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Make your data available via an API.

If you don't know what an API is, you should.

In short, an API is short for "application programming interface", and is a way to exchange data and functionality between one application and another.

An API can make your data and functionality accessible and understood by many developers, as long as they are provided the keys to access the data. That means millions of developers worldwide are potentially available to build and enhance applications that use your data.

Even if you are developing your applications entirely in-house, accessing your data via an API is still a good idea.

I recently saw a Request for Proposal (RFP) issued for the redevelopment of a large website for an organization. The organization had adopted a legacy CMS about a decade ago or longer, and required that the design and redevelopment of the new website be performed using that same system.

Because that particular CMS controls both the back-end data structure, and the front-end design and presentation of the data, any vendor that was going to do the work of redesigning the website would be required to work within the design and logic constraints provided by the CMS. That makes it very difficult or practically impossible to build a modern user experience using up-to-date front-end technologies.

If the organization had followed the principle of separating their data from its presentation, they would have been able to access a bigger market of designers and developers to build the best new user experience possible using modern development tools and techniques. Instead, they were limited to selecting from a small universe of vendors that had experience—or willingness—to work on a rapidly aging legacy CMS designed for building websites in the early 2000s.

When you separate your data from its presentation, and make that data available via an API, you can empower developers to build applications for any device using the languages and frameworks with which they are most proficient. That means, you’ll be ready to communicate and interact with your customers and your stakeholders in the way they want.