Democratizing the API Economy
There’s a lot of talk these days about the API economy, and for good reason. Cloud technologies, specifically “as a service” platforms, are proving to be disruptors as they provide companies with cheaper and faster ways to develop new software. At the same time, enterprises are increasingly moving their infrastructures and data ecosystems to the cloud, which demands interconnectivity to maximize efficiency. Together, these trends are creating a high demand for APIs—the linchpins that enable data residing across applications to connect. Whereas this data used to be siloed across the enterprise, APIs now bring it together.
At RingCentral we’ve witnessed the exponential growth of API usage firsthand. Over the past year, API requests to our platform have jumped a staggering 300 percent. Our customers are immersing themselves in integrating data housed in our communication services with their business-critical applications, including CRM, file sharing, payroll, and billing. Our ISV partners are also reporting a growing demand from their customers for custom-built data integrations.
While the cloud has quickly become a mainstay in IT departments, integration tools are becoming more of a necessity as they get better at helping enterprises build and automate workflows, boosting efficiency and product and service improvements in the process. As a result, today’s CxOs not only expect their cloud architectures to be secure, accessible, and efficient; they also expect that it integrate seamlessly with other technology.
But here’s where developers frequently hit the “democratization of APIs” wall. Many companies—especially those in the communications space—have made a deliberate decision to prohibit access to their platforms, denying developers the opportunity to build APIs for porting data between applications that are critical to business operations. Though there are exceptions, generally speaking those that opt for a closed platform have a vision that is narrowly aligned with their business goals, rather than considering the best interest of their customers. Companies that choose not to democratize their platform—and I run into them all the time—by opening it up to the developer community will inevitably both stymie innovation and be derailed by competitors.
SaaS leaders like Salesforce, Box, ServiceNow, and NetSuite have all done an impressive job of spurring innovation through their developer programs, and every software and platform company can follow their lead. Supporting the democratization of the API economy is easy if you follow these simple guidelines.
- Embrace the idea that open platforms empower developers and accelerate innovation, benefits every software company should take a vested interest in.
- Keep your software programs up to date so as many developers as possible can use them.
- Meet developers where they already are to engage them most successfully. Developer forums like GitHub and Stack Overflow are good places to start.
Speaking of innovation, we’re hotly anticipating capabilities and integrations just around the corner that will amplify the insights that UC data itself can provide. Communications data—everything from standard call log data to the content of our phone calls, video conferences, and texts—is to date a largely unmined source of valuable business information. Many companies use such data reactively—to fend off a lawsuit, for example, or prove a contract violation. But as just-emerging APIs offer advanced and specialized analytics, AI and other capabilities, we‘ll start to be able to put this data to use more proactively.
One area ripe for this application is customer success. Transcription and analysis software has been around for decades, but it’s just now being opened up for broader use through APIs. Imagine if, by analyzing the words and phrases used, you could draw insight from every single call between your sales or support teams and your customers. You could know, for example, if it was a happy call, an angry call, or a neutral call. By combining such data with your own customer success workflow and program, you could quickly pinpoint when, why, and how customer churn was occurring, and take steps to reduce it. Enterprise-sized businesses have similar capabilities today, but they come with an astronomical price tag. APIs appearing on the horizon now will offer sentiment analysis to a much broader audience, and at a much lower price point, a further step toward democratization.
I’m excited about all the capabilities APIs are making possible, and proud that RingCentral is part of the democratizing drive. As part of that commitment, today we’re announcing a Free Developer Account, a new program that offers developers and ISVs who are not currently RingCentral customers access to our APIs, SDKs, and developer tools. If you are a developer, we invite you to come play in our sandbox. You can sign up for your free account here.