Managed Services APIs: Six Questions You Need to Ask

Managed Services APIs: Six Questions You Need to Ask

managed-services-APIsConsider the following scenario. You're a managed service provider that leverages a mix of RMM (remote monitoring and management), PSA (professional services automation), storage and security services software. Now, you want to tie all of those applications together. With that goal in mind, vendors are promoting APIs (application programming interfaces) to their platforms. But are all APIs created equally?

Frankly, I don't know.

But I do know this: The MSP software provider with the best API strategy could emerge as the Windows of managed services -- ubiquitous, and sitting at the center of an emerging software market.

History shows APIs are critically important to the direction of software industries. In the 1990s, Microsoft's Win32 API attracted thousands of developers and allowed Windows to cement Microsoft's dominant position in the operating system market. IBM's OS/2, Novell NetWare and other operating systems all imploded for a number of reasons -- but the number one reason in my mind was lack of native, easily written third-party applications. (Anybody else remember horrid NetWare Loadable Modules?)

Managed Services APIs: Six Questions Worth Asking

Now, the API wars are coming to the managed services software market.

Here are six API-related questions I'd ask an MSP software provider before making a platform decision:
1. How many third party applications plug into your platform TODAY, and which ones?

2. What about emerging markets, like managed print services or hosted applications like Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS)? Is there a way to easily monitor new and emerging platforms through open APIs? Or are there alternative approaches for such monitoring?

3. Are applications "certified" to integrate with your platform, and how does that certification process work?

4. Let's take the following scenario: I want to integrate RMM software with PSA software.
  • Is the PSA software provider writing to the RMM company's APIs?
  • Or is the RMM company writing to the PSA company's APIs?
  • Or is it both? Why?
5. Do you have a software development kit for your platform, so that I can write (and perhaps even sell) applications that plug into your platform?

6. How does your API strategy differ from the competition?
Did I miss any questions? Am I overstating the importance of APIs? I'm all ears.

Food for Thought

I've been thinking about the Managed Services API wars for about two years now. And I've blogged a bit about it before. But since I don't actually "use" MSP software, it's impossible for me to point readers to the "best" API strategy.

I decided to raise the API topic again for three reasons. ConnectWise created some buzz on its Twitter feed about a week ago, talking about growing momentum around its API strategy. Then, Zenith Infotech CEO Akash Saraf called me this week to discuss Zenith's accelerating API work. And if you rewind to the Autotask Community Live conference in March, MSPs took the stage and talked about the widgets they were writing for Autotask's SaaS software.

Winner Take All?

I realize virtually all MSP software companies now have API strategies. But to repeat my key point: The company with the best API strategy could emerge as the Windows of managed services -- ubiquitous, and sitting at the center of an emerging software market.

I hope the questions above help you make more informed buying decisions. And if you think there are additional API questions MSPs need to raise, please share your thoughts.

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