According to Gartner, SaaS is typically defined as a service as software that is delivered, owned and managed remotely by one or more providers. The provider delivers software that is consumed in a one-to-many model by all contracted customers at any time on a pay-for-use basis or as a subscription based on use metrics. The Software as a Service model is pretty much ubiquitous today and is consumed extensively by organizations of all sizes globally. Some examples would be Office suites like Microsoft office 365, Google Office Suite, CRM like Salesforce, movie streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, ticketing systems like Zendesk etc. All these are popular web-based SaaS-based products that have been embraced by people because they are easy to use. Indeed, SaaS seems to be the mantra that most tech companies swear by because it allows them to offer their software easily to others without compromising their intellectual proprietorship and also facilitates a subscription-based pricing model.
Application programming interfaces also abbreviated as APIS are defined as a group of methods or procedures and tools for building software. The term API has become a key buzzword today because the focus is on combining services from different vendors and providing the user with a cohesive seamless experience. Many of the SaaS products offer their own public APIs for integration, let's look at a few simple reasons why API offerings have become an indispensable part of the SaaS phenomenon.
In this data-driven digital epoch monoliths like Facebook & Uber drive their core operations entirely on the Internet and have extreme valuations without actually having proportionate physical assets, it would be interesting to note what they all have in common technology wise; APIS. Yes, offering APIs definitely gives you the competitive edge. Offering APIs is a way for a SaaS product to be embedded within any other popular application or platform. Interoperability with other products leads to a visible increase in sales as the product itself is considered mature. Offering APIs means that it could be easily ported from one platform to another, say from web to mobile platform, this means that exposure to a new set of audiences with minimal effort.
Have you heard of the (in)famous Bezos mandate?
Amazon's incredible transformation from an online bookstore to an Internet giant that provides various cloud-based features was possible only because of this mandate. It covered 4 major points which are reproduced below.
- All teams will henceforth expose their data and functionality through service interfaces.
- Teams must communicate with each other through these Interfaces.
- There will be no other form of interprocess communication allowed: no direct linking, no direct reads of another team's data store, no shared-memory model, no back-doors whatsoever. The only communication allowed is via service interface calls over the Network.
- All service interfaces, without exception, must be designed from the ground up to be externalizable. That is to say, the team must plan and design to be able to expose the interface to developers in the outside world. No exceptions.
These rules have been key elements of the Amazon success story. Any enterprise product, no matter how big it actually is, can and should be organized on the basis of compartmentalized APIs. All the different parts can communicate with each others using APIS and nothing else, this compartmentalization is possible only if the SaaS product is basically designed with an API centric approach.
Creating an API layer to a SaaS offering means providing an interface where the features could be accessed in a safe manner externally. In an age where bundling of products is rather common, it is pretty much unthinkable to create a SaaS product that can don't offer seamless communication via a universal API. As long as the features of the Saas Product as exposed via the API, it opens a whole new world of possibilities, a whole lot of social and CRM integrations can be done and even offered as additional features. This also enables more third-party services to integrate/communicate with your Saas product harnessing the same APIS.
This is an important facet of any mature SaaS product. In order to engage with the worldwide developer community, providing APIs is a must. This helps in two different ways, firstly it encourages a lot of individual developers out there to make innovative integrations for your product using your APIS and secondly it saves you the trouble of building a lot of these smaller integrations where it wouldn't make any business sense to invest developer efforts. Having a thriving developer community will also mean that you get a constant feedback on what features are needed and what are popular.
Competing Saas services are increasingly vying with one other for the customer's attention, any extra feature they offer only helps consolidate their market hold, offering APIS is something that is entirely beneficial and must be seriously considered. This helps broaden the outreach of SaaS products and helps increase their interoperability.
Offering APIS has become a must these days thanks to immense demands from the developer community, more and more individuals and small teams are looking at creative ways and means of developing 3rd products that completely rely on APIS from SaaS providers.
Given that competing Saas services are increasingly vying with one other for the customer's attention, this consolidate their market hold. Offering APIS is something that is entirely beneficial and must be seriously considered as it helps broaden the outreach of SaaS products and extend their interoperability.