APIs: The new key to improving business efficiency and customer service
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are booming, as business leaders recognise the benefits of opening up their data to deliver new business opportunities or increased efficiency. Fiona Mahony, General Manager Strategy & Solutions at Telstra Wholesale, attended the recent Google Apigee “Adapt or Die” conference in Sydney.
Industry interest surrounding APIs seems far from diminishing, if the strong turn-out at the Google Apigee “Adapt or Die” conference in Sydney is any indication.
Billed as a “World Tour”, the conference attracted a strong program of thought leaders working with the Google Apigee API management platform, as well as local representation from executives willing to share their successes and challenges in implementing APIs in their businesses.
Telstra Wholesale customer feedback has indicated strong demand for an extension to the B2B interfaces supporting our Wholesale applications. As part of the FY17 digitisation program, we are designing a suite of APIs.
Telstra was represented by David Freeman, GM Cloud Migration and Enablement, who joined speakers from Macquarie Bank and NSW OneGov to speak about emerging best practices in development of APIs. A key theme of the session was the advantages of “openness” - essentially being able to safely provide customers access to a range of data and services from within the enterprise, through the use of APIs.
APIs have many faces and play many different roles in an organisation’s digital architecture. In mature organisations, APIs may be used to open up legacy applications through the design of micro-services exposing granular application functions. This in turn can enable aging legacy applications to be logically ‘decoupled’ from the interfaces exposing these services to customers, often resulting in improved resilience and flexibility and, as a bonus, also allowing for the replacement or ‘renovation’ of lumbering systems without impacting customer service.
More familiar to many, and perhaps the source of greatest industry enthusiasm, is the use of APIs to expose data or services as products. For many organisations, the decision to embark on a digitisation program focussed around APIs is driven by customer demand and develops as business-focussed, rather than primarily a technology program.
This is certainly the case for Telstra Wholesale. Over a number of years, customer feedback has indicated strong demand and appetite for an extension to the B2B interfaces supporting a range of business functions through our wholesale applications. A good example is the ability to provide pro-active notification of changes to the status of orders and trouble tickets. In the past, customers seeking timely information regarding updates and changes to the status of their orders (for example to indicate an appointment reschedule, or service activation), implemented polling solutions which imposed undesirable transaction loads and traffic across the interface, impacting applications on both sides.
We are therefore designing a suite of APIs as part of the FY17 Telstra Wholesale digitisation program, which will enable us to proactively notify customers who have subscribed to this service of updates to their trouble tickets and their orders for many of our products. To do this, we have designed a micro-services layer opening up our applications functionality. Working closely with our customers, we discovered that we needed to collaborate in the design of the external APIs to optimise the flow of information and the business processes across both organisations. We used journey mapping and design thinking techniques in collaboration workshops, to ensure that the service design had just the right balance between providing basic data and value-adding functionality for flexibility and re-usability by our customers.
Our digitisation program has generated a great deal of customer interest, and we are very excited to be close to launching our new Developer Portal, leveraging the Google Apigee platform and the first Push Notification APIs, scheduled for deployment into pilot operation in April 2017.