Reading about Postman's most recent funding round got me thinking about APIs. Software companies cannot claim them as a differentiator today; an API is table stakes. The differentiator is in whether they're an API-first development organization. Even if you're not planning on coding custom integrations any time soon, this can still be important for several reasons - 3 of which are highlighted below:

  • Promoting an ecosystem -  When you have a good product and a solid API, your solution will become more widely adopted and useful off the work of developers not on your payroll. Think SalesForce, Google Apps, ServiceNow, etc. - if they relied on their development teams to write every integration, their footprint would be a fraction of what it is today.
  • Custom reporting - at some point (and probably sooner rather than later) you'll need to prove value for the investment in whatever you bought. Vendors can't anticipate every goal and metric, so they won't always have that perfect dashboard for you. With a good API, you can extract data, manipulate it, and have it tell the story you need. Better yet, go back to that ecosystem and find someone in a similar situation that's already done the heavy lifting.
  • A focused engineering team - with an API that makes it easy to customize many aspects of the product, the core engineering team can stay focused on the heart of your product, churning out more relevant features quicker.

Even if you haven't touched code since staring at blue QBasic screen, ask your prospective vendors about their API and how they develop and maintain it. You might not realize it at first, but it will affect you.