Live from IBM Insight2015: Mobile apps and the API economy

api economyRocket Software’s Sean Grady recently wrote an excellent blog post about good mobile app design. In that post he briefly touched on the challenge mobile application developers face when they need to integrate with existing software or applications (a System of Record).

We have a situation in which all too often apps are created from porting existing software to a mobile platform without optimizing or re-imagining it as appropriate for its new platform.

What I learned at IBM Insight2015 this week is that up to 70% of the mobile development effort is spent on integration with back-end systems, leaving only 30% available for developing a great user experience! Needless to say, user experience is key; 50% of the users will immediately uninstall your app if they don’t like the experience it offers. So, how can we maximize the effort on user experience?

backend effort vs UXAPIs – the building blocks for mobile apps

Application programming interfaces (APIs) act as the digital glue that links services, applications, and systems. By unlocking the System of Record through APIs you allow the mobile developers to make the most of the back-end data to create a compelling user experience.

The required APIs can quickly be generated by non-invasive API Builders or created by the developers maintaining that particular System of Record or application (if available). Either way, good APIs are:

  • Measurable: You want to know how often the API invoked and how much time the API invocation took.
  • Controllable: You want to manage access and availability of the API.
  • Managed: System of Record development and mobile development are often referred to as 2-speed or multispeed IT. The mobile app is updated every 3 weeks and the System of Record once a year for example. If the interface of the API is about to change in an upcoming System of Record update (an new field was added for example) then you must be able to manage versions of that api: create a V2 and maybe deprecate V1.
  • Scalable: If the mobile app becomes more popular you want to make sure you have mechanisms in place to handle the load like smart caching or session pooling.
  • Monetized: Depending on who is the consumer of your API, you might want to invoice based on number of invocations or load generated in the System of Record.

The API economy

Mobile applications today do not only use enterprise data, they leverage external data points like indoor and venue maps, traffic and weather data points, social media, and so on. APIs represent a new fast-growing channel opportunity. Gartner predicts that by 2016, 75% of the Fortune 1000 will offer public Web APIs, and 50% of B2B collaboration will take place through Web APIs.

That is good news for mobile developers and Systems of Insight that tap into these data points. It also means that unlocking your Systems of Record through APIs is the only viable option. Do you feel creating an API for your Systems of Record will be a challenge somehow? Let me know in the comment section below.

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Jeroen van Dun

Jeroen van Dun

Manager of Software Engineering at Rocket Software
Jeroen van Dun is Product Manager in the Rocket LegaSuite Lab.
Jeroen van Dun

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