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Unlocking IBM i Applications for a Competitive Edge in the Digital Economy

Unlocking developer innovation starts with API-enabling access to IBM i via a standards-based approach to API development and execution for IBM i applications

Gartner defines digitalization as, “The use of digital technologies to change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities; …the process of moving to a digital business.”

The digital economy is about leveraging information technology to be the enabler of innovation in companies. 

Are you supporting mobile connectivity to your business? According to Forbes, “Collectively, we installed 37 billion apps in the first quarter of 2022, an 11% increase from 2021.”   Extending your IBM i environment to support mobile and other digital technologies is important for businesses to continue to succeed in the modern economy.

Digital Modernization 

Digital modernization enables innovation and the ability to respond and adapt to business opportunities and challenges.

Many companies have the core business information and applications needed to support and accelerate digital innovation on their IBM i systems. However, it’s important for these companies to understand how to unlock their IBM i applications and data for a competitive advantage in the digital economy.

In the digital economy, innovation is occurring on developer desktops. Whether developers are busy coding the next blockbuster mobile app or adding external shipping services to improve customer service, they deliver the innovation fueling the digital economy. 

Unlocking IBM i Developer Innovation

These developers demand access to IBM i applications and data running your business to be the fuel for that innovation. Developers like to write code—no surprise—and in their programming language of choice. With this in mind, IBM i companies must figure out how to enable developer innovation.

Unlocking developer innovation starts with API-enabling access to IBM i via a standards-based approach to API development and execution for IBM i applications. This unlocking of IBM i, for developers, is a key step to speed up innovation by leveraging IBM i applications and systems.

With OpenAPI standard-based APIs built on Rest and JSON, companies deliver on the promise of modern digital applications that can easily access and integrate with IBM i.

4 Steps to a Successful API Access Strategy

We recommend four key steps to consider in developing a successful strategy to enable API access to your IBM i.

1. Prioritize API strategy and development to align with business priorities. Evaluate current applications and how API access and integration will achieve those business results.​
  • Determine which APIs to prioritize to deliver the quickest return toward those business priorities. As examples:
    • Consumer-focused companies might look to APIs to expand catalog access to new social channels such as Facebook shops or extend customer service to an innovative mobile app.
    • B2B companies might look to core processes, and technology such as EDI services and how to API enable their commerce applications to expand those services via internet standards for more customers and business partners.
2. Evaluate and standardize technology for developing and managing APIs for your IBM i and requirements. Choose the best fit technology for your company and select one or two key applications to pilot but assure they support your business.
  • Leverage API Standards such as OpenAPI and leverage Rest/JSON to assure developers can quickly call the APIs from any programming language. That snazzy new mobile app being coded in Python can call your business IBM i APIs within their development environment of choice.
  • Standardize business development and technology to access your chosen technology to deliver your APIs. Consider a central API portal for developers to access all internal and external APIs. 
  • Provide documentation that makes it easy for developers to test access to the APIs from their code, making developers the most productive when using APIs and helping stop them from going rogue and just writing their code.
3. Incorporate security and trust in your API management strategy. Assure your APIs are secure and your API execution environment improves security and does not create security challenges for your IBM i and other enterprise applications.
  • Security for APIs and IBM i must be the cornerstone of any API strategy. According to Gartner predictions, “by 2022, application programming interface (API) attacks will become the most-frequent attack vector.” Assuring your API strategy incorporates security and necessary access control for developers who access them to ensure trust in your API strategy and technology choices.
  • Second, ensure your APIs and API gateway leverage strong authentication with your IBM i environment. Ensure the data shared between the APIs and your IBM i server is adequately encrypted. Finally, ensure proper access control for those users of the new APIs to ensure only those with permitted access can interact with your IBM i system.
4. Incorporate necessary external APIs into your strategy to integrate with IBM i APIs and the enterprise. Leverage APIs from your company or external providers to accelerate innovation while delighting customers and increasing business opportunities.
  • From including delivery tracking and confirmations for customers to leveraging weather APIs to assist delivery drivers, leveraging external services in your applications via APIs can give companies an extra edge over their competition.
  • An API management strategy needs to incorporate all the business needs—not just the access and integration of core IBM i applications and information. This strategy needs to integrate external services that can enhance company offerings and satisfy its customers. 

Unlocking Competitive Advantages on IBM i

At Common’s PowerUp2022, I spoke with a developer who said “Whatever you recommend for IBM i, make sure I can just write code!" He is not alone.

APIs enable success for the developer to deliver innovative solutions for the business, and this can extend way beyond just accessing IBM i applications and data. 

Do not just modernize your IBM i: Unlock the competitive advantage that your IBM i systems and applications have with an API strategy that can help assure success in the digital economy.

I wish you great success in your approach, and if you would like to learn more about how to get started, please contact me at [email protected] or 508-246-7965.
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