Developing an API culture in a large organisation
Laure Jouffre leads Orange’s API program, in the TGI Division (Technology & Global Innovation). She is the head of a team of 75 people, serving the entire group worldwide, with a mission to develop the API culture at Orange group to generate maximum value. Orange is one of the Gold Sponsors of APIdays Paris and on December 11th she shared on the importance of developing an API culture, based on the API approach the group started 5 years. Digital acceleration powered by Orange was also on the agenda, with a session dedicated to feedbacks on a co-innovation project with SEB. On December 12th a session was dedicated to another developer challenge, organized in partnership with SNCF, about LTE-M: the network technology dedicated to connected objects.
What is Orange group’s API approach?
We launched our API approach 5 years ago, and this year we share the lessons around the idea of an “API culture” enabling a bimodal IT (mixing legacy IT environments and new projects) and business development. The first mission of my team is the development of this API culture, that’s why we are talking about “API culture enablement”. Our goal is to develop a maximum of value (through cost reduction, direct income, customer satisfaction, …) but to start this we need to develop APIs and convince people to use them.
What are the API challenges for Orange?
Orange’s API approach targets four challenges: open innovation, the development of internal APIs for multichannel and new devices, the development of business opportunities to address new channels with APIs, and the API serving IT to bring agility and cost reduction. These APIs connect us with our ecosystem and our customers around these different objectives. And a CMO or a CIO will set different goals behind those priorities.
How has Orange’s API initiative evolved over the last 5 years?
The program has pivoted since it was initially very focused on innovation and public APIs. But we also need APIs from partners and in-house APIs to create this dynamic within the group. To convince all Orange Group countries to work internally on APIs, my team organizes trainings, provides a centralized platform, tools and methods to listen to customer needs, we give design recommendations, and accompany them for the internal and external distribution of APIs. The idea is also to promote the reusability of APIs between countries and between projects.
More than 750 APIs are now available on the Orange Developer platform and this figure has doubled in one year. The pace of publication of APIs is accelerating. This does not mean that all APIs published since 2013 are still distributed because an important part of our mission is also to manage Orange Group’s API marketing offer with our partners. We follow the lifecycle of APIs from launch to retiring, depending on the projects.
How did you adapt your API approach to their users?
We listened to our clients both internally and externally, for both API consumers and API providers, with an agile approach. We also created “mixed” teams with technical and business people to favor language convergence to understand each other. We exchange on Plazza, our internal social network, available through an API on our platform. This allowed us to remove internal hurdles and to provide tools to facilitate testing on the API platform. The idea is to encourage internal developments by securing them with the use of market standards and the support of our team.
We have also adapted our approach to external clients’ APIs, who can be developers but also architects, to whom we “market” the APIs. This implies to know their needs, especially the need to expose the APIs, to distribute them. But we also need quality “products” to put on the shelves of our API store. Quality of service is also important, so among our flagship APIs are TMForum APIs dedicated to Customer Care and standardized with other operators and market players.
How do you measure the success of Orange’s API approach?
We need to measure whether the APIs meet the market needs. The relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for this approach are the increase in the use of KPIs, i.e. the number of active developers per month and the traffic generated by requests on the platform. Featured products on our “Distribution” (the API store) are for example the SMS API (distributed throughout MEA-Middle East and Africa), the Direct Carrier Billing API (billing of services), and the “Live Object” API (IoT) that generates a lot of API requests.
Also keep in mind that API marketing is a long journey that requires patience! A key success factor is that all businesses understand the strategic challenges of APIs. We are also constantly in conversation with our communities, especially through developer challenges, which usually last two months, to build projects together with our long-term support. In 2017 we organized a challenge with Air France during which a company was created around B2B issues, a project that is meant to last.
On APIdays Paris 2018, we also shared the feedbacks of the developer challenge we are currently running with SNCF (French National Railways) about LTE-M : the network technology dedicated to connected objects.
Written by Séverine Godet
This article first appeared on Medium.
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