API Management

APIs control the way that software components interact with each other. They’re the governing charter that makes it possible for one’s company’s computers to effectively interact with the systems of partners, customers, service providers, and more. However, despite their prevalence and implications for the way that we interface digitally, few people know as much as they should about APIs or how to manage them.

In this article, we’ll briefly explore the role of APIs, explain how they affect your company’s daily operations, and, finally, examine a case study outlining the rewards of using an API management platform.

What is an API?

In order to properly discuss what an API management platform is and how it can streamline your organization’s daily processes, it’s important to first clarify what exactly an API is. Also known by its full title, Application Programming Interface, an API essentially serves as a set of guidelines or protocols that dictate how different software components interact with each other.

An easy way to envision how APIs function is to imagine an electrical outlet. The narrow slots on the outside of the outlet determine and define how external products (such as hair dryers, toaster ovens, vending machines, and other devices that do not have a self-powering engine) access the service (electricity, in this case) provided by the outlet. In this example, the slots that dictate how the service is reached are analogous to the API, and the electricity is akin to a software component to which a webpage might need access. The device in need of the electricity is similar to one’s webpage, in that it must conform to the guidelines established by the outlet in order to have access to the service.

Though most electrical sockets are fairly similar in the United States, should one venture to Europe or Asia, one will find that accessing the electrical service there requires adherence to a completely different set of structural guidelines from the ones in North America.  In a similar fashion, while many APIs resemble each other, there is enough variance amongst them that, should your company require engagement with software components from a wide variety of sources, an API management platform may be necessary for optimal performance.


How Does an API Management Platform Improve my Company’s Operations?

In today’s world of multi-channel integration and cross-platform interactions, companies are using more and more apps to create the digital environments required for leading-edge customer experiences to flourish. As apps surge in abundance, so, too, does the need for management platforms that can track your company’s API usage and help your organization make informed, strategic decisions that will solidify a bedrock of consistently strong, optimal digital interactions.

With the right API management platform, your company can control, protect, and scale your API resources in order to match fluctuations in demand. Using an API management solution, businesses can dissect the profile of customer demand for different APIs, and change their prominence in their resource allocation blueprints accordingly.


What are the Real-World Experiences with API Management Platforms Like?

While it’s easy to superficially gloss over the benefits of API management platforms, the reality of the matter is that few companies make large-scale purchasing decisions based upon cursory overviews of the functionality of a product or service. Instead, detailed case studies of how the product affects and changes the environment into which it is introduced are necessary in order for companies to prudently determine whether or not the service rendered is worth the increase in expenditures.

Simply stated:  Case studies are required to know whether or not API management platforms are worth the hype. Thus, allow us to peer through a well-documented case study, and investigate the way that an API Management platform alters the paradigm in which it operates.


Case Studies: The Advisory Board Company

The Advisory Board Company,  a healthcare company boasting 2,500 employees and a customer base of over 180,000 healthcare professionals dispersed throughout nearly 4000 companies, assists healthcare organizations with developing novel and innovative strategies for enhancing the quality of patient care. Thanks their efforts over the span of 30 years, health care companies have been able to improve the quality and efficiency of medical treatment while watching the cost of care sink in tandem. This increase in quality coupled by a reduction in cost has broadened the accessibility of reliable healthcare for patients throughout the planet.

Consequently, because of the pivotal role that intelligent business analytics and efficiency-enhancing measures play in the business model of The Advisory Board Company, the organization was keen on discovering new ways to revitalize the gear work of the flow of healthcare information.  This data is invaluable in the administration of patient care, and its safe, controlled, dissemination and exchange between partnering institutions is elemental to the honing of the modern healthcare system.  With almost a ⅕ of the US’s GDP being invested on delivering care for its rapidly-aging Baby Boomers, never before had the discovery of new ways of pluralizing data and reducing inefficiencies been of such great import to the healthcare management consultancy group.

One of the greatest threats that The Advisory Board Company faced in their endeavors to decongest the flow of healthcare data was the chances that data was inadvertently getting squirreled away in pockets of the IT landscape, preventing it from being leveraged for its maximum potential.  Resulting from the breadth of IT solutions being employed in order to reap the full rewards of engagement in the digital age, a kaleidoscope of devices, softwares, and components made it easy for the companies to discover data stored away without purpose or application.

As a result, the Advisory Board Company created an inventory of software solutions that assist companies in mining the data they possess for the highest conceivable amount of return.  Ivan Sager, The Advisory Board Company’s Director of Product Development, commented in an interview that the  “explosion of data” could be instrumental in expanding the levels of both quality and efficiency in hospitals.  Consequently, the company developed a slew of individualized products that could be used to improve the viability of data for client companies based upon their unique needs.

