A Successful API-first Strategy? Do This.

The ins and outs of successful API-first approaches

May 24, 2023

What do four horsemen, three golden rules, an iceberg, and a cloud have to do with a successful API-first integration strategy? This is not the start of a bad joke. These are the ins and outs of successful API-first approaches.

The fact is life in modern society is becoming increasingly service-centric and you can even go as far as saying ‘customer-integrated’. People want more autonomy to organise their life and demand for services to be connected, simple, transparent, and efficient. Whether we’re talking healthcare, banking, consumer goods, utilities, government, you name it, it needs to be streamlined, open, and accessible at all times.

This has driven companies, governments, and entire industries to develop interoperable services and products, whether for business-to-consumer, business-to-business, or public-to-private purposes. And if you’re reading this, you’re likely in the thick of this development too.

Okay, so we’re rapidly heading towards a fully connected, digital-first society. How then, from a company perspective, do you streamline your systems and processes accordingly in order to stay relevant? Or even, dare we say it, thrive?

That’s where API-first and cloud-first integration technology comes in. Easier said than done. It’s quite the challenge to migrate on-premise systems and workflows to a cloud-first, state-of-the-art, interoperable, agile, API-first, fast-to-market, best-of-breed, fit-for-purpose, out-of-the-box, you-get-the-point-by-now integration solution.

It’s a lot to take on next to your daily operations. And to make matters worse, we are living in a time where we’re facing the four horsemen of the integration technology apocalypse. These four challenges are:

  • A shortage of skilled talent
  • Economic uncertainty
  • Geo-political unrest
  • Budget constraints

Are we doomed? Is that the end of a smooth transition to digital-first? Back to the dark ages of disjointed, proprietary, siloed technology? Not at all. Allow us to bring a glimmer of hope and good old solution-focused clarity to help you navigate the treacherous terrain of integration technology in an uncertain world.

In short, our answer is: go for an open-source, API-first, cloud-based iPaaS solution. But it’s the ‘how’ that matters more. Therefore, this blog gives you insight into what is required to achieve great results with an API-first approach.

What you’ll gain from reading:

  1. The 4 major challenges facing the integration technology industry
  2. What 3 features help you tackle those challenges
  3. What 3 golden rules for API-first are followed by hundreds of successful companies
  4. Become aware of the iceberg underneath when implementing solutions
  5. How we at Yenlo can help your company succeed (a.k.a. the shameless plug)


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And if you’re thinking, who are these people to be telling me? We’re Yenlo. The leading global integration specialist in the field of API, Integration technology and Identity Access Management. We’re a band of 220 integration experts who’ve successfully guided over 600 integration projects around the globe in pretty much every industry.

We’re writing this blog not to push our solutions onto you – though we will at some point gently nudge them because, truthfully, we believe that they work – but more so to help you and your company make sense of an increasingly complex digital landscape.

Now, are you ready to traverse golden rules, challenge four horsemen, chip away at icebergs, and end up in the cloud? Then read on for the full journey or scan for the good bits. Either way, thank you for taking the time and we hope you apply what you take away.

The four horsemen facing digital-first companies

Let’s go from low to high on this journey and start with the challenges facing the industry today. Both on a macro level and on an industry-specific level companies are dealing with a set of challenges that threaten their future relevancy. Unless you’ve been rubbing sticks and stones in caves for the past years, it’s unlikely that these challenges are new to you, however, it’s necessary to share them in order to carve out the path through the uncertainty. Without further ado, these are what we would call ‘the four horsemen of the integration technology apocalypse’.

1. A shortage of skilled talent

The astonishing rate of technological advancements is hard to catch up with for human beings. To master a skill takes us thousands of hours of practice. This is particularly a challenge we witness in companies still operating with largely on-premise proprietary technology.

Companies that rely on the constant updating and upkeep of their self-built systems are noticing that the talent that understands their specific technology is harder to retain. Furthermore, as governing rules and regulations around the quality and interoperability standards of technology are increasing, it gets more expensive to update on-premise components. Let alone finding the right talent that can do the job within the available budget.

2. Economic uncertainty

Inflation, recession, and the energy crisis have hit people and businesses in their pockets. And the forecasts are not looking like it’s going to massively improve anytime soon. In the aftermath of the pandemic, the global economic landscape has shifted dramatically, and businesses must adapt to new realities in order to succeed.

3. Political instability

Trade tensions, war, and market instability have added further obstacles to implementing digital-first approaches as companies are wearier than ever to go carve out a different path. People really don’t like the complexity and cognitive load of making decisions under uncertain circumstances. So rather than advancing to the new and adapting to the world around them, we’re more likely to stay put. Which in this case is counterproductive and leads to stagnation and further losses.

