An API Centric product is any product that exposes a public API as its core distribution channel.
What does this mean? We are accustomed to distributing content for humans via web applications and mobile apps. An API distributes content for other machines and programs to process. This is key for things like the IoT, platform businesses and business digitization and automation.
Why is this important?
The world is becoming digitized, and all your digital channels are programs: your web app is a program, your mobile app is a program and any other business that may need your services and data may do so through a program. So an API Centric approach ensures that you code once and distribute your services to every digital channel you need.
Firms are starting to leverage platform business models. They no longer control a set of assets to produce an output. They rather provide a platform on top of which they let users, consumers, suppliers and partners interact with each other like in a marketplace and build customized solutions for specific segments.
Think of Atlassian cloud products (Jira, Bitbucket, etc…). They offer a foundation of capabilities on top of which they build their own products but they also let partners build their products. On one hand, their partners can leverage Atlassian customer base. On the other, Atlassian is enriching its product system making their offering much more attractive.
This kind of businesses require an integration layer with all these third parties that allow them to build custom solutions on top of the core capabilities. This is integration layer is the API. To be successful in this kind of scenarios, you need to provide an API as part of your foundation, and hence design and build the whole system starting from the API. That’s the API Centric approach.
In the future, all businesses will be technology businesses. And all businesses will need to be able to integrate with any other business to build extended value chains. An API Centric approach ensures this is possible.