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Connect the Now and API Economies: Must-have capabilities

The terms “API Economy” and the “Now Economy” were coined in 2013 — and both are going strong today thanks to consumer demands for instant gratification. Some call this phenomenon the Right-Now Economy, and Google drills it down to the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) pitch. All of these approaches are about how the Internet has changed customer decision making, and the technologies and strategies businesses must adapt to meet the new market requirements.

We’re all drivers of this immediate-gratification economy. I won’t buy something if it takes too long to purchase a product online, download an app, and so on. I’ve got my finger on the mouse, and I’ll click away to a competitor in a hot second or a ZMOT. And you can bet I return to buy from companies that don’t make me wait.

Likewise, business decision makers also demand instant service.

When Forrester touted the API Economy two years ago, I asked Dell Boomi’s Chris McNabb what developers should know about it. In short, he said that the API Economy is built on the ability of APIs to “make it far easier for software developers to bring together data from various sources to create today’s modern Web applications.” In short, APIs speed up software development.

Recently, I asked cloud and Agile development evangelist Pankaj Arora what development managers and enterprise architects should know about the Now Economy and ZMOT. He explained that winning in the real-time marketplace calls for strong connections between businesses and the technologies they use as well as quickly making sense of and decisions about data.

Requirements of the Now Economy

“In this ecosystem, businesses depend on other businesses to attract and serve customers in the moment,” said Arora, senior director of technology for Jitterbit. “The need to serve customers instantly fuels the need for these businesses to collaborate instantly as well.”

Digital connectivity plays a crucial role in making companies “now-ready,” Arora said. “In a world where data is getting bigger and wider by the minute, what matters most is how agile the organizations are in making sense and use of that data.”

The Now Economy dovetails with the API Economy by enabling connections between businesses’ technologies, Arora said. A business can expose their APIs to other businesses that can get information to their customers immediately. For example, let’s say it is dinner time, and I’m looking for a restaurant. In a few taps on my smart phone, I can search for restaurants, read reviews, scan menus and, if convinced, make a reservation.

Looking behind the scenes of my restaurant search, there’s an app that fetches data from various other apps and services like Google, Yelp, Urbanspoon and OpenTable. “These apps have APIs that expose data in real time, which is then extracted and transformed to the desired format that is consistent with our app’s requirements,” Arora said.

< class="wp-caption-text">Pankaj Arora of Jitterbit believes that winning in today’s marketplace will depend on the relationship between business and technology.

Must-have capabilities for real-time delivery

Naturally, delivering real-time services is not so simple. Arora points to several API-centric, must-have capabilities needed to deliver real-time responses, a top requirement because many workflows depend on instant responses to move to the next business process. Also important are technologies that support communication between systems that expose certain protocols and reside in closed secure networks.

Data compatibility enables real-time responses, too. Few businesses’ systems store data in the formats, data types and fields. “The platform should provide the ability to transform data so it can be consumed by various systems,” Arora said.

Ensuring data security is challenging when data is shared between collaborating businesses. Arora advises providing a way to stream the data through the system without storing it to lessen the security burden on the API platform. Check out his post on hybrid architecture for more details about incorporating secure connections between private cloud and public cloud systems.

Historically-speaking, this call for sharing of data and processes between businesses is revolutionary. And it’s just the beginning of competing in the Now Economy. Today, Arora said, businesses must take several giant leaps forward by letting end customers (i.e., their own business units or other developers) to consume their APIs.

“From a developer’s point of view, enterprises must provide easy access to APIs, clear and accurate monetization strategy, documentation, interactive coding assistance, and tools for testing API functionality and apps,” Arora said.

That’s a lot of work to do to provide instant gratification to me and my fellow consumers. But the goal of business is closing the sale — and no one has time today to sit through a long sales pitch.