As part of my focus on developing Smart421’s API strategy, last week I attended Mashery’s one day Business of APIs (BAPI) conference Altitude London, 29th floor of the Millbank Tower on the banks of The Thames.
The BAPI event had a very different flavour. Although it was a Mashery event, their presence was mainly facilitatory. There was no heavy sales pitch, and no compulsory product demo. The other thing missing was sponsor stands, which was interesting… No need to run the gauntlet with marketing folks to secure your lunch.
What was available in spades was great quality discussion, both from the presenters, and one on one with attendees. The conference was really focussed on the business of building and consuming APIs.
I particularly enjoyed Creating Success / APIs Changing Business from Kevin Flowers, CTO, Coca-Cola Enterprises. Kevin talked about the challenges of launching APIs in a large business. CCE have built a series of internal APIs for managing everything from procurement and finance to sales and service.
This fits well with our internal discussions within Smart421. We think that for many of our customers, the future of integration lies in building and consuming APIs internally first, and then selectively exposing these (or APIs derived from these) to the outside world. Test, learn, do, with the test and learn occurring mainly internally.
TomTom’s Peter Moeykens talked about their experience of building a public API around TomTom’s core map, navigation and point-of-interest assets. He talked about the journey TomTom went on, the (inevitable) missteps made, and the ‘lightbulb moment’ that was the realisation that APIs need to be thought about as products. Again, this is a view I share strongly, even for internal APIs – without taking that outside in view of the world, your APIs will be lifeless. Peter talked about how they sold APIs internally (Answer: demos), and how they sold them externally, and perhaps more to the point, how they got their sales guys to sell them externally (Answer: showing them the kinds of applications the APIs would allow other people to build). Really great, practical advice.
There were a bunch of other great talks too, the slides for which are available on the BAPI website, with videos on the way for the most part. A few of these were only tangentially related to APIs, but were none the less well worth an hour of my time: David McCandless of Information is Beautiful fame talked about data visualisation in a highly amusing talk – well worth a watch when the videos arrive. While Paull Young of charity:water made me laugh – and then damned near cry – with his talk about the work that C:W has been doing on its digital strategy (a topic I’m hoping to talk more about here over the coming months).
So, in summary, a really great event. I’ll definitely be going again next year given a chance, and would encourage anyone interested in this space to go along as well. If you do, hang around a while afterwards – plenty of high quality discussion happened after the main event was over.
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