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Choosing an API Vendor: Three Critical Biz-Relationship Qualities to Consider

A strong API vendor relationship can be a make-or-break factor for organizations. The vendor’s ability to maintain a relationship with clientele is a critical foundation, and one which client organizations tend to value every bit as much as the software itself; vendors that provide good products and empower strong relationships are the ones clients fight to keep around.

Something both vendors and clients alike should keep in mind is that the best products in the world generally aren’t enough to salvage a less-than-stellar relationship created by a vendor. If anything, situations like these leave client organizations scrambling to find the next best competitor once the current agreement expires.

Because of this, one could argue that product quality and cost, while critically important, aren’t the only—or even the greatest—factors that make for a great vendor relationship. Non-technical stakeholders should keep the following business attributes in mind any time they look to establish a new relationship with an API vendor.

Trait One: Strong Post-Deployment Support

This trait has by far the most potential to elevate or sink a vendor relationship following a successful API deployment. In terms of development concern, “strong customer support” might mean promptness of support ticket response or quality of documentation when esoteric problems arise within an app, but the need goes way deeper than that. When the client has a business-specific problem with an API product, how do the people on the other end respond?

Billing questions, concerns, and misunderstandings, three common problems in this era of pay-as-you-use API packages, underpin this idea. When the client’s people call the vendor’s people, how willing is the rep to explain factors that made a product cost a specific amount? How do they assist the client’s support team when questions about the new addition come pouring in from customer users or the client company’s staff? Do they make continually maintaining their product easier from a business standpoint—and if not, do they get in the way?

These are all questions to consider when reviewing current API developer relationships—and are factors to research when weighing the possibility of bringing on new ones. Make no mistake about it: the ability to provide support extends far beyond the development side.

Trait Two: API Vendor Innovation

This one may seem directly linked to product quality—and to be fair, it is conceptually related—but the distinction is important enough on its own to warrant consideration. At question is the vendor’s ability to create and enhance products that make operating within the market easier. Given the prevalence of highly regarded vendors out there, inertia shouldn’t be the only thing keeping a weak relationship going.

API products like two-factor authentication (2FA) illustrate the difference between innovation and treading water. While any API vendor’s 2FA product will offer some version of authentication, an innovator will have differentiators that justify their space in the market. Two examples of this include both intelligent failover and adaptive routing, both of which ensure the end user receives an authentication message or call in the fastest, most efficient way possible, even if network or recipient device issues complicate the app’s ability to send and confirm.

Additions like these expand the product’s core functionality, and in the process, bring the sort of value-add business stakeholders love. A consistent track record of releasing innovations points to a vendor worth establishing a relationship with. Implementing an API requires a not-insignificant amount of effort. Make sure that it’s well-spent by choosing an innovative API vendor.

Trait Three: A Platform—Not A La Carte

For developers, the advantages of deploying collected APIs from the same vendor’s platform are as numerous as they are obvious. The products are often interlinked, making multi-implementation easier than deploying multiple individual parts. Support is similarly centralized, making pre- and post-deployment problem-solving less complicated and cross-dependent. Working with the same set of tools requires fewer distinct skills from the development team, keeping budgets low and deadlines reachable.

The business- and relationship management-focused advantages of platform buy-in are just as valid. Looking beyond the usual bundle deals, volume discounts, and pack-in promotions B2B companies throw clients, there’s the telecom-borne idea of “one back to pat”: when business questions arise—and especially when they’re focused on an app you release for the world (or at least your employees) to consume—using a trusted vendor as a one-stop shop is unquestionably easier than dealing with multiple partners, especially if they provide strong support.

A good selection of interrelated products is also an implicit testament to the vendor’s ability to stick around, longevity being a crucial part of any successful business relationship. To this point, a platform that contains multiple moving parts relevant to an industry displays the practical knowledge needed to stay there. Throw in the practical or financial benefits mentioned earlier and a vendor’s platform has a lot to say about the working relationship an organization can establish with them.

Choose Wisely

API quality is a make-or-break attribute for the client’s ability to uphold a relationship. Even the best rapport in the world can’t salvage a poor product, after all. The ability to cooperate on a business level with the people building vital parts of one’s software products is every bit as important, however. Keeping an eye on the above traits now will go a long way towards avoiding heartache, misspent effort, or financial loss in the future—as any number of businesses in good-product-bad-vendor relationships will say without qualification.

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