Chris Judson, Vice President of Engineering, Choice Hotels International
APIs (Application Program Interfaces) undoubtedly help business leaders unlock value from internal business services and data. APIs allow systems, applications, and devices to talk to each other by sharing business capabilities and data, regardless of where they reside or what format they’re in. It's why the API ecosystem is worth over $1 trillion and growing every day. But the work does not stop there.
At Choice Hotels International, a combination of API patterns and microservice-based architecture has transformed how we do business, accelerated our ability to deliver new and meaningful business features, and keep pace with the dynamic digital ecosystem.
The Value of APIs
Companies all over the world, including Choice Hotels, benefit from deconstructing business capabilities into discrete microservices and exposing them to external partners as API-based building blocks to accelerate innovation and generate new value.
Three different API patterns can unlock the value of existing internal services and data for external companies, allowing the organization to reach more customers, enhance the customer experience, and innovate faster: industry standard, real-time proprietary APIs, and public API platforms.
Industry Standard APIs
Hospitality is among several industries that have created standard API specifications to enhance interoperability between companies. The Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG) trade association created API specifications for hospitality companies to exchange information such as reservation details, hotel rates, and room availability.
Industry-standard APIs have helped Choice Hotels accelerate the on boarding of new partners in a matter of weeks. For example, we connected our choice EDGE global reservation system to more than 20 online travel agencies, including Expedia and Booking.com, in record time because each company supported the HTNG specifications. Without those standards, our technology organization would have required years to develop and validate these custom integrations.
Industry standard APIs don’t solve all interoperability problems, however.
APIs are not a panacea for accelerating business-value delivery. As others have observed, organizations also require a microservice-based architecture to fully realize the benefits of APIs
While integration standards normally attempt to support all possible scenarios, each company interprets APIs differently, which can lead to challenges. Other industries, such as banking and finance, have competing API specifications addressing the same business capability, further complicating matters.
Public API Platforms
Many companies are building public API platforms that can be rearranged or connected with other API platforms endlessly to create new applications. The Google Maps Platform is a great example of allowing partners to leverage Google’s powerful public APIs to generate new revenue streams.
Public API platforms can also address another problem facing many companies: the inefficient and costly practice of scraping valuable data from public websites. Externalizing data through public APIs provides a more accurate, efficient, and cost-effective way for third parties to access data — and companies gain greater control over the data. Choice Hotels works directly with website-scraping partners to shift toward using our external APIs.
Real-time Proprietary APIs
Realtime proprietary APIs are a great way to expose data to external partners as companies strive to provide in-the-moment, contextual functionality to customers anywhere and on any device. Using APIs to expose real-time data to a digital ecosystem is a low-cost way to invite partners to participate in the co-creation of customer value.
APIs within Choice Hotels’ cloud-based choice ADVANTAGE property management system, for example, allow external partners to receive data throughout a guest’s stay, from check-in to check-out. This lets external partners provide real-time value to the guest, such as activating a mobile key or connecting an Amazon account to an in-room Alexa device.
Public API Pitfalls
The ultimate benefits of developing public-facing APIs can only be realized through proper management, oversight, and reporting. It’s vital to know who is accessing the APIs, the frequency with which they are accessed, and their adherence to policy and procedures. A proven API management platform therefore is essential to manage the on boarding of new partners, securing endpoints and data through encryption and role-based access to services, and throttling API calls to protect internal applications from bad actors.
APIs Alone Are Not Enough
APIs are not a panacea for accelerating business-value delivery. As others have observed, organizations also require a microservice-based architecture to fully realize the benefits of APIs. This is because system architectures modeled around microservices allow developers to weave together disparate APIs to deliver innovative solutions that drive business value at a pace not otherwise possible.
Unlocking the Value
All business leaders should re-envision their companies as rapidly adaptable digital platforms that can unlock additional business value by maximizing the capabilities of their current business services and data to meet new customer requirements, identify new partnership opportunities, and compete cost-effectively in a constantly changing world. APIs and microservices are an essential component of that vision.