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October 29, 2019

Why We Develop API-Centric Solutions (+ free download)

Briana Sim
founder & COO / people advocate / office singer

Since our inception in 2014, Radical has promoted, championed, and consistently applied an API-centric approach in the software solutions we develop. Nearing our company’s five year birthday, I’m reflecting on our solutions, processes, and people. I’m struck by the symbiotic influence that our passion for, and belief in the benefits of, APIs and our company culture and shared values, have had on each other.

Values-driven Culture

When we began Radical, we knew we wanted to be a different kind of software development company: one that focused on purpose as well as profit. ‘Purpose’ continues to be a touchstone for decision-making across all aspects of our business, to help us ensure that what we and our team are doing is meaningful, and will have an impact beyond ourselves and our immediate project or focus.

While we had thought and talked at length about our own values as part of developing company values, it was the passion and belief of our Co-Founder and CTO, Ian Sim, in using an API-centric approach to solution design that quite unexpectedly established a concrete and company-wide foundation for practising these values within our own company day-to-day.

Developing Technology with Purpose

We’ve already said that we believe in developing technology with purpose - in fact, it’s been our long-time company tagline. In this tagline, ‘purpose’ has two meanings: the use to which the solution will be put, and the way we develop the solution.

Both meanings underpin our holistic approach when presented with a problem to solve. We look at the whole before proposing a part, and that part will provide the most efficient, performant, streamlined, and cost effective solution for our client. How do we do this? APIs! Their role as a connector between the data, systems, and people makes them a critical tool for solving problems. 

In developing solutions, our approach is collaborative, with the desire of also developing a strong and long-lasting partnership. APIs support this approach by giving not only our developers, but also the joint client-Radical project team, a common focus and language in producing, agreeing, and implementing a solution. By providing a level of abstraction to a process, we can use diagrams to show where APIs are used, document their purpose, or use OpenAPI (using Swagger) to show how they work and what result(s) they produce. Together, this makes communication simpler and collaboration easier. 

One of the key principles of the hybrid agile-waterfall process we have developed for successful client projects is flexibility. Taking an API-centric approach in our development supports this principle in multiple ways. First, APIs enable us to use and re-use our client’s existing systems, applications, data, and indeed APIs, and use these as building blocks for achieving their goals. This way, we only build from scratch what does not already exist, and use the needed pieces flexibly and cost effectively. Second, APIs are a key tool in creating integrations within and between existing and new systems, without affecting any of the original system, it’s codebase, and it’s data. This gives us and our clients more flexibility to create new connections and introduce engaging and user-friendly interfaces that delivery business value. Third, using APIs allows us to de-couple our backend and frontend teams, which eases dependencies, reduces blockers, and opens up technology and tool choices. This also gives us greater flexibility around scheduling individual developers and development teams. 

We get excited by innovative, emerging technologies and the benefits that these will bring to all of us and our societies as practical use cases are developed and the technologies mature. With this in mind, we always keep an eye to the future. The care we take in designing APIs is mindful of this in creating APIs that support efficient and performant solutions for right now, but are extensible for future use. 

Our particular focus as a company is on developing data-driven, integrated solutions. By focusing on identifying useful data and pulling this forward, using APIs, we can create personalized customer or user experiences that provide up-to-date, accurate information that is presented in meaningful ways. 

Lastly, our mission is to make people’s lives easier through equitable access to information.  APIs can play a key role in achieving this across all industries, and all organizational functions, through automating and streamlining processes, which increases efficiency, productivity, accuracy, and leads to staff experiencing more rewarding and satisfying jobs. APIs come in varying types, including public and open APIs, which make data available to the wider community, including developers, who can utilize the data or functionality made available to provide useful new products and services. 

Benefits of Using an API-Centric Approach

In thinking about how we work together with our clients, the integral role that an API-centric approach to solutioning plays, becomes clear. Our holistic, collaborative and flexible values, supported by our motivation to create forward-thinking, personalized solutions that enable equitable access to information, are all under-pinned by and achieved through the benefits offered by an API approach. 

With technology not only supporting, but driving, the activities of teams all across organizations, we recognize that every organization is now essentially a technology company. The expectations on IT teams to maintain daily operations, while improving processes and systems, as well as being a strategic business partner in achieving organizational goals are great. APIs are an incredibly useful tool for realizing the various benefits we have outlined here, and more, that will help not only in supporting your organization’s operational health, but also in capitalizing upon new opportunities. 

The 6 Key Benefits of Being an API-centric Organization

To read more about this topic, download our free guide:
The 6 Key Benefits of Being an API-centric Organization.

Technology. People. Purpose.

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