4. Budget constraints

As a consequence of economic and political uncertainty, companies are dealing with massive budget constraints. The news is full of mass layoffs and organizations are slowing down their investments. With tighter budgets, less is possible, and companies become hamstrung in their agility.

In conclusion, companies today face a range of challenges as they navigate the integration journey. From economic and political uncertainty to budget constraints and the shortage of skilled talent, organizations must be prepared to tackle these challenges in order to succeed. Understanding these challenges and taking proactive steps to address them is essential for organizations that are committed to digital transformation and remain competitive in an ever-evolving business landscape.



The 3 approaches to tackle the challenges of industry uncertainty

So how then do you take on these four horsemen? Given, you cannot influence macroeconomic or geopolitical circumstances but what you can do is be better equipped to lower the risk and optimize your effectiveness. When it comes to integration technology solutions, look for these 3 approaches.

A. Implement Smarter Technology to Fill the Gap

If there are not enough skilled people in your market, then you need to fill the gap otherwise. Do so with smarter technology. That could mean solutions that help you automate workflows, reduce manual effort, and minimize errors and delays.

With the rise of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) more options are available for companies to increase their effective output with fewer resources. By using smarter solutions, companies can also gain better visibility and control over their integration process, which enables them to make better-informed business decisions.

B. Utilizing Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS)

The rise of cloud computing has made it easier for companies to access the resources and services they need to integrate their systems and data. Utilizing Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) solutions enables companies to consume IT services on-demand, without having to invest in expensive infrastructure or manage it themselves. Spreading risk is more favorable than adding complexity. And there are so many fantastic service-based solutions out there to try.

Furthermore, it gives your company additional flexibility and scalability, without the burden of managing and maintaining your own infrastructure. XaaS approaches also provide companies with the peace of mind of knowing that their IT services are managed by experts who have the skill to troubleshoot and optimize, which greatly reduces the risk of downtime, data loss and security threats.

C. API-led + Best-of-Breed Approaches

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) have become a crucial component for digital transformation strategies and have revolutionized the way that companies are able to integrate and share data. An API-led approach to integration enables companies to use APIs to integrate various systems, applications, and data sources with external parties. By using this approach, companies can quickly and easily access and enrich data from various sources, which helps them make better business decisions and create new market opportunities.

In addition, using a best-of-breed approach ensures that companies are using the best solutions and technologies for their specific needs. It’s cherry-picking solutions. But because so many services are on a pay-per-use model, it often works out cheaper than trying to do everything in-house. This combination of API-led and best-of-breed approaches provides companies with a powerful and flexible solution to defend against the uncertainty that currently reigns.

The 3 golden rules to a futureproof API-led strategy

If only it were as simple as saying: “API-first is the way to go, implement it and abundance will be bestowed upon you”. In the real world, there is quite a gap between companies that dabble with APIs and those that have a strategy in place to optimize it for the market they’re in. And we’re here to give you the three shortcuts that separate the good from the great. If you’re looking for proof of who’s used these golden rules and came out on top, scroll further down to the case examples.

GOLDEN RULE #1: Data is the new diamond but is it compelling enough for people to care?

Big Data, Data 2.0, data is the next currency. You’ve likely heard those tropes before in combination with an emphasis on their importance. There is a truth to it. In a digital-first environment, data is gold. It’s even worth diamonds. But data sets alone won’t make your company magically 10x. Unless you sell your data directly. Which, honestly, is just the first step of monetizing data. Let’s dream bigger here.

From Passive to Active to Asset

What makes a great digital-first company is its ability to turn passive data into active data. To not just gather information about your customers, suppliers, or your value chain and store it in fancy data warehouses, but instead, give it a new purpose. Breathe life into it like the gods of the pantheon did with Pandora (for the Greek mythology aficionados among us).

So how do you make data active? By applying machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and building microservices. It’s the process of enriching your data and creating new sets of information. Information that your company, under its current product line likely hasn’t found a use for yet.

And that’s where APIs come in. Because APIs serve as bridges that allow you to safely share this new information with your customers, business partners, 3rd party entities, and whoever you see fit in finding a use for this newly minted asset.

Now, therein also lies the crux. The million-dollar question is…

What is your Compelling Event?

Because enriching data and creating APIs is only useful if there is actually a demand for that specific information. What we’ve seen time and again from companies with successful API-first strategies is that they found compelling events for their data. Through surveys, analyzing workflows, through understanding the needs of their customers and partners, they’ve been able to figure out a real demand for their enriched information.