Sager went on to reflect upon the fact that the digital tapestry that composes the modern healthcare business landscape invites the need for a method of management of these multi-channel solutions that does not compromise the security of the data and empowers users with reliable, flexible management options.  In the simplest of terms, the large constellation of technological implements used by companies need to be shepherded in a simple, reliable, safe, and customizable manner, and The Advisory Board Company turned to APIs to provide the requisite interaction protocols.

Focusing upon two dimensions of prospective data sharing – both internal and external – the massive consultancy firm was able to facilitate the sharing and transmission of data with the help of APIs.

Immediately, increases in availability of data to staff members were noted, and industry press sources quote Sager as having declared that, “APIs provide a very rapid, scalable, robust, and secure means of enabling members to access data that is outside of their four walls.”

However, with the introduction of APIs into the fold of the The Advisory Board Company’s digital arsenal, the need to both be able to effectively scale and support the APIs came following behind.  Thus, the company turned to renowned New York-based tech giant, CA Technologies, for assistance with managing their bevy of APIs.

CA Technologies was able to architect a solution that closely considered the needs of The Advisory Board Company, engendering an API management platform that exhibited the traits most conducive to improving their operational output.  The management platform devised by CA was characterized by its appreciable array of security features, while simultaneously offering flexibility in configurations, comprehensive customer support, and robust scalability.

The solution designed by CA Technologies was implemented by a team of company engineers that partnered with product teams to develop schematics, policies, and services necessary for the API’s to render the greatest amount of utility to the business.  Thanks to the holistic support and guidance provided by CA Technologies, The Advisory Board Company was able to establish a series of protocols for managing their API’s in a way that allowed the company to scale them in a manner commensurate with customer demand, all while not having to worry that security might be compromised in the process.

Additionally, the Advisory Board Company benefited from the fact that components were made shareable across a variety of teams and projects, leading to a reduction in redundancy of efforts.  Frequently, unintentional sequestering of data leads to duplication of work, which results in costly inefficiencies at an enterprise-wide level, and ultimately drives up the costs of services for customers. 

Another challenge that CA helped The Advisory Board Company surmount was the necessity for an intra-organizational culture shift.  According to Sager, the company needed the best practices and structures that CA API management brought to the table in order to get the momentum in motion for its fledgling API Fabric Certified Developer Program.  Developments such as this program are indispensable for the company to maintain the competitive, forward-facing standing that its had in the industry for the past several decades. 

After the integration of the API management platform developed by CA, The Advisory Board Company was able to open up much broader expanses of data to its members without having to concern itself with the possibility that the data’s integrity would be compromised, or that data retrieval would be complicated by systemic inefficiencies.

Interviews with the Director of Product Development showcase his assessment that the platform allowed them to improve how they managed their API’s, with Sager stating that the management platform resulted in their being to “Provide healthcare organizations with faster access to smarter data.”  With access to better quality data come improved services, and improvements in the patient experience.

In the absence of an API management platform, a cacophony of competing apps run amok, resulting in a disconnected network of digital resources that work in proximity to one another instead of in collaboration.  However, with the introduction of a management platform, the electronic ecosystem is reigned-in, nourished, and harnessed as one, large, cohesive unit orchestrated to work harmoniously for the organization.  In the case of The Advisory Board Company, the specific framework that CA was able to develop for them permitted for the distillation of both retrospective and real-time information. 

One final benefit of the implementation of an API management platform for The Advisory Board Company was that the profundity of analytical insight attained was significantly deeper than that returned by existing metrics.  The data generated by the API management platform was able to coalesce into a series of nuanced images that endowed members with substantive morsels of information necessary for them to carry out informed decision-making processes.  Previously-unavailable understandings of patient before materialized before them, such as readings that describe in quantifiable terms how patients interact with a particular doctor or practitioner.  These birds-eye macro-views of the functionality of the entire healthcare ecosystem provided the snapshots necessary for members to make resource-protecting decisions with the confidence that patient care wouldn’t become a collateral damage.


What’s the Takeaway?

In a business landscape that demands an ever-growing amount of app integration, the presence of APIs is blossoming in unforeseen numbers. Consequently, it’s incumbent upon organizations to leverage the efficiency-enhancing data that can be harvested from APIs with the assistance of a well-designed API management platform.

With companies using the latest technologies to extract profit-enhancing information from previously-unusable corners, it has become non-optional for companies to take advantage of the latest advancements in order to remain competitive.  As our previous case study indicates, your company should investigate the unique, entity-specific ways that API Management Platforms can help it diminish inefficiencies and improve service.