Everyone in procurement today knows and loves application programming interfaces. Right?
According to TargetTech, “APIs are sets of requirements that govern how one application can communicate and interact with another. They also allow developers to access certain internal functions of a program. In the simplest terms, an API allows one piece of software to interact with another piece of software.”
What’s not to love?
Open APIs Take the Cake
And APIs have become a growth industry, so to speak. Since 2005, the Programmable Web has maintained a directory of APIs. We’ve augmented a Programmable Web chart with the current number of APIs in the directory, to show the extraordinary increase in APIs 2005 to present.
However, this represents only a fraction of APIs, for two reasons: (1) they are only APIs that have been submitted by organizations to the directory, and (2) they are only “open” or “published” APIs. (Note: I searched the directory for procurement or supply chain APIs, but a small number, mostly federal government, came up, notably Concur, Coupa, Taulia,and Tradeshift.)
So what are “open” APIs (versus “private” APIs)?
The API Academy offers these distinctions:
- A “private API is an interface that opens parts of an organization’s backend data and application functionality for use by developers working within (or contractors working for) that organization. The new applications these developers create may be distributed publicly but the interface itself is unavailable to anyone not working directly for the API publisher.”
- In contrast “an open API is an interface that has been designed to be easily accessible by the wider population of Web and mobile developers. This means an open API may be used both by developers inside the organization that published the API or by any developers outside that organization who wish to register for access to the interface. An open API publisher is usually seeking to leverage the ever-growing community of free-agent app developers. This will allow the organization to stimulate development of innovative apps that add value to its core business, without investing directly in development efforts — it simultaneously increases the production of new ideas and decreases development costs.”
Let the Festivities Begin
In a 2013 Harvard Business Reviewdd article, “Move Beyond Enterprise IT to an API Strategy,” Thomas H. Davenport and Bala Iyer wrote:
We increasingly see sophisticated organizations competing in an “API economy” in which application programming interfaces are the primary approach to inter-organizational collaboration and information exchange. APIs, which are specifications or protocols for how to exchange information or request online services from an organization, are already booming in online businesses. As more companies realize that information is key to their product and service offerings, and that they need an ecosystem to provide those offerings, APIs will grow further in popularity.
Apparently they were right.
Today, in the fast emerging “API Economy,” open APIs form the connective tissue of platforms and ecosystems. And as Bob Solomon (Software Platform Consulting, Inc.) and I explained in our recent Global Procurement Technology Summit session, “Supplier Networks or Much, Much More? Making Business Platforms Work for You,” digital platforms and ecosystems are rapidly superseding the “supplier networks” of yore, as the basis for P2P connectivity and supply chain visibility and agility.
The juggernaut of platforms, APIs, and ecosystems — already having rolled through many business segments of the economy— is now starting its roll through procurement and supply chain.
Ariba’s Open API?
At AribaLive 2016 a couple of weeks ago, SAP said it is basically untying the knot, apparently by now offering an open API.
“SAP Ariba is launching an open partner ecosystem to empower its partners to enhance SAP Ariba cloud solutions using standard based APIs,” the compnay said in a press release. “Partners on the open ecosystem will be able to quickly deliver innovative services to customers around the world using the cloud platform of their choice or the SAP Ariba platform.”
Thomson Reuters appears to be one of the first “Open Ecosystem” partners.
“With SAP Ariba's Open Ecosystem, the Thomson Reuters ONESOURCE Indirect Tax Determination engine has an innovative platform from which we can deliver an integrated global tax service to the SAP Ariba community," the release said.
We scoured the web to find more information about this development, but came up with nothing. So what is the “Open Ecosystem?” What does it mean to say, “SAP Ariba is launching an open partner ecosystem to empower its partners to enhance SAP Ariba cloud solutions using standard based APIs?”
Is SAP really untying the knot? Will Ariba and open APIs be a match made in heaven? It appears we will have to wait and see.