And the funny thing is, it works like a flywheel. The more you share and exchange data with partners and customers the more likely you receive even more valuable data in return.

So it could well be, that the compelling event that is going to set your company off like a rocket is brewing a few layers deep. The important thing to remember is that you need to have an initial compelling event, a clear need for your data in the market, in order to create additional valuable assets with an API-led strategy.

Rule #1 Conclusion: Make sure you have a compelling event for your enriched data.

GOLDEN RULE #2: From Idea to Production in 12 Weeks

“There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat. Now I don’t cheat. And although I’d like to think we have some pretty smart people in this building, it sure is a lot easier to just be first.”

The famous quote by Jeremy Irons’ character in the movie Margin Call. The film depicts the stressful moments of an investment bank on the brink of collapse during the 2008 financial crisis. Although integration technology is not the same as investment banking, the advice still stands.

Cheating is never an option. Being smarter often requires heavy investments which is not a given for every company. So that leaves you with being first.

Being first in the market is also a trait that we see in successful organizations and their API-led activities. We all love brainstorming. And it’s necessary to think your ideas through but there comes a point where too much tinkering starts harming your momentum.

What then is the golden timeline?

We’ve found that the general rule of thumb is to go from idea to production in 12 weeks. Or 100 days if you like round numbers. It’s sufficient to go live with 70% functionality – as long as your security is fully tested and in place. The other 30% can come in increments. First test your new services in the market and gradually optimize based on demand and usability.

Rule #2 Conclusion: Take your API-led idea from the drawing board to production in 12 weeks.

GOLDEN RULE #3: Have the Power to Execute

As we’ve shared in the previous section, to navigate the challenges of our times it’s best to go with a best-of-breed, Everything-as-a-Service, API-first integration solution. Finding the right solution that matches your budget and resources, ensuring that it doesn’t compromise current operations, and then managing it – it’s a lot to deal with.

Companies that truly stand out with their API-led strategies are the ones that have the power to execute. They either have the resources or are willing to entrust integration technology vendors with it. Even if you have the resources there is a larger challenge looming beneath the surface.

Rule #3 Conclusion: Have the resources or outsource the power to execute.



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The iceberg beneath: Overcoming post-implementation hurdles

You have done it, you have implemented all of the technology solutions to streamline your integration process and make your company ready to be agile, secure, and more efficient. However, the work does not stop there. In fact, it’s only just the beginning. Because once you have implemented the technology, you need to ensure it’s functioning optimally and is up to date with the latest security patches and bug fixes and adheres to governing standards. This is the challenge beneath the surface.

Governance is a crucial aspect of integration. It involves ensuring that the technology solutions you have implemented adhere to your industry, nation, or company’s policies and regulations. This can be a time-consuming and complex process, especially if you are managing multiple technology solutions. Monitoring and upkeep are also important to ensure that your integration process is running smoothly. If a problem arises, it needs to be addressed quickly and effectively to avoid any downtime or loss of data.

The trouble of doing it all alone can be overwhelming, especially if you have limited in-house resources. This is why many companies turn to system integrators like Yenlo for assistance. We, along with our competitors, are experts at helping you with governance, monitoring, patches, upkeep, and troubleshooting. Thereby, freeing up your internal resources so you can focus on more strategic tasks.

Go for a solution that does it all – CONNEXT

Now you’ve figured out the three approaches necessary to withstand the current climate of challenges, you’ve learned how to utilize API-first better than others with a set of golden rules, and you’re ready to outsource the managing, monitoring, and governance of your solution. So now what’s next?

What’s next is Connext. Forgive us the silly pun. At Yenlo, we’ve spent the better part of a decade analyzing top integration vendors, solved hundreds of complex integration challenges and have compressed years of knowledge into a state-of-the-art, out-of-the-box integration platform.

We figured, why not take the very best of integration technology, and make it open source, secure, API-led, cloud-based and fully managed so that companies like yours can just focus on your core business while your integration technology builds additional value for your business. That solution is Connext. You can have it in the form of Connext Platform (iPaaS) or Connext Go! (IaaS).

Connext is a complete best-of-breed integration platform that makes it effortless for you to connect applications, systems, and data sources. It is an API-led, cloud-based platform that utilizes a modular architecture to provide a highly scalable and flexible solution. The platform is designed to be customizable and private, allowing you to tailor it to your specific needs.

It brings you four core benefits: it’s affordable, customizable, managed, and complete.


By combining best-of-breed technology and offering it out-of-the-box, it greatly reduces your costs and complexity. As we eliminate the need for you to invest in multiple integration solutions. No need to shop around, everything you need is in it already. Connext comes with a fixed yearly price, including all the software licenses, operational expenses, and support services. No surprises, all transparent.


Different companies, different needs. You have full freedom to adjust workflows, styling, processes, and of course your integrations. You’re not a tenant of the technology. You have your own private environments that you can set up exactly how you need them. And we’re here to assist you and guide you in best practices.

Governance and Managed

Additional security, API protection, DDoS protection, 24/7 support. Updates and upgrades. CI/CD integrated. Audit trailing, logging and so much more. It’s all included, and we manage it for you. Easy.


API Management, ESB, microservices, Kafka real-time streaming, Identity Access Management, and monitoring. Connext is a truly complete solution. We wanted it to be able to offer the very best and still make it accessible for companies of any size. Additionally, the platform provides a single point of integration, which means that you can easily manage your integration activities and monitor the status of your integrations in real-time.

It’s an ideal solution for companies looking to streamline their integration process, improve efficiency and productivity, enhance security and governance, and reduce costs and complexity. With its API-led and best-of-breed approach, you can be confident that you’re implementing a reliable, secure, and efficient integration solution that helps you stay ahead of the curve in today’s world.

Case studies – real-life examples of Yenlo in action

That sounds great on paper. Now, allow us to walk the walk. Find out below how three organisations with real-world challenges were propelled forward by implementing Yenlo’s Connext Platform.

#1 Education 3.0 – Large-scale Data Management for University

Utrecht University (UU) is among the Netherlands’ leading universities. They employ 6.500 staff and provide education to over 30.000 students. And as with educational institutions they often own on-premise legacy-based systems that handle student and organisational data. But their research facilities, data management systems, applications, platforms, and partner programmes were not compatible with each other. And for digital transformation, you need a seamless solution that aligns components across the board.

The university needed large-scale data management to ensure better integration and communication between platforms and applications. So that, for example, students no longer needed to log in over and over, so that order was created in the data chaos, and the invoice administration could be automated.

To solve the university’s challenge, we integrated Yenlo’s Connext Platform with the corresponding solutions: Identity Server, API Manager, and Enterprise Integrator.

Now, Utrecht University was able to implement a new, integrated application that gives students real-time access to appointments, timetables, grades, an online library, as well as a new system for financial administration. The final result: the seamless flow of information, delighted students and employees, and more cost-efficient practices.

Read the full case study


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#2 The Future of Banking is Open

Hanseatic Bank recognized competitive advantage opportunities through the use of APIs. They aimed to improve time-to-market and enable new business models. Simultaneously, the Hamburg-based private bank also felt a huge responsibility toward protecting user data.

Hanseatic needed an efficient integration solution that both paved the way forward and kept the current business running as usual. The solution would also have to be adaptable to a brand-new cloud-based IT infrastructure.

Together with a committed team at Hanseatic Bank, Yenlo’s Open Banking experts realized the implementation of Connext as well as the continuous managing, hosting and operational support of the platform ensuring a true digital transformation in finance.

Read the full case study

#3 Timing Is Everything in a Pandemic

In the Netherlands, the GGD GHOR, is an organization responsible for coordinating and bringing emergency services together during national public health disasters. In May 2020 they were tasked with setting up testing sites. Full hospitals, deaths, and unrest caused by anxiety and fear for the virus, urged the minister of Health to set a tight deadline.

The GGD GHOR, never having dealt with a disaster this big, was ordered to have the test sites up and running within six weeks.

But building something from scratch would take much more time than the given deadline of six weeks, so that wasn’t a viable option. Instead, GGD GHOR needed to find a platform that they could install almost out of the box. An essential requirement for such a platform was that it could easily scale up its capacity in the number of connections, data streams, and messages. The expectation was that thousands of public testing sites would have to connect to the platform as well as many other parties. Such as private test locations, the National Institute for Public Health, and the Environment.

With Connext, we provided GGD GHOR with a fully operational integration platform within 2 weeks. Connext allowed GGD GHOR to structure data from countless test results, millions of megabytes, and thousands of vaccination certificates. All in a safe, scalable, and robust environment.

Read the full case study

You’ve completed the journey

There you have it. The ins and outs of a successful API-first strategy according to us. As life is becoming more connected with the digital world and increasingly customer-integrated, companies need to be prepared to both secure the diamonds in their vault as well as opening the path to a more interoperable society.

Integration platforms provide that way forward, given that you implement it in the right way. The journey is not without its challenges but API and best-of-breed approaches, bring the best promise of navigating the current world and stepping firmly into the future. This is not about Yenlo, as we know there are other great system integrators out there, but we do hope that we have sparked interest in what we can do to propel you forward.

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