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Digital Business is changing market paradigms and enterprise priorities at blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speeds – Gartner Group

My world intersected with the digital economy several years ago, and as a result I was introduced to the need to move at bi-modal speeds.  Mode 1 deals with the stable, mission critical systems which require conventional approaches.  For many of us who are with companies that have been around for awhile, these can be referred to as ‘systems of record’ … and they generally have been around for a long time.

Mode 2 explores opportunities to adopt newer methodologies (and subsequently technologies) allowing you to move more quickly and adapt to the fast moving world around us.  One element of mode 2 is known as the ‘systems of engagement (or innovation)’ … think mobile apps that allow you reach consumers with older underlying technology in new ways.  The building blocks to these systems of engagement (and the digital economy) are APIs … and they represent the ‘systems of differentiation’.


Much of where the industry is today with APIs was ushered in back in 2003 as a result of the edict Jeff Bezos issued at Amazon.  If you aren’t familiar with it, here is the jist:

  1. All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces
  2. Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces
  3. There will be no other form of inter-process communication allowed … only communication via service interfaces over the network are allowed
  4. Technology/protocols are negotiable, as long as they fulfill the “open” requirement
  5. All service interfaces must be designed to be externalizable (exposed to developers in the outside world … no exceptions)
  6. Anyone who doesn’t do this will be fired

The reality is both modes are important to succeed.  Amazon’s business existed before Jeff Bezos issued the edict, and the systems of record were likely there.  But it flourished with the API approach that allowed engagement, innovation, and differentiation!  Looking at their business today … from their internal development, to Amazon.com, to the mobile representation of Amazon.com, to affiliate Amazon sites/partners, to ancillary web services offerings … it wouldn’t have been possible without an API-first approach.

I’ve long been an admirer of Jeff Bezos … in case that hasn’t come out yet :).  And the idea for this post came from this article I stumbled across yesterday centering on him … Focus on What Won’t Change.

It doesn’t touch upon APIs directly, but I love the context of the approach he took with Amazon (and what ultimately yielded the API approach).  Here is a snip-it from the article, and I agree with the author’s assessment … brilliant!

What isn’t going to change? Two things: (1) customers are going to continue to want the best possible bargain, and (2) they are going to continue to want it delivered as fast as possible.” The corollary to this logic was, “the only way I can go wrong is if people (1) start wanting to pay as much as possible and (2) insist on slow delivery.