Author: Robin Schutten

The power of API Management

In a world in which developments follow each other more and more quickly, there are opportunities for organisations that can respond quickly to these developments. This requires a high degree of flexibility from those organisations. Especially by setting up IT processes in a flexible way, organisations can respond quickly to changes in the market. One of the techniques with which organisations can successfully make their IT processes more flexible is the application of API Management. The core idea here is that fixed business processes are made available to other parts of the organisation, or even outside the organisation, via clearly described patterns. Think, for example, of retrieving customer data, or updating a sales order. If it is clear how these 'building blocks' of a business process can be invoked, they can be used by others in the organisation to achieve their own goals. By tying together chunks of IT functionality in this way, a higher degree of flexibility is obtained than with more traditional IT.

An important point here is that there is control over who has access to which chunk of functionality, and that sensitive information remains protected from unauthorised access. This is where the power of API Management comes in: API Management provides a powerful platform to make these IT building blocks available, while maintaining control over who accesses what, how often and so on. Or, for example, to charge costs for calling certain functions, on which the revenue model of large parties such as Google Maps is based.

Technique

The aforementioned IT building blocks are called APIs, an abbreviation of Application Programming Interface. A description of the functionality offered by an API, and how it should be called, is recorded in API Management and presented to interested parties. APIs are clearly laid down in 'Products' in order to group functionality. API Management can keep track of the different versions of the APIs, and offers possibilities to monitor and analyse the call of APIs.

The SAP Cloud Platform also offers API Management. This is under the hood based on the "Apigee" platform, one of the larger players worldwide. This has the advantage that a lot of additional information and help can be found on the Internet. The platform offers a large range of functions that are easy to configure to control and monitor access to APIs.

For more complex APIs it may be advisable to move functionality to another tool. This can be SAP Cloud Platform Integration (CPI) within a SAP landscape. But there are also API platforms with a highly integrated orchestration layer such as Oliver Connect, which is based on the Jitterbit Harmony platform. In such a platform, the processing of data can be designed in a clear and manageable way and the call of functions on the (SAP) back-end can also be handled. There are also numerous possibilities for monitoring and management. And the API Management layer only has to take care of opening up the functionality to the outside world in a secure way.

Where to start?

To start API Management as a company, it is necessary to determine which parties, inside or outside the organisation, might be interested in a certain API. And how access to those services should be arranged. There are several API Management tools available to arrange this, the choice depends on the needs and wishes of the organisation.

Furthermore, for each entity (order, customer data, etc.) it will have to be determined in which system it belongs and which team should be responsible for it. The API can then be offered from there and it will be clear to the rest of the organisation where they should be for that data. Furthermore, it is important to think about unambiguous naming and to invest that centrally: if one person talks about "Articles", a second about "Materials" and a third about "Products" then you run the risk of developing APIs for the same entity, because you are not aware that something was already available.

Oliver IT has successfully applied API Management at several customers and would like to tell you more about the possibilities for your organisation.

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Robin Schutten Sales
Robin Schutten