The Plugged In Planet: APIs and Innovation

The Plugged In Planet: APIs and Innovation

By Jessica Day

I’ll be honest: when I first started guest blogging for a company called IdeaScale, I didn’t know what they meant when they asked me to start featuring clients that were using their API. That didn’t stop me from writing about it, of course. I went to my old go-to method for understanding technology concepts: ask the internet and my friend Corey to explain it to me.

Between the two of them, I gained a basic understanding: an API is a set of code instructions that allows different pieces of software to share information. In this case, it meant that clients could take IdeaScale data (like community ideas, their votes, their statuses, their members, etc.)  and repopulate that information somewhere else. Maybe that meant that those ideas could be displayed in a roll-up format on a website, maybe it re-imagined how the data was presented in a way that matched a brand’s look and feel, maybe it took those innovation tags and made them into an interactive word cloud that users could play with on their tablets. The API, it turned, was what made that kind of thing possible.

What I didn’t understand until much later was how important it was going to be for every innovation management solution to have a functional and robust API in order to be competitive in the marketplace. The reason that a good API is now indispensible is because of a phenomenon called the “composable enteprise.

Every business relies on a set of software and tools to keep their business running: their marketing software, their sales software, their project management, product development, design software – the list goes on. And on. And on.

Most of those solutions have been through a rigorous selection process. Enterprise companies refer to this as “procurement.” Companies and solutions are vetted not only against features and capabilities, but also the company’s financial feasibility, their experience, their history, and even more (I once heard that an enterprise company actually reviewed employee hobbies and pastimes for collaboration compatibility – it can go that far).

Because of that, the solutions that an enterprise-level company is already using are sometimes difficult to change and tedious to implement. So when a new platform is coming on board, they don’t want to have to re-invent the wheel of how this new software is going to communicate with the other ones. They’re not looking to introduce or replace every system, they just want to adopt one.

That is why it is important to consider not just a company’s software solution, but its API (even the UX of an API) so that it’s easy to get it talking to everything else when the time comes. It’s not something I had thought about even four years ago, but it is definitely a key part of my buying decision-making process now.


If you’re interested in learning more about APIs and what possibilities they might present, tune into a complimentary API webinar on November 21st at 9 a.m. PST.


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