In the modern, highly computerized economy, API (or application programming interface) clients often generate more volume and value than regular customers. For example, in the stock market, API clients create up to 90% of the volume. So, any business that can provide a better API has a significant competitive edge. Unfortunately, public APIs are ugly ducklings among all the products offered to the clients.
At the very beginning of this business, when we got our first API-related contract, we started to collect metrics and were shocked. We discovered that up to 80% of first-time users couldn’t successfully incept API. That completely scared away most of the users unless they had no choice and ultimately had to use it.
We also discovered that up to 90% of all support requests were about the implementation of simple technical tasks, the lead time before the developers started to implement the business side was 2 to 10 weeks, and the delivery time of a typical API-based product was 4 to 25 weeks. That was an unbelievable amount of time and resources wasted on both the client and the provider side.
So why does this happen? The problem comes from the fact that API is a mix of a business product and a software development tool. So, business clients typically have issues with the technical side of API, and programmers have problems with the business side of API. Therefore, the adaptation and usage of API are needlessly complicated.
When we first experienced these problems, we analyzed a few considerably successful APIs and the inception process by the clients. We found that the number one secret of creating a valuable API is to make every single piece of it oriented to deliver maximum business value.
API should not offer a set of tools that somehow may be applied by the customer. Instead, API must provide a comprehensive and efficient way to solve a customer’s business problems. API inception by the customer must be as easy as taking an example of solving the customer’s problem, and a minimal adjustment of solution parameters that may be performed by an ordinary user.
In our first contract, after 6 months of implementing these practices, we began to see results. Up to 80% of all API downloads resulted in further use (a raise from 20%). Up to 70% of clients were able to incept API without any additional help from support (a raise from 10%). 80% of customer requests now were about solving the real business problems of the clients (a raise from 10%). And this was just the beginning.
The iterative process helps to resolve the most painful client problems as soon as possible, build confidence and trust between the clients, API developers, and the API sponsor/provider.
By Nikolay Gekht, CTO atgehtsoftusa.com
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