Over the years we have spoken with many companies, both before they move to an API-led integration approach and after. A common concern has been the need to prove the value of and the return on the investment, either to get the budget approved or to justify the spend.
In this blog, we share some of the most fundamental steps to show-case the benefits of adopting an API-led approach to integration, and as with many other things, the saying ‘measure twice – cut once’ is a good way to start.
Before – proving value to get the buy-in (and the budget) from the business
- The first step is to map your existing IT ecosystem: how many systems and applications do you have? What are they used for? Are they legacy or nearing EoS/EoL? At this stage, it is useful to see how well documented the overall IT operation is, based on the systems used, their functionality and the processes each is involved in.
- Next, it is important to measure the amount of time, effort and money involved in maintaining this ecosystem, including administration, support, upgrades, connections, changes etc.
- Also important is to evaluate the criticality of each system and application to business continuity. What would be the impact to the business in case of failure? How long would it take to rectify?
- Another key step is to quantify how much time, effort and money it takes to respond to the various business requirements and, if possible, what the cost of delay is to the business.
- Finally, it is essential to have an outline of the business strategy and objectives and an understanding of how that would affect the IT workload.
The above exercise may be taxing, but it is absolutely necessary if you are to prove the value from the investment. However, you don’t have to do it alone. With this information at hand you can ask the IT vendor or consultancy you are thinking of cooperating with, to help you estimate the efficiencies you would achieve from the introduction of an API integration platform, the benefits to the business, how you should plan for success, and the respective time-frames.
After – proving ROI to the business
From the discussion so far, it is obvious that moving to an API-led approach to integration needs strategy and planning in order to produce positive outcomes, fast.
You might have implemented an API-based integration platform for some time now, so the first thing to check is if it is still fit for purpose. It might be that the capabilities of the platform are outdated or limited and you’d need to consider migrating to a more modern solution. In this case, you’d have to follow a similar scenario to the ‘before’ section above.
Another common reason for not getting the expected value from your API platform, could be that either the planning phase was not thorough, or the discipline got lost along the way, diminishing gradually the effectiveness and the returns of the investment. Here are the key areas you should be looking at:
- Do you have an API strategy and is it aligned with the business strategy?
- Do you have sufficient skilled resources internally to implement the API strategy?
- Are your APIs productised (ie designed and packaged for the intended use)?
- In building APIs, do you apply best practices to ensure the security, reusability*, extensibility and scalability of each API?
- Do you have sufficient specifications and documentation for each API?
- Are there mechanisms in place to ensure code quality?
- Are there mechanisms in place to monitor API performance?
If the answer to the above questions is ‘yes’, then it’s time to measure the benefit – each API ultimately serves a business goal, be it to optimise a process, enable revenue or reduce cost. If you have aligned your API strategy to your company’s business strategy mapping out the effect and assigning a cost-benefit value to each API should show you and your company not only the return on your investment, but also opportunities to improve.
*Reusability can impact positively your ROI. According to MuleSoft, when developed with an API-led integration strategy, integration assets are highly reusable, and as developers reuse this code rather than redevelop the same code over and over again for their projects, the following value is created:
- Developers become more productive as they save time by reusing existing assets instead of developing new integrations for each individual project. This, in turn, frees up their time to deliver on more projects and/or invest in more innovation to drive your organisations top and bottom line.
- Faster integration delivery means faster time-to-market for the actual IT or business initiative those API-led integrations support. This leads to increased revenue or cost savings (as determined by the focus of the IT or business initiative).
Here too, when you already follow an API-led approach to integration, reaching out to your partner or an API integration consultant, may help prove or improve ROI. With their experience in your platform and domain, they should be able to help you assess your existing APIs and processes, highlight areas for improvement, help (re)introduce best practice, and provide the necessary support depending on your existing resource availability and capabilities.