No-code and APIs to Join Hands to Redefine Software Customization
APIs are making the world go round nowadays. They are changing the way manufacturing is done at the enterprise level, and thus making Industry 4.0 possible. The previous phase in manufacturing, Industry 3.0, was limited by the need for constant human presence on the site or nearby to do controls and monitoring during the production process. Not only that, but it was also a closed-off proprietary system that didn’t accommodate third-party integrations. APIs have revolutionized manufacturing by enabling remote command and control, which facilitates a distributed, global manufacturing network. It is through the APIs that orders can be automatically diverted from a plant in a particular country to another plant overseas, improving logistics and bringing down costs, and running an around-the-clock global operation. APIs also enable monitoring and reporting and give decision-makers unique visibility into processes so that they can be improved.
Giant manufacturing plants are not the only places where APIs are making a difference. The tasks for which people depend on APIs are almost endless today: Developers count on APIs to import ready-made capabilities without spending days to code a similar capability from scratch. Businesses rely on APIs to extend functionality and perform security functions. Decision-makers in companies leverage APIs to gain a deeper understanding of the processes so that they can make data-informed decisions. All in all, APIs help users automate existing processes, expand their businesses into new segments, expedite innovation and facilitate collaboration among different users.
This whole activity going on around APIs has created an API-based economy. Whenever an organization opens up its systems, processes, or data to external use through APIs, it creates value and potential revenue streams for itself and its partners. The shared value becomes the basis for an ecosystem that grows as more business capabilities are shared through APIs. In such an environment, companies can capitalize on their strengths, things that they do exceptionally well, and monetize them by opening up those skills to be consumed by customers who need similar capabilities. Monetization of APIs requires a product-centric approach, though. Every internal service offering should be developed with a view to open them up to external use one day. It was this mindset that made API-based innovative thinking a significant component of the culture at companies like Salesforce and Amazon and drove their impressive growth over the years.
However, the most significant benefit APIs offer is that they let you take customization out of your system and migrate it over to the customer-side. Customizing a software product for numerous different use cases is easier said than done. The product gains a life of its own once it is launched. That’s why it is impossible for a product owner to foresee how it will be put to use and in what ways it will be complemented. After opening your product up to others to modify and integrate to their own systems, it no longer is your duty to come up with innovative ways to complement and extend your product—the market takes care of it for you as people “hack” your product to meet their needs. The more capable your API is, the easier for others to tailor your product to their own needs.
Amazon wrote the book on API-based customizability. Around the year 2002, Jeff Bezos enforced that all business functionality within Amazon would be designed as reusable services and exposed over APIs to outside users. This decision single-handedly prevented the calcification of the company as a monolith and ensured that no business capability would be offered internally or externally unless it could be opened up through APIs. The ecosystem that gradually developed around Amazon resulted from this strategic decision Bezos made.
No-code platforms, too, have been involved in the API landscape for quite some time, effecting meaningful change. Tools like Zapier have taken over API orchestration duties, which previously were done by developers. No-code technology now looks poised to take customization to another level as well. In the near future, the company publishing an API will be offering the end-users no-code templates to customize the product without having to do any customization on its own platform. This will let companies focus on their core line of work and leave customization to the end-users as they know better than anyone the daily problems and needs in their operations. APIs and no-code will be natural allies in the quest to take software to the masses.