and UI standpoint.
Ken - Developer experience is what I spend most of my day thinking about. The first thing developers run into is authentication. If you don't give them any help with the authentication process, they will leave and will never realize the power of your platform. The key is to make authentication easy, make your application easy to connect to so that you don’t lose people who are interested in your product. Most developers don't use APIs, they use SDKs or they use integration tools like Cloud Elements. These systems take a lot of complexity out of APIs because it helps to normalize them, I think that helps with developer experience.
Mark - A unique thing about SVB is that we can support all of our users ourselves. It helps us build better products when we can support the users ourselves because it provides us with a new way to interact and integrate with the bank and understand our users needs. It takes a lot of stress off of the developer experience because we know what all of our users want.
Q: Let’s talk specifically ABOUT polling and eventing framework
Ken - We have 10 billion API calls a month against the Box Platform. A lot of calls are coming from vendors who are polling for file changes. We also have webhooks. If we can make our APIs more efficient, it makes our job a lot easier because we aren’t taking on extra calls for people polling for changes in their files. Event driven APIs are super powerful but there are tradeoffs because you have to focus on the reliability of your platform and you need to prove that reliability in someway. Eventing sometimes doesn’t give you the reliability you need.
STATE OF API INTEGRATION FACT: 98.5% of all HTTP calls return useless data.
Ali - No two customers are the same. Customers may store different data or retrieve different data from your application so it is important to have discoverability and the ability to ask the API what they can do.
Ken - The ability to automatically discover what an API can do is a real nirvana between APIs and integration. We aren’t really close to that yet. When it comes to business systems and business APIs we have a lot farther to go. You need to understand the role systems play within the business process before we will find the answers.
Ali - It is important to share what resources your API has available. It is really important because we are truly a platform that can be customizable with whatever fields and metadata you want. Users want an easy drag and drop mapping because everyone will interact with a platform in a slightly different way.
Q: What does it take to support a platform at scale?
Ken- There a lot of people at Box that are responsible for supporting the platform at scale. It is my team's job to evangelize the platform to the rest of company. We have a lot of different teams within Box and also tools outside of Box that support our platform. Some of those are operations, Amazon, IBM, the Box platform team, developer evangelists and developer experience team. We have built apps with against our own API to test out the user experience. We try to keep a close touch with the outside community by hosting API office hours on google hangouts and just making our team readily available to support our users.
Ali - Supporting a platform is about having a lot of product managers. We have a full vertical stack team. You don't only need to know the technical stuff, you need to know the front end product managers use cases too. There are so many customers that use the product in different ways. Don't build just your platform for one customer. It is important to have a lot of useful marketing content and information for people to consume and learn about your product.
Q: How do you communicate the success of your API program?
Ken - We report on how many of our customers are using our APIs. Every API call affects the business and is making the company more successful. This information helps us to align the whole company on how people are using our application.
Mark - We look at users, the more users we have the more opportunities we have and it shows we are building a product this industry wants.
Ali - We have some legacy APIs and customer APIs but platform is about scale. Scaling resources and what the team can do in a given period of time. It is the power of saying yes.
Q: What are you most proud of WITH YOUR API strategy?
Ken - I came up with that top level metric of how people are using our APIs. We also look at app activity and the developer journey. We have been able to put the developer journey in place which has driven a lot of visibility into our platform and helped to build out company initiatives.
Mark - I am most proud that we are simply doing open banking and an API strategy for external clients.
Ali - The ability for partners to expand among your platform through APIs is super exciting.