If you remember the rise of agile development, you're aware of big business's desire to act like it's anything but. In a world where the small guy excels in areas such as flexibility and innovation, operating at a full-blown enterprise scale can feel like a disadvantage at times.
With so-called "digital natives" — upstart organizations with modernized, technology-focused business models — disrupting things left and right, this idea has reached a fever pitch. While the respective makeups of enterprise organizations and small, technology-focused companies do lend advantages and disadvantages, one thing is certain: Using APIs in business will be your key to keeping up with the competition.
The following is a look at this landscape, the types of companies operating within it, and the ways enterprise organizations can use technology such as communications APIs to level the playing field with their small, disruptive competitors:
Big vs. Little: A Comparison
If you're searching for an example of the disruption digital natives can effect, look no further than the taxi industry. Though protected by a simple business model and even a degree of pop culture enshrinement, cabs were hit hard by the arrival of competitors such as Uber and Lyft. For example, Fortune tells the story of plummeting market shares, lost revenues, and a distinct fear of the future.
Looking deeper, it's easy to see how this fate befell the industry. Simply put, its competition leveraged technology to make the old new again. Instead of waiting for a yellow car to drive by or using a phone to call dispatch, you can use an app. Technology has eliminated uncertainty over routes or costs, since it's all spelled out on a phone. Ride-hailing apps provide services everywhere, so you can use them at home or while on vacation.
Of course, taxis are far from the only companies to see substantial native disruption. Redbox and Netflix are two companies widely credited with the decline of video stores. Amazon and other e-commerce giants are forcing brick-and-mortar sellers to adapt or die. Because these companies are built to address perceived flaws in the "old way," digital natives with smart business models and appropriate reaches have built-in advantages over larger competitors. They're also smaller (initially) and generally more receptive to change, so they can work out ingrained flaws and offer novel solutions to longstanding problems. In addition, because they're built around platforms and technologies consumers prefer, they get some immediate goodwill and attention enterprises may struggle for years to foster.
APIs in Business: The Hows and Whys
Fortunately, the same tool that makes various aspects of development easier for the little guys of the world is just as accessible to bigger organizations: the API. The API is a collection of prebuilt tools designed to be implemented in the software a company develops. Using APIs, a company can build powerful features into its tools for a fraction of the cost or effort it would take to develop them from scratch, making them perfect responses to smaller competitors with big ideas.
Communication APIs in business provide a perfect illustration of the ways companies can react to digital natives and mounting expectations from digital-era customers. Using such tools, a company can more easily augment its internal and customer-facing communication tools and products, allowing for faster responses, more internal cohesion, and a unified front for customers increasingly concerned with inconsistent experiences.
Imagine an enterprise with a large base of call-in customers is attempting to reduce wait times by implementing better customer relationship management (CRM) with social media support and real-time communication. Instead of hiring consultants to fill them in on which networking services the hip kids are using, hiring developers with experience in the platforms those services use, and spending untold dollars building support into their existing CRM solutions, the appropriate APIs could get them competitive at a faster, less expensive clip. Now, just like the trendy new business, their representatives talk to customers on social media and remember their needs from conversation to conversation.
Using APIs in business will be your key to keeping competitive pace.
The same concept applies to internal communications. Customers are sensitive to their overall experiences and less tolerant of inconsistency as a result. An API that allows an enterprise to link Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems and other communication tools between branch locations can leave customers feeling like they're talking to one location no matter where in the country their call lands. Compared to building a similar communication network in-house or implementing a costly private branch exchange, a tool that helps companies integrate systems quickly and easily is far and away the better choice.
In both these examples (and countless others), the right APIs give larger companies faster responses, personalized attention, a cohesive experience, and other advantages commonly attributed to smaller competitors.
For a company expanding or retooling its products and services to better match a growing competitor's, a revamped set of communication tools should be a foregone conclusion. A company pleased with its offerings in the face of expanded competition, on the other hand, can use a smart selection of communication APIs to "stand up to the little guys" in terms of customer service and experience.
APIs Can Even the Odds
Ultimately, large and small companies alike use APIs because they make advanced features easier, faster, and less expensive to achieve. In this sense, enterprises concerned about the rapid onset of digital natives are only part of it. If digital offerings make up a core part of your experience or operations, they can help regardless of your competitive situation. No business is immune to digital disruption, but APIs can help yours get back with the times faster than ever.