The only thing that API can’t scale.
APIs can scale every existing manual or contractual business interaction, making them programmable. This is why we have seen the success of companies like Stripe, Adyen and Twilio, achieve up to $22.5Bn valuation in less than 10 years.
Why? Because they made their business’ programmable, delivering their capabilities directly via APIs. APIs-as-product as we call them. They scaled distribution thanks to models where IT is the business. However, an area that APIs still can’t scale is the human side.
The machine side we have nailed. Thanks to AWS, GCP or Azure, infrastructure is now completely elastic, reactive, thanks to APIs. You can push or pull data from and to the cloud in milliseconds, and scale your load capacity automatically. Infrastructure is now just a service, accessible via APIs. It is consumable and with the current rate of hardware prices decreasing, it is more scalable than ever.
Internally, thanks to APIs, you can scale agility and innovation. As the Jeff Bezos mandate states already in 2002 “Team must communicate to each other via service interfaces. No exception. (…) and APIs must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable”
In that way, internally, employees will be able to break silos, reuse the code of others, publish software towards business capabilities and then scale internal interactions. This is why for instance, Marshall Van Alstyne from Boston University found that publicly traded companies who have an important internal API strategy and consumption have on average 10,3% extra market capitalization compared to others.
Also, with well-designed APIs, with a great developer experience and complete actionable documentation and SKs, you can also scale integrations. Because of your great APIs enabling access to your platform, companies and developers will be able to integrate with your system 24/7 in complete autonomy. Some may ask for support, but most of the time for advanced high-value integration instead of just an authorization protocol or an API response they don’t get. This is how you can accumulate value, transforming your product into a platform, and your platform into an ecosystem
Distribution, Sales, Infrastructure, Agility, Integrations…. There is still one thing that APIs can’t scale.
Having worked as an Executive Search/Recruitment Consultant assisting API companies in hiring key talent globally over the last 4-5 years, I can confidently state that every API company is understaffed. With new roles, increasing demand of users, support, documentation, the evolution of technology…. All API companies are hiring. – I would even provocatively state: if you are not hiring, you cannot claim that you are an ‘API company’.
Why? Because ‘Talent is the only thing that APIs can’t scale’. And to automate business and or infrastructure you will need even more intelligence put into the system. To be sure you are not automating mistakes, you need to understand 10 times more how the ”machine” works.
So these skills cannot be by any means outsourced offshore, even outsourced. They must be internalized, nurtured with internal culture to really sharpen and grease the gears of the programmable business machine. Whether you are a Software vendor, hiring for the next wave of Sales, Pre-Sales, Product Managers or Marketing personnel. Or hiring for new roles that didn’t exist just a few years ago that are now needed in the fast-paced API lifecycle management practice. API designer, API docs writer, API evangelists, API lead, API Ops, API front end engineer, API Backend engineers, API architects…. There is a bottleneck of the skills required and the talent pool available. Hiring is still one of the biggest challenges.
There are ways to augment your talent acquisition in the API space. You can sponsor conferences, hire specialist recruitment companies, produce content, use word of mouth, involve employees in hiring. You can augment it, but not scale it. Hiring is a human thing and will stay human. And this is for sure, the only thing that APIs can’t scale…. Talent.