APIs for dummies with Christian Landgren

In a special podcast episode we spoke to Christian Landgren, founder and CEO of Iteam. We cover what APIs are, how to explain them, the role they play in digitization, why API-driven companies are so successful and more.

What is an API?

Christian believes that one of the simplest ways to describe APIs (or web APIs to be exact) is to compare them to a website for computers.

"I would say it's a website for computers, making sure a computer can have one standardized way to communicate with another. And remember that the phone that we have
in our pockets, they are also computers." Christian explains.

"Let's say, for example, for an app to communicate with a server. That's usually done through an API. So the backend, the things that the apps are communicating with,
those are usually APIs. 

"So that's pretty much what we do when we develop apps. First of all, we design a very good user interface and we ask the customer or the users what do they want and what goals are they trying to achieve? And then we see what APIs are there that we can use to facilitate those needs. And sometimes we also need to develop new APIs."

"So it's like websites for computers. That probably sums it up for pretty much 90% of the use cases."

So basically, an API is a standardized way of communicating for computers, for example when an app is trying to communicate with a server.

Christian Landgren, founder and CEO of Iteam.

The role APIs play in the digitization of today's society

As people get more and more used to a digitized life, companies have to evolve their services by optimizing the digital experience. Things like pre-populating fields and automatically collecting information to minimize the amount of work for the user, is normally done be the usage of APIs.

In today’s society, the private sector, almost every company has some sort of digitized platform for people to use. And if they have some sort of digital offering, they probably already have an API. However, the public sector is lacking a bit in this area, since there’s a lot of municipalities and government agencies that don’t have APIs today.

Christian gives us an example of just how easy life could be with the help of APIs: “As a parent (in Sweden) today, the consequences of your kids becoming sick, can be quite overwhelming when you realize all of the people and places you need to inform. Visiting the school platform to report absence, visiting the hospitals website to book a time with a doctor, registering being home with sick children (VAB) at Försäkringskassan etc. Then you need to talk to your employee to let them know you’ll be home for the day and then cancel and reschedule all meetings for that day for example."

"Now instead of you having to do all that, we could use APIs, merge all of these things into one very specified app. So that parents only have to visit one app, instead of multiple different platforms.“

APIs role in successful companies

One of the reasons as too why APIs are becoming a more and more vital part in success stories, is because it has the ability to replace manual processes. APIs enable digitization and automation, allowing you to focus on your core business.

The list of successful companies that uses APIs is long, but one that really stands out is Amazon. Christian takes us through their journey:

“Amazon is a great example of what APIs can enable. They started out as a bookstore and started their API journey by optimizing the communication between their IT and development departments, meaning that they could avoid long email conversations, vacation-stops etc. That enabled the developers to focus solely on development."

"Eventually that mindset and focus on being API-driven lead Amazon to cloud computing, taking them from being a bookstore, to becoming one of the leading firms and one of the first companies to offer that type of automated infrastructure to the IT business. Today, they are one of the most valuable companies in the world.”

Want to learn more about APIs?

If you are intrigued and want to learn more about APIs, a good way to start is to look at API1st, an initiative started by Iteam, to bring awareness to APIs, annually at April first. 

For the developer (and anyone interested in the technical side of things behind an API) Roaring have both API documentation and sandbox cases. If you instead wish to learn more about others success stories with APIs, we have a section of customer cases for you to look through. 

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