I have had several conversations with API providers lately who are somewhat frustrated with the way their API operations are going. While their APIs have brought in many new conversations and supported some interesting integration, they haven't been the business driver that they had hoped when they kicked off their API efforts.
There are many reasons why API efforts may not live up to the hype, mostly it's because I think we raise the bar too high in Silicon Valley. We raise up the Amazons and Twilios up in our mind as models we want to follow, and talk about API success in terms of a number of users, and in billions of API calls--as just a couple of examples. I will be the first to admit that many of us pundits have overhyped, and it is something I've been working to filter out of my storytelling over the last couple of years.
The people I am having conversations with admit that an API is necessary, and wouldn't dream of getting rid of their API effort, but are just wrestling with the fact that the API just didn't end up being the business driver they expected. In most of these conversations, APIs are just having to play second fiddle to traditional business elements like sales, marketing, education, support, and many of the other more mundane, fundamental aspects of business operations.
While I can talk through these company API strategies to see where I can make suggestions, in the end, an API is just one of the tools in your business toolbox. Your next customer most likely will not be making their way through your sales funnel simply because you have an API. It may be one important consideration, and almost certainly will come up down the road, but most likely will not be the conversation starter everyone hopes it will be.
I do not want to throw a wet blanket on your API enthusiasm. You need to keep up the hard work of making sure your API is available, evolving, and community was driven, but make sure you set your expectations properly regarding how long of a road you actually have. Like a website, an API will be an essential tool in your business toolbox. You simply will not be able to do some business without an API in the future, but it does not trump many other more tangible aspects of your business like value, sales, marketing, and support.
If you are feeling the same way with your program, feel free to reach out. While I feel we all may have set our expectations a little higher than was logical, I also think feeling like this is an important part of the API journey itself. It is a long, long, long road. I know I lose faith in API Evangelist on a regular basis, and after five years I have to come up with creative ways to keep engaging in new conversations, and telling stories of what is working, and what is not--sometimes it just helps to talk with folks about